We have heard a lot about “conspiracy” lately. What comes to you mind when we talk about it? Often we think about “cover-ups”, scandalous dealings”, “treachery” or some other skullduggerous mayhem, most often by groups who have less than honorable intentions or purposes. Think about them: Watergate; 9/11; the moon landing; Prince Diana’s death; JFK’s assassination; Area 51;—even Paul McCartney’s death—do you remember playing that Beatles record backwards and looking for all the signs and symbols on their albums? We are confronted with an endless list of fictional schemes and plots in books, films, and television. We often speak of a “conspiracy of silence” where truth is withheld, usually to the detriment of someone. The bottom line is that we nearly always think of conspiracies as adversarial, negative, and somewhat plausible…maybe.
However, we come across what has come to be a sad evolution of the word “conspiracy” if we look it up in the dictionary. The word derives from two Latin/Greek words that mean to “breath with” (“con” = with, and “spire” = breathe or breath). When we “inspire” we breathe air into our bodies. When we “expire” we breathe air out, or when we breathe out for the last time or die. In the creation story of scripture, we were nothing but a compilation of bones, sinews, skin, etc.–until God breathed into us the breath of life.
What would happen if we were to take the word “conspire” and deliberately begin to use it in a much more positive sense? When I think of a group conspiring together, I imagine them literally huddled together, heads close enough to be almost touching (of course, currently all of us who are cognizant of infectious disease and airborne organisms should bear with me and think of this as metaphor!). I imagine them engaging with passion and intensity, a deep commitment to their task at hand. What if we chose to get together with others close enough that we literally “breathe with one another” (socially distanced, of course). It’s said that as humans work closely together that often they begin to breathe in sync with one another. What if we were committed to and passionate about accomplishing acts worthwhile in our world?
What if we had conspiracies of compassion and kindness instead of silence. What would happen if, instead of gossiping in our phone-circles or between family or friends, we conspired to create an environment of mutual support and respect for one another? What would our homes be like if we conspired as parents to teach positive values and virtues to our children? I believe that all of us intend to do these things, but do we “breathe together” in that common effort? What might our world be like if local, national, and global leaders conspired to create a more perfect and peaceful world?
It’s now been nearly forty-four years ago since my wife and I were signed up to learn and practice the LaMaze method for childbirth as expecting parents. Before my wife went into labor, she and I (as her breathing coach) went through a series of classes where we literally learned how to breathe together during the contractions of labor and birth. I, as her coach, needed to know exactly how to assist her through the various stages of the birth process and when each different breathing patterns worked best to support her pangs of birth. The classes emphasized the need to understand what was happening inside her body so as to be closely in tune with each other. I’m aware that she did far more of the painful process than I during our two daughter’s births, but I remember when it came time to birth them, we “conspired” to bring each of these beautiful lives into the world! And thank the Lord that we had others around us who helped us to breathe together so that our daughters took their first breaths.
What if we were more committed to such conspiring—to birth a more positive and worthwhile world—one that understood that our breathing together, literally, and metaphorically could save us all. Maybe it’s just semantics, but perhaps, if a few of us committed to such conspiring, life might break forth in amazing ways!