Sunday, March 01, 2015

Driven by Words

I discovered a new word while writing this blog.  It was serendipity, which isn’t the new word but which is a grossly underused word, in my humble opinion.  
My new word discovery happened like this... 
I was hammering away at my laptop trying to come up with a topic for this week’s blog.  I had lots of things to choose from which caught my attention this week.  
There was, for instance, the black and blue/white and gold dress thing.  I found out about when someone in another department presented their phone to me and said, “What color is this dress?”  It touched on things I’m interested in, such as perception and how we see the world, and how this impacts society, such as in using eye witness testimony to determine someone’s guilt or innocence.  
There was also the death of Leonard Nimoy, which touched me deeply.  I empathized with the character of Spock more than any other in the Star Trek universe.  It saddens me that my version of the show is facing away.  
I was also thinking about my impending birthday (I turn 54 on March 1st).  If you consider that the restaurants I frequent in the area where I live offer senior discounts to people aged 55 and older, it means that my birthday marks the beginning of the last year of youth.  Or whatever is the opposite of being old.  
And there was all sorts of ideas from the TED Radio Hour broadcast I listened to about Success.  How we define it.  What it means to us.  What some rather smart people think about what you need to do to get it.  After listening to the broadcast I decided I needed to decide more.  And smile more, even if I’m not “really” happy.  And have more grit.  Or grits.  At one of the local restaurants.  Off the senior menu, maybe.  
Anyway...  I was writing in my word palette (a document I open up to write down notes, jot down what I’m feeling, basically keep the fingers moving until an idea pops out at me) and was trying to write a sentence with the word, “inspiring” in it.  My fingers stumbled though, probably due to their extended age, and instead of “inspiring” I wrote “inspiriting.”  
Crap.  I hate mistakes.  I can’t keep writing if I know that there is a misspelled word in the previous passage  I have to correct it before I can go forward.  So, I started to backspace, to erase what I was sure was a non-word, when I noticed my word processing program hadn’t underlined the word in red, its reaction to misspelled words. 
Maybe I’d been too quick on the keyboard...?  I’d backspaced so fast that even my MacBook Pro didn’t have time to point out my error.  Just to verify what I’d seen, I wrote the word out again.  Inspiriting.  And waited for the red underline to appear.   
And then waited some more.  Then waited a bit longer.  Finally, I opened up my dictionary and entered, “inspiriting” into the search field.  This is what the dictionary returned: 

inspirit |inˈspirit|
verb ( -spirited , -spiriting ) [ trans. ] [usu. as adj. ] ( inspiriting)
encourage and enliven (someone) : the inspiriting beauty of Gothic architecture.
Holy Crap!  I had never encountered this word before.  To “inspirit” someone.  Cool.  My assumption is that it’s an older word that doesn’t get used any more because people have decided to use “inspire” in a more general sense  
But I think that’s a mistake.  There is a subtle difference in the two words.  The same dictionary defines “To Inspire” as, “To fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative.”  To inspirit someone lacks the impulse to do something specific but is directed toward their general well-being.  To put some spring in their step.  To get them to smile.  To make them feel good about being alive.  
To inspire someone is to play the role of their muse.  To inspirit someone is to be their friend, or their lover.  
I have songs that put me in good moods and make me see more clearly the good qualities that exist in my life.  All this time I thought they were inspiring songs.  They weren’t.  They were inspiriting songs. 
The other word came from Japanese.  I tweeted about it a few days ago.  The word, which I’ll write in romanji (that’s the Japanese word for English letters, written in romanji), is “tsundoku.”  It’s a four syllable word in Japanese: tsu-n-do-ku.  It is the act of collecting piles of books, but not reading them.  At least not right away.  
I do this.  I am a tsundoku-er.  I’m realizing right now my Dad was a tsundoku-er also.  He used to work at a cardboard tube factory.  They would take waste paper, turn it into pulp and use it to make the cardboard they used to make the tubes.  Sometimes they would get boxes of books to throw into the pulping machine.  Dad thought there was something wrong in turning books into tubes to hold rolls of toilet paper.  So he would bring them home and tsundoku them in what became my bedroom.  
That is what began my life of tsundoku-ing.  I don’t tsundoku as much as I used to.  I don’t read as much as I did when I was a kid.  Not nearly as much as I like.  But there is still something about a pile of books that says to me, “There is SOMETHING in there.  I know it!”  Within each bound cover, there is a whole world that once existed in someone else’s mind.  Tsundoku-ing books is like collecting piles of friends you plan on meeting in the future.  
There is something about knowing there is a word that describes something you do.  Not a sentence, which are designed to describe things.  But a single word.  A unit of thought that says, “this is something distinct and different, something singular that you should know.”  
I tsundoku.  And I do it proudly. 
In the TED Talk Radio Hour on success that I mentioned above, Tony Robbins, the famous motivational speaker (though he apparently doesn’t like the term), talked about the importance of knowing what drives you and appreciating what drives others.  
Words drive me.  I love words.  It is my love of words that made me a lover of books, packages of organized collections of words.  Words are seeds.  Concepts that take root in your brain, that combine and cross-fertilize with other words to create bigger, more complicated and beautiful concepts.  Concepts that we mutually recognize and share with each other. 
Words are the keys to reaching into other people’s minds. 
One of my favorite words when I was a teenager: defenestration.  It's a German word.  It means to throw something out a window.  It's most famous usage comes from hi reference in history is from the early 1600's.  It was the incident that prompted the start of the Thirty Years War.  Imperial regents, representatives of the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor, were thrown out the window of the building where they were meeting by Protestant representatives.  According to the accounts from the Church, the regents did not die from this act of defenestration because angels caught them before they hit the ground and lifted them to safety.  According to Protestant witnesses outside the window they were defenestrated from, a pile of dung below cushioned their blow.  
Words are thoughts.  And the more thoughts we have, the more we do to encapsulate our experiences into thought, the more we live.  Sitting in a lightless room, without moving, expending as little energy as possible, may, possibly, increase the number of hours one’s body functions.  But it is getting up, seeing things, feeling things, doing things and describing to others the thoughts and experiences these activities created within you, while incorporating what they pass on to you in the same fashion, are what make up life.  
So, in a way, words ARE life.  
This is my opinion.  I hope it doesn’t inspirit you to defenestrate me, especially if the discovery of my blog was the result of some serendipitous event.  If it does, though, I can only hope there is a pile of tsundoku-ed books waiting to cushion my fall. 


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