Monthly Archives: January 2013

It’s all in The Look

I had an epiphany the other day. You know, the moment of enlightenment when the light bulb flashes bright dots of knowing there is bright 150 watt light, singing alleluias (or in my case rock ‘n roll); it jolted me from my everyday languidness of inertia to a full wide-awake state of aliveness; and it coddled me proving that I am treasured, valued, respected, and a worthwhile human being. What happened? I was in an elevator when a man, a gentleman, entered, said hello and looked me straight in the eye. There was no side-stepping, no glancing over my shoulder, it was a straight-forward look into my being. There was no intentional conversation, but there was validity that I existed for that brief second in the elevator. This moment in time reminded me of another time in my life.

It was years ago and I was in the midst of what some may call success, I was editing at the magazine, teaching composition at the university, volunteering and serving on boards. In other words, I was wayyy too busy to know that there was life outside of my tunnel visioned world. Then, without knowing what was going to happen, I stopped at Arby’s for a sandwich and this girl behind the counter smiled at me. It was a smile that struck me so hard that I stopped dead in my tracks, and said, “Thank you for smiling. I can’t remember when someone actually smiled at me.” She looked at me as if I was strange, and maybe I was to notice a smile.  It was a genuine smile, and at that moment something happened. I realized that I had made my life so busy that I forgot to  be human, to touch someone else’s heart, to smile back. I realized by that smile that we are all in this life together, and if I did not have time to stop and smile, to say a kind word, to make someone else’s day brighter, then, what is it all about? — definitely not the job, the so-called success, the baubles of American middle-class.

That smile has formed many of my days, and now I keep thinking of “the look”. Since the look, I have noticed how many people do not look at my eyes when I speak, and how many times I do not look into the souls of people I am talking with.Today, I am making a conscious effort to look into people’s eyes as I speak to them. I want them to feel what I felt, that they, too, are treasured, valued, respected and are a worthwhile human being. 

Please, take note, and let me know what you notice.




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That darn misplaced modifier

Last time, I left you with a quote from Blaise Pascal, who I researched and found to be a remarkable gift to society.Check him out.

His quote was: “Words differently arranged have different meanings; and meanings differently arranged have a different effect.” The first part of his quote is all about the misplaced modifier. Remember those little trouble makers from grammar 101? Really, they haven’t gone away. We continue to use them in everyday language and by the signs on the road, they are a part of our ongoing challenge to figure out what we say vs. what we mean to say. For instance, if we drive in America we have all seen the sign “Slow children playing” — what the sign says is that slow children are playing. Definitely not politically correct. What it is meant to say is “Slow down, children are playing” . Even if the highway department would add a comma after “Slow”, it would be more acceptable than saying slow children are playing. But, we take for granted that the sign means to slow down rather than to infer that there are slow children playing.

Which brings me to another thought, a bit off base, but still focused. If the highway department can have grammatical errors, then why is there so much emphasis on teachers  following a governmental curriculum? Food for thought, or maybe it is just another one of those do as I say, not as I do.

Back to the misplaced modifiers: One of the reasons why they are and always have been and always will be a nuisance is because that is how we talk. We start to say a sentence and then know we left out a piece of information so we throw it in at the end. For instance, “Mary served desserts to her guests on paper plates.” This says her guests were on paper plates. How it should read, “Mary served the guests dessert on paper plates.” Ah, the dessert is on paper plates. Makes readable sense now. But, our language is another thing. 

And I am right there with you as far as language is concerned. I will have misplaced and dangling modifiers in my everyday speech, but really, I want to see correct grammar when I read a book or a sign on the side of the road….

Then there is that entire thing about the deer leaping in the air when I see that sign on the side of the road…..

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Words to ponder…

During the Christmas season I visited family in South Carolina. During that time, a nephew and I discussed sayings and why some are thought-provoking. It started when he received a text (yes, he is a text-a-holic) that read, “it is better to understand than be understood”. When he received the text, he shared it with me, and we both pondered the words before speaking and sharing our thoughts about the subject. How those words ring true! I would much rather understand a person, idea, or situation than be understood. When I understand a situation, a person and why or how that person behaves or thinks or speaks, I understand how that fits into my life. I know what I am, who I am, and what I stand for. Hopefully, the people who know me well also knows what I am, who I am, and what I stand for, so I do not feel that I need to be understood by the masses. But, when I understand the actions of those people I do not know, an idea that is new to me, or a situation that is foreign to me, I can accept that or reject that into my life. For instance, take the illegal immigration debate that is “hot” right now.

After much reading, knowing the living conditions of where the illegal immigrants came from, and understanding how they may think they have found a golden opportunity of freedom and riches, I understand why this issue is so big. There is a million other reasons, also,on why this issue is big, but I am not going to address them. I only want to know if I understand the stakes in the debate. And, I think I do on a very elementary level. That is all I need to understand for me to make a stand one way or the other. The same holds true for the “bully” in school or work, and why one parent disciplines or shows love toward a child and another parent has a different style. The list continues throughout our life. We are all a product of  our past and the past of those who surround us, and if we understand that, then we may be able to start to understand the neighbor beside us or across the sea. I want to understand. I want to get along. I want a world filled with harmony, and if I take care of me by understanding my neighbor, then I don’t need to be understood because the next person will understand when it comes to me. Or so I think in my idealistic world.

Hey, I know this is a bit philosophical, but every once in awhile it is good to get the ole noodle working…

Here’s a thought for next time. I received it from “Word a day” — “Words differently arranged have different meanings and meanings differently arranged have a different effect” — Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662).

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