Why and How We Paraphrase Quotes

We Intend to Be Fully Inclusive

Because all life has inherent value and worth, we try to reflect this reality in the words we use. Unfortunately, language, as a symbolic representation of something else, tends to create divisions between life where none exist.

Moreover, the biases and prejudices of the past, tend to become imbedded in our standard language usage, serving to further exclude others and perpetuate those biases. For example, using the word “man” or “mankind” to represent all of humanity, even though the word excludes women and transgender people.

Despite language’s flaws, it is one of the best tools at our disposal for communicating with each other. At the Boundless Love Project, we try to remind everyone that words are not the truth. Words are symbols representing something else. As a symbol, words simplify reality to make it more manageable to talk about. Therefore, we encourage everyone to not get fixated on the words we use, but to look beyond the words directly to the more complex realities that those words attempt to point.

Despite this awareness that words are not the truth, we still do our best to use inclusive language. Because language makes distinctions and draws lines between this and that, our words can never be as inclusive as we intend them to be, and yet we still do our best.

One way we make our words more inclusive is by paraphrasing the words of others. This article talks about how and why we paraphrase using a question and answer format.

What are the symbols « and » about?

We use the symbols « and » like quotes whenever we are paraphrasing a quote from someone. When we paraphrase something, this means we have deliberately made modifications to the original quote.

For example, take Mohandas Gandhi’s quote, “He who harps on his woes, multiplies them manifold.”

We would paraphrase this quote to make it more explicitly inclusive. It might then become, «All who harp on their woes, multiplies them manifold.»

Why do you change a person’s quote?

We may paraphrase a quote for a variety of reasons:

• To make the quote more explicitly inclusive, welcoming, and valuing of all people and all life forms. For example, changing “mankind” to “humanity,” “people,” or “humankind.”

• To clarify or highlight the wisdom and reality (truth) in their original words.

• To make a religious quote more accessible to people of all secular and religious wisdom traditions.

Why not use Standard English practices to note such changes?

Using Standard English practices to denote changes tends to distract a person’s attention away from the deeper wisdom the words try to impart, and into an internal dialogue about the changes made.

For example, if we quoted Gandhi using Standard English practices it would look like this: “[All] who [harp] on [their] woes, multiplies them manifold.”

When somebody reads the quote in this format, it will tend to trigger a proliferation of thought. The ego will look at it as if it is a puzzle that needs to be solved, and also add its own judgments and commentary, with thoughts like, “What was originally there instead of “all”? Was it ‘Those’? ‘People’? ‘Men’? What was there instead of ‘harp,’ and ‘their’? Why did they change it? I don’t like this. Why couldn’t they have just used the original quote? These people frustrate me. What a stupid way to do things….” Due to this distraction and resulting proliferation of thought, the profound wisdom in the statement is less appreciated or lost entirely.

We prioritize helping everyone feel valued and included, and helping people connect with their own inner wisdom, over our desire to use Standard English. This is why we paraphrase quotes without adding brackets as Standard English would require.

Why not just use the original quote? We all know that Gandhi is using a universal “he” and “his” to speak of everyone and not just males.

We are committed to creating a world where all people, all beings, and all life is valued, respected, and allowed to thrive. We want the words we share with others to explicitly reflect our love, compassion, and appreciation towards all life.

At the same time, we want to honor the various teachers from the past whose wisdom has been handed down through the ages in written form. We want to share their wisdom with the rest of the world, and attribute them as the source.

Many of these teachers come from a time and place where human slavery, caste systems, subjugation of women, animals, and the earth, and other inequalities were commonplace. These prejudicial cultural norms seeped into their language as standard syntax and grammar, and also appear as the colorful metaphors of the time. Alternately, their language may have been fully inclusive, but because of the prejudices imbedded in Standard English, unintended exclusions and inequalities arose when their words were translated into English. At other times, teachers who have great wisdom in most aspects of their life, still have a complete egoic blind spot in another arena of their life that unconsciously bleeds into their teachings.

Regardless of how the prejudices or exclusions entered the quote, to use the quote as is, only reinforces those prejudices today. Yet we do not want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We want to appreciate the wisdom from all wisdom traditions, while simultaneously confirming the value and worth of all people, beings, and life forms.

Although our choices for how to respect our teachers and all life may not be perfect, it is the best solution we have come up with for now. We greatly appreciate your willingness to be open and understanding of our intentions behind the choices we have made.

We do our best, and remain open to learning. If you know of a better way for us to be inclusive; show our love and respect for all life; and share wisdom from former teachers please let us know. Please share your feedback with us, either by posting below, or sending us an email message. Thank you!

The author wrote their words in a certain way to create an intended linguistic rhythm and beauty with their words. Don’t you think your changes take away from the aesthetics and come off as disrespectful to the author’s original intent?

We do our best to keep the aesthetics of the quote, yet at times, we may sacrifice aesthetics on the altar of inclusivity and clarity. We have made a conscious decision to prioritize wisdom over beauty, when that beauty contains prejudice and exclusion.

It’s most likely that the author’s primary intent was to share their wisdom, so we paraphrase their words with that understanding in mind. We paraphrase their words with love and respect for them, you, and for everyone else who may read our words.

We admit this is an imperfect solution. Still, we find this solution the best way to help uplift all life, and share wisdom that will help free you and others from needless misery and suffering. Thank you for your willingness to be open-minded and for any understanding and patience you extend us.

Your arrogance of proclaiming to know what is and what is not the truth, and then changing people’s words, really angers and upsets me.

Thank you for your willingness to be honest about your thoughts and feelings. We realize that our attempts to be fully inclusive may trigger stress, anger, frustration, and other disturbing emotions in some people. Please know that we love and care about your well-being.

If anything we do or say upsets you, then please ignore it. It is not important. Take from our teachings what supports you in connecting with your inner peace, happiness, and well-being, and set aside all of those things that don’t. If this article upsets you, then act as if it does not exist. If paraphrased quotes upset you, then feel free to not read them. Focus on what teachings do help and serve you and go deeper into that.

If you know this article can upset people, why do you share it?

We share this article because it can be of benefit to many people who read it, while we also realize that others will not be served by it at all. Let me explain.

Helping people shed their ego is a delicate dance. Because each of us has unique conditioning, different things trigger the ego to arise in each of us. When our ego is triggered, we cannot see clearly: what’s unskillful seems skillful, what’s wise seems foolish, what’s foolish seems wise, and so on. The tell-tale sign that we are lost in ego is when we feel emotional or mental disturbances such as fear, worry, anxiety, anger, greed, and so on.

Because everyone’s triggers are unique, we can’t say what will put you into an egoic mode. Thus, when any content from our teachings triggers a strong egoic reaction, we encourage you to ignore those teachings, let them go, and set them aside for now. When we are lost in ego, we can’t see clearly, so it does not serve us to wrestle with that information, as this typically keeps us lost in ego.

Instead, focus on information that does serve, support, help, and benefit you. Go deeper into that information. Because everyone’s triggers are unique, we approach these teachings from a variety of different avenues so that you will find some teachings that do resonate for you and call you to go deeper. As your practice grows and deepens, you may eventually be able to revisit triggering information and appreciate it from a new perspective.

How is this so? Because all words and actions can always be interpreted from two very distinct and polar-opposite views: an egoic view and a wise view. When we interpret words or actions from an egoic view, they lead us to become emotionally disturbed and trigger unskillful actions in ways that harm ourselves and others. When we interpret the same words or actions from a wise view, we feel peaceful, calm, open, loving, and mindful, and respond skillfully in a way that benefits all life.

Some people will read this article from a wise-view perspective. They will understand the realities the article points to and gain benefits and wisdom from reading it. Others of us will read it, and it will trigger a strong egoic reaction in us which will upset and disturbs us. Lost in ego, we gain nothing from this information, and so we set it aside for now, doing our best to accept that this is the way it is, and focusing are attention on the information that does help and serve us.

Moreover, seeing something from an egoic view does not represent a moral failing on our part. The conditioning that shapes our reality, has all been outside of our control, and is thus not our fault. If our conditioning helps us maintain a wise view, that is due to impersonal good fortune. If our conditioning encourages us to see the world from an egoic view, that is due to impersonal bad fortune. Either way, it is impersonal and neither our fault nor something to be proud about.

To summarize, we wrote this article to benefit those who can benefit from it. If, however, this article upsets you then please ignore it and focus on what serves you. We wish you peace, wisdom, clarity and love.

Can you please explain your pronoun choices to me?

Please read the article, “How We Handle Pronouns and Why We Handle Them This Way,” to find the answer to this question.

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