Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Parable of the Verbena Seeds

            A woman desired a beautiful flower garden, so in early spring she planted verbena seeds in starter containers and carefully tended them. She watered the seeds faithfully, protected them from cold snaps and storms, and looked forward to the day she could transplant them into her garden and enjoy their beautiful blooms.

            But in the night an enemy—or a bird or a strong wind—visited her makeshift greenhouse and sowed seeds of a different kind. And it came to pass that in late spring a careful inspection of her seedlings revealed fuzzy little stalks and leaves, which mightily resembled those of tomato plants. As the stalks grew in stature, delicate yellow blossoms appeared on them. Verily, they were tomato plants!            
            This woman had always held fast to the belief that actions carry consequences. Confident that her actions in nurturing these seeds had been good and well intentioned, she was certain her efforts would be rewarded. 
            “How can this be?” she lamented to a friend. “I have always adhered to the belief that actions carry consequences. I sowed verbena seeds and diligently cared for them. I have been a good and faithful gardener and should have beautiful blossoms to show for my efforts. Instead, all I have are a few pitiful tomatoes.”
            The friend gave her a sympathetic smile. “It is true that actions carry consequences, and in the grand scheme of things, remembering that will ensure a life well lived. But sometimes our actions—even the best and most sincere of them—don’t always bring the results we expected. That is when we accept what we are given and make something good of it. That is called fortitude.”
            As the woman pondered these words, the friend continued. “Other times our actions are not admirable, and we suffer because of them. That is justice.”
            The woman nodded, understanding the fairness of this situation.
            “But there are also times,” the friend said, “when our actions are shameful, and yet we escape the consequences altogether. That, my dear one, is called grace.”
            The woman thanked her friend for her wise counsel. Then, with a grateful heart, she gathered the tomatoes and took them inside her house to make a salad.




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Word Nerd

           The other day a friend posted her results of one of those Facebook quizzes. You know, one of those that tells you what kind of animal, car, state, cookie you most resemble? I generally scroll right past them, but this particular quiz caught my interest. It claimed to identify the kind of “thinker” one is, and it classified my friend as a Linguistic Thinker. Such a thinker, along with other traits, “ intrigued not only by the meaning of words but also by the sounds of them and their rhythm.” 
            I was positive I was a Linguistic Thinker as well. More and more these days, I find myself in awe of words, either spoken or written. They don’t necessarily have to be complicated, polysyllabic words, although it’s okay if they are. As long as they communicate ideas with sincerity and clarity, I’m impressed. Add a touch of local color or creative flare or—as stated above—arrange them in a particularly mellifluous combination, and I’m downright gobsmacked. (How do you like that last word?)
Martha Bryant, on the left, claimed the
title of current reigning Word Wizard
with the word gunsel. Look it up.
Rest assured, the competition to unseat
her at our next gathering will be fierce.
            I don’t claim to be a philologist (another great word!) by any stretch  of the imagination. I’m not an expert who applies “a critical attitude toward words, their roots and their meanings.” (WSJ, 4/5/14). Rather I’m a dilettante—a dabbler in diction, an amateur tripping through a garden of wordly delights. A word nerd, if you will. I often enjoy a book as much for the way it’s written as for the story. As a rule, card and board games don’t interest me, but give me one involving words and I’m all over it. I’m a faithful solver of the Daily Cryptoquote in the newspaper. (I used to be obsessed with crossword puzzles but gave them up when I realized what a timesuck they were becoming.) Only a word nerd would have for her homepage, right? And who else but a word nerd would spend an entire evening with other “nerders” (aka the Inklings) in a cut-throat, high-stakes word tournament, vying for the title of Word Wizard?
            So with all this evidence of my linguistic leanings, I saw no need to take the quiz. But I did. I breezed through it, scoffing as I clicked off the too obvious answers that would identify me as a...Philosophical Thinker??? What? Surely not! Philosophical Thinker couldn’t possibly apply to the person who gave up reading Sophie’s World because she couldn’t follow the geared-to-middle-schoolers explanation of existentialism. The same person who, full of ambitious optimism, bought a book entitled Half Hours with the Best Thinkers and fell asleep fifteen minutes into the very first half hour. The person who pored over the two-paragraph explanation of secular humanism in the The Bathroom Book Edition III and still remains clueless on the subject.  
            Needless to say, I’m crushed. My entire thinking paradigm now must shift from “What is the meaning of this word?” to “What is the meaning of life?” and let me tell you that is a major shift. Quite frankly, I’m not sure at my age I’m up to the challenge. One thing I am sure of, however, is that I’m through with Facebook quizzes. A few more life-altering discoveries like this one, and I’ll be lucky if I can think at all.   

            Want to know what kind of thinker you are? Here’s the link. But be forewarned. You might not like the results.