Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Have We Got to Lose?



Clarity is slipping away with the loss of our language, our lack of care for the words we use. By limiting one's vocabulary we lose the subtle differences in similar-meaning words. Slippage in subject verb agreement, misplaced apostrophes, all of these reduce the clarity of our language.

Text messaging has eroded concern for spelling and punctuation, training millions of users to trade precision for speed. It always amazes me how many people don't differentiate "there", "their", and "they're."  I find myself using BTW for "by the way," as well as other kinds of shorthand for words.

This slippage of language also reduces the range of allusion. Those who have not read widely won't understand many allusions, such as "Luddite" and "sacrificial lamb." How many know the meaning of the phrase "in the catbird seat"?

Fewer and fewer Americans take Latin or Greek and are therefore unaware of the etymological layers of meaning that enrich words we use - like the relationship of "fabulous" and "fable." Yet "fabulous" is used almost as commonly in our speech as commas! (And, of course, there are those who don't use commas or use them incorrectly.)

Even questionable useage becomes common, like war language to describe healing, sports, and work. Little wonder that the idea of war has less emotional impact than it deserves.

Sarcasm, mild insults and ironic banter replace story or sustained conversation. It is easier to be sarcastic than to express what we think and feel. We don't bother to explore what is really meant by it.

Jargon divides us into us-and-them, destroying conversation with those "others" who aren't part of "us", the experts jargon separates us, that keeps us from understanding. This is true of all manner of specialties.
"We need the instruction and precise understanding that scholars and experts can provide. We need, a a public hoping to be an informed citizenry, to hold them accountable by demanding from our publicly funded institutions information and instruction that is both precise and accessible. The best of our astrophysicists, neuroscientists, and social theorists can rise to the challenge. 'Accessible' is not the same as 'dumbed-down.'"*
Silence in modern life is rare. Much of it is drowned out by words, song, written words, mindlessly used like disposable products used to buffer the discomfort of thought or the "strenuous spirituality" of silence. Imagine moments when there are no sounds that are not part of nature - no sound of traffic, of electronics, of clocks, or machines of any kind. What do you do in the silence?

In all of this wasting away of our language, where are those who love words? These ar those who can be good stewards of our language. Cherish it for its "beauty, precision, power to enhance understanding, power to name, power to heal." Do you have a favorite turn of phrase or quote that just the sound of it brings you joy?

 Listen for meaning and clarity in the words of others. Strive to be more precise in your own choice of words. Use words as instruments of love. Value language as a national treasure.

Don't litter!

*Quotes and most thoughts are from Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, by Marilyn McEntyre.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Are You at a Loss for Words?



I seldom am, as you can probably guess. But our current culture is at risk of losing words. And words are a valuable resource. When a culture looses its language it looses its identity, its history, its wisdom.

Did you know that there are more than a million words in the English language? How many different words do you use in a day, in a week - writing or speaking? The average educated person in america uses only about 200 a week! [ Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, by Marilyn McEntyre.]

(Yes, that's what I'm reading now. My summer reading is usually more non-fiction than fiction. And in the winter/dark months I read more fiction. So a little light reading for summer doesn't work for me.:-) This post is based on what I've read so far. Probably the next post will provide more insight into this topic.

Let's look at some facts about English speaking Americans:

  • 50% of the unemployed are functionally illiterate;
  • an average kindergartner has spent more house in front of T.V. (5,000 hours) than it takes to earn a BA degree! Researchers found a direct causal relationship between early T.V. watching and impaired literacy.
  • 27% of army enlistees can't read training manuals written at the 7th grade level.
  • other studies of 21-25 year olds shoed that 80% couldn't read a bus schedule, 73% couldn't understand a newspaper story, 63% couldn't follow written map directions, and 23% couldn't find the gross pay-to-date on a paycheck stub.
  • 44% of all American Adults do not read a single book in the course of a year.
So, what can we do to maintain a usable and reliable language - to be good stewards of words? Above all, we have to acknowledge the value of language. It needs to be a constant focus at all age groups.

Then we have to: 1) deepen and sharpen our reading skills; 2) cultivate habits of speaking and listening that foster precision and clarity; and 3) practice poesis - to be makers and doers of the word. For these purposes we need regularly to exercise the tongue and the ear: to indulge in word play, to delight in metaphor, to practice specificity and accuracy, to listen critically and refuse cliches and sound bites that substitute for authentic analysis. 
While we who voluntarily and regularly read books, newspapers, and Bibles are a privileged group, we need to use that privilege for the sake of the whole. One way we can make the world better is to participate in preserving and enlarging our English language.

So today, pay attention to the words you speak or write and try for more precise and clear terms. In these times, especially, the English language in America can use some rigorous clarity.

Yes, as I read this book (Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, by Marilyn McEntyre) I'll be sharing more thoughts from it in the next post.

Stay tuned!







Wednesday, June 14, 2017

That Attitude of Gratitude Works Wonders!



Recently I read a post about gratitude and how it is good for your health. I thought I'd share it. Take a look:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=f938b9b3df-GG_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_06_06&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-f938b9b3df-51961579

I find gratitude to be very helpful, especially with my anxieties. I just spend some time listing things I am grateful for and feel calmer. It is often how I fall asleep at night.

It is amazing how long the list gets sometimes.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer! What do you remember?


Lady bugs, catching lightning bugs, playing in the backyard sprinkler, the sound of roller skates on the sidewalk, playing outside until dark, the smell of rain on dusty pavement, jump rope, hopscotch drawn with a rock on cement, hide and seek, mother-may-I, tag, bicycles, afternoon storms, sandbox, screen door slamming and Mom telling us to not slam it.

Those are some of my childhood summer memories. I grew up in the city. My mom didn't start working away from home until I was nine years old, so summers also meant Kool-aid and cookies as a snack in the afternoon. She didn't have a car, so we seldom got to go swimming. When we did, it was a big deal for us because we had to take the city bus. I didn't know how to swim, but I loved playing in the water.

Once my big brother decided to teach me to swim. So he pushed me into the water! Neither I nor my mother was amused. Needless to say, I didn't learn to swim until I was in my thirties.

Summer has always been my favorite season. As a child I don't remember suffering with the heat as much as we do now. When it was really hot we played in the sandbox that was under a trellis of grape vines. The sand was cool and we were in the shade. Or we played on our big front porch.

The porch went across the front of the house. It had wide wooden banisters. And half of the porch was shielded from the sun by a  rose trellis. My girlfriends and I spent many hours there playing house with our dolls. And sometimes my big brother and I would play cards. We played war and the games would sometimes go on for days. Between times we each took our cards and hid them in our room so we couldn't cheat. I wasn't smart enough to realize that my brother could figure out how to stack his deck to win more cards the next time we played.

The garage was a cool place to play. It had a cement floor and no sun got in. We could climb around in the "loft" of lumber my dad kept for projects. And one time he brought home a ski-ball machine and fixed it so we didn't have to put coins in to play. I loved that.

Summer has lots of happy memories for me. Little wonder it is my favorite season. What are some of your summer memories? Would you share them?


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What Do You Never Have Enough Of?

Money? Love? Clothes? Shoes? Friends? Energy? Sleep? Time?

There is a commercial on T.V. about the value of time and that we must fill it with what matters. Time is a resource that is non-renewable. When it is gone there is no replacing it. So all of that got me to thinking about time, and about what matters.




So if you want to fill it with what matters, what matters to you? And, are you spending time on what matters to you?

When I was working as a counselor/educator some of the exercises we put our clients through were value clarification exercises. We seldom really look at our values as often as we need to. Every choice we make either moves us toward what we value or away from it. 


Let's just look at the things we began this post with: Money, Love, Clothes, Shoes, Friends, Energy, Sleep,Time.

Money can buy clothes and shoes. Maybe enough money could offer you "friendship" of people attracted to your money. However, these aren't real friends. 

And while having enough money might make it possible for you to have the opportunity to sleep more, money alone won't help you go to sleep and sleep restfully. And energy? Wish it could! 

So when we spend our time on all those things, what will we have? Money won't buy love. 

What IS important to you? And what DO you fill your time with? 

Are you working long hours away from home and loved ones? What if you only worked enough hours to have your basic needs met. Then what would you do with your time?

Is feeling useful, doing kindness, or serving the good of others important to you? Are you spending any time on that?

I'm guilty of wasting LOTS of time, even though I know that at my age my allotted time is limited. I rationalize it by thinking I've been busy all my life and now I'm retired. Some tell me that if I'm doing something I enjoy I'm not really wasting my retirement time. 

And then another part of me tells me that there are other things that matter to me that I COULD be doing. That's when I work on this blog, or take surveys, or share information about causes I believe in, or keep in touch with family, or volunteer.

Funny, when I was working full time I didn't think about wasting time. There never seemed to be enough of it to waste! I loved my work and believed it was worthwhile. 

So where are you in this whole Time and Values thing? What do you think about how you are using your time?


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Where Your Money Comes From

Ever given much thought to where your money comes from? Check it out.

Interesting.


Better not to try it at home!