What You Call a Thing

name

 

What you call a thing, may well become it.

What you name a person, may weave itself into their cells.

What you title, leads a story.

What you tag, may stick around.

Definitions matter. Meanings become truth implied, rehearsed, accepted; whether it is hidden from a awareness or intensely shown.

Words create reality and shape semantics.

What we say becomes a part of who we are and what we stand for. What we give or take away in voice is woven through the tapestry of those around us: how we see them, how they are intended to be seen by themselves and others.

How we label people, places, power, actions … What we tell to whom and how. All these not only make us, but format the very being of our children. Our labels inscribe children’s spirits and knit into the fibers of every connection made, be it bathed in kindness or in less than kind.

May we be aware, and tender what we mean and how we use it.

Words matters. Every time.

 

 

For The Daily Post

How did THAT happen?

tom looking for ball

Kids are wizards of pointing out minutia of life that can seem quite arbitrary to us. They note things we missed completely. They seem to ‘insist’ on irrelevant details like the way the plate is organized, who got to open the refrigerator this time, or what touches what. Everything takes far LONGER to do with a little one around …

In good part it may well be because their life moves slower. Time is yet to be shackled onto watches and the ticking of a schedule. They pause mid-sleeve, pondering the way light filters through the cloth, unconcerned with how rushed the morning is. They stare in wonder at a pigeon when the light changed and it is time to cross the street. They have an urgent question or need just when you finally sat down to eat.

And they notice. Everything.

They collect each leaf and pebble. There is no such thing in their vocabulary as a “quick run to the store and back” … not when there’s a big exciting world out there. There is endlessness to explore: Cracks in the pavement. Bits of paper flown by winds. Funny people. Yippy dogs. Horns and beeps and squeaks and windows with wonders and when finally at the store, multitudes of candy at eye-level … How could it be that this was not what you came all the way for? …

They teach us patience, that’s for certain.
They also teach us that time is what we make of it. That stress can catch one breath, and relaxation ride right in upon another. That one can laugh before their tears have dried and emotions coexist and flow without a judgment.
They hold a mirror to the things we have forgotten or have misplaced our truth about or have given up on trying to critically examine.

They listen. Even when they do not seem to.

More than most anything else, they note the mismatch of expression, the ambiguity of tone and matter. The odd things our mouths can say and we do not hear.

In part it is because small children are so literal. They get confused when they listen to the WORDS we say and find it not to match the words’ MEANING. Their reaction (and ensuing cuteness) can have us realize hidden ambiguity. They reflect what we once saw and now are almost blind to: how the world works even though words so often mean things they do not really mean.

Want a few examples?

A father talked about his mother looking after the children when he and his wife had to both be away. “She has a heart of gold,” he gushed. His preschooler daughter piped up and added, “no daddy, you forgot. Nana’s TEETH are gold …”

A mother had forgotten something she needed to ask me. “I’ve had it at the back of my head all day,” she sighed, frustrated. Her three-year-old scrambled up onto the couch and took a look, exclaiming, “No mamma, it is nothing there!”

“It is all politics and money,” another parent moped when a kindergarten admission did not go the way she’d hoped, “there’s absolutely nothing new under the sun!” Her almost kindergartener son looked at her sideways. “That not true, Mommy,” he said, rather accusingly. “I have new Spiderman shoes! You forgetting my new Spiderman shoes?!!”

Then there are the cats and dogs that do not really rain; the invisible pins and needles one can be on (and no wonder one’s child refuses to sit where the parent sat a moment prior!!); the feet in mouths (“You can’t do that no more, Daddy. You’re too old. You can’t reach like baby Deena!”); the bleeding hearts (think on that …); the pants on fire…

Language is a treasure trove of meaning, and learning symbolic language is a big task. It calls for the ability to hold two lines of listening: one for the words, another for the context. Children get very good at that around age 5 or so, though they get thoroughly confused before they realize that “listen to what I say” is far from straight forward.

Kids practice logic. They spend a good bit of their time making connections, figuring out how things work and what brings on what. If you pour too quickly, you spill everything. If you push your brother, mom gets cross. If you don’t stop whining, you may lose a privilege. If you mix milk with chocolate syrup magic happens and you get chocolate milk!

They get right fast at figuring out what makes what, and a never-ending list of ‘why’s helps them figure things out. They realize there are desired outcomes and less favorable ones, some adults that are easier to get things from, that there is misfortune and consequence. They get uncannily creative at hopeful attribution of fault …

They map their world into cause and effect. Into how things happen. Who does what.

And sometimes they make connections that are not quite as we would have put them. … Like the little girl with the (newly) pregnant mom, who asked quite loudly and in public: “Daddy, how did God put a baby inside mommy and didn’t tell her about it until she peed on the stick?”

The B&Bees

The B&Bees

Why do YOU read?

How do you use reading? How does reading handle, challenge, comfort, startle, change, use … you?

Do you read for pleasure? Do you read when you are sad? Do you read for inspiration?

Just for school, research, work-stuff, projects? (if so then that is quite a bit depressing, really, I am sorry it is that bad …) 

Do you read for passing time? Do you read for friendship? Do you read to seek ideas? Do you read to make good use of waiting, lines, your travel? Do you read to undo boredom? Do you read because you can? Do you read to keep on current or to discover what had happened during times before your time? Do you read for imagination? Do you read to reconnect? Do you read for knowledge, wisdom, thought provoking, prayer, fate? Do you read for all these reasons and read some more for just in case?

Do you read books, magazines, publications, journals, newspapers, memos, menus, t-shirt logos, signs? Do you re-read old notebooks, older letters? Do you read your children’s homework, the funnies of another, bits of stickies left in library books by mysterious someones?

Do you read for comfort?
Do you read for hope?
Do you read to understand?

Do you read because it matters? Do you read because you must? Do you read for words you’re learning? Do you read to learn to live or to prepare better how to die? Do you read for things you did not know and need to? Do you read for what you wish you did not need to know yet should not be look away from or deny? Do you read for group discussion? Do you read to share a page? Do you read to walk along the ones who placed the letters onto page and screen and paced into your life?

Do you read a child to sleep? Do you read to calm an elder, to apologize, to woo a loved one? Do you read to spark an interest? Do you read for laughter, for redemption, a good cry? Do you read as prayer or as meditation? Do you read to find a path to bigger pictures, wider seeing, deeper meaning, brighter skies?

Do you read to find your own voice? Do you read for vision?

Or like me, do you read for all of those reasons … as well as for the simple fact that you are addicted to the human language and cannot, would not, do not want to, ever stop …?

ihaveread

No learning is ever wasted

No learning is ever wasted.

No experience is ever for naught.

It is what meaning we find which makes the difference

Between what we believe was useless

And what can in fact be used, quite a lot.

Hardship breaks the heart open

It splinters the spirit

But in the spaces then made there is room more to grow.

There is pause for refocus, for remeasuring hope

For finding compassion, for opening of doors

For a new understanding,

Improving the focus on all of life’s scopes.

No learning is ever wasted.

No true lesson is ever for naught.

experience