Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dictionary Project

Over the weekend, I did something I haven’t done in I don’t know how long. I opened a dictionary. I don’t mean an online dictionary, one that I consult anywhere from 20 to 50 times a day. I mean a real, hard-copy, paper and ink, real-world, hold- it-in-your-hands, place-it-on-the-table, flip-the-pages dictionary.
When I was in my 20’s, I started making lists of words I came across in my everyday reading and listening. I also made it a habit always to have a dictionary within reach—and not only English dictionaries but foreign-language dictionaries as well—Spanish, Latin, Japanese, Hebrew, and other languages with which I am familiar. I even kept one in my car. I began constantly to look up etymologies, pronunciations, and alternate meanings of words.
In recent years, because of the virtual ubiquity of online language resources, I have hardly touched my many dictionaries. I am sure they have missed me as much as I have missed them. So, yesterday I pulled my trusty American Heritage Dictionary off the shelf and delved into it, as of old. It was very nostalgic.
A few years ago on my blog, I started a dictionary project, in which I began to go through the dictionary from A to Z (I’m still in the A’s) to learn interesting new words and comment on those words I found interesting. This link will connect you to what I have written so far.
I am resolving to pick up the narrative and continue my journey through the English lexicon. Some like to slide down mountains on skis; some like to skim across the water or dive into the depths of the ocean. I am rarely happier than when immersed in words and their pedigrees.
Please feel free to share interesting words, phrases, and/or anecdotes about words for research, comment, inclusion and attribution in my blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

In years past, I have expressed thanks for all manner of things in my life, everything from family and friends, from our youngest grandson, born on Thanksgiving Day two years ago, to turkeys, to stop lights and the electrons that speed our electronic messages around the world to the fact we have so many things to be thankful for. I have written about the concept of thanking and how it is expressed in different languages. The more one writes about thankfulness and tries to enumerate all the wonderful things and people in this world for which one is thankful, the more one comes to the inevitable conclusion that everything, even that which is seemingly negative, is a gift, and gifts beget thankfulness, which pours out in thanksgiving.
In today’s world, at least in the western world, we hear a lot about entitlement, what we all deserve or don’t deserve. There’s even a phrase, “the deserving poor.” We say he or she deserves this or that or didn’t deserve this or that. We say we are entitled to things as much as the next person. And in the most insidious development of the modern world, when others have more than they do, our fellow citizens not only covet what their neighbors have, they try to find “legal” means to take what belongs to others for themselves.  Like Cain, instead of giving of their best and improving their lot in a land of plenty, they rather envy their fellows, their Abels. They compare themselves to those who have more, and instead of admiring them and using their success as a model for their own, they rather envy others and fill themselves with bitterness.
As a lad, I worked for many summers at the Country Club of Ashland. The members were the richest, most successful people in our community. Our family was not rich, but never once did I think they should give me some of what they had earned, simply because they had more. Instead, I looked up to them as a model of success. I admired them and wanted to one day emulate them, and I was very thankful to live in a country where my hard work and perseverance would be rewarded, and I could be similarly successful. 
The fact is we human beings don’t deserve anything. Everything we have is a gift. We didn’t have to be created. It was an act of free will from One who chose out of love to bring us into being. The ground of our being, our physical being, is literally the ground, in Hebrew the adamah, the red earth, out of which a lump of clay was formed into an adam. The marvelous body in which we live was so carefully designed in every way for our well-being. The breath of life was breathed into us as a free gift.  All the ingredients of our survival were provided for us by grace.
Our specific creation happened as the result of an act of love between our parents, with no help from us. We didn’t choose to be born. Nevertheless, we came out of the womb as helpless beings, needing everything, deserving nothing on the basis of our own merit. It was all grace, the grace of God, the grace of our parents, freely given, not on the basis of entitlement.  The fact there is an innate parental love for a child and the moral obligation to care for that child is another gift we didn’t “deserve.” 
No matter how poor we are, we don’t deserve what others have earned. True, there is a moral code which obligates those who have more to help those with less, but that again is grace, a gift, not something we have earned or are entitled to.  

Now, I am not disputing that as we grow and mature into adults, the mores, moral codes, and laws we grow up with produce situations in which we merit or owe from or to others. I am not talking about contractual obligations. I am not saying “you didn’t build that,” but what I am saying is that even these systems, biblical commandments, constitutional government, law and order, the market, are gifts for which we ought to be thankful. They also reflect grace. Gifts from on high.  The fact there is right and wrong, truth and untruth, is inherent in the universe, as created. We didn’t put it there. It is something for which to be thankful.  
You see? As we endeavor to list all the things for which to be thankful, we are overwhelmed by the task, because everything in life is an object worthy of thanksgiving. From the tiny universe inside the atom to the endless expanse of space out there, everything around us, whether matter, emotion, or spirit, is an object engendering thankfulness.
So, it dawned on me this year that I am thankful for BEING itself, for my being and for the fact that anything exists at all. "Light, be, come into being, have existence...and it was so." The ground of our spiritual being is in the "I will be who I will be," the self-existent One, the One who brings into existence everything that comes into existence. The "yesh," the "there is."This is the sine qua non of all existence. We take for granted the fact we exist, but is this not the greatest gift of all, without which none of the myriad other gifts could be experienced.

This past week I have been suffering pain in my left ankle and toe that has varied from barely bearable to excruciating. Yet, even pain is a gift. It certainly tells me I am alive. It also may alert me, and my doctor, to another problem. It may be alerting me to changes required in my diet and lifestyle. For this pain, too, I give thanks.

So, this Thanksgiving, I thank God that I exist and that you exist, and that we recognize that we exist and can interact and bless one another and love one another, and I realize that all the countless things for which I am thankful exist because a self-existent One brought them into being for me and for you and for us and for all of us, and as we continue to walk and talk and build and do and give and receive and learn and teach, we can see a brighter future, a better world, a city on a hill, and for that too, I give thanks. 
That beautiful Hebrew blessing, the Shehecheyanu, expresses very succinctly much of what I have been trying to say.
Baruch Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha-Olam,
Shehecheyanu, V'kimanu, V'higyanu, Lazman Ha-Zeh.
Blessed art Thou, O LORD our God, King of the Universe,
Who has given us life and has sustained us
And has enabled us to reach this season. 
And for that, we give thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Quotes 2012

If you think Independence Day is America’s defining holiday, think again. Thanksgiving deserves that title, hands-down.

Thanksgiving is a time when the world gets to see just how blessed and how workable the Christian system is. The emphasis is not on giving or buying but on being thankful and expressing that appreciation to God and to one another.

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.

None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.

When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.

Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.

It does not matter what your circumstances are; the instant you begin to thank God, even though your situation has not changed, you begin to change. The key that unlocks the gates of heaven is a thankful heart. Entrance into the courts of God comes as you simply begin to praise the Lord.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012: Thank You, Veterans

Thank you to all veterans who have served this country.
To those with whom I served around the world...
To those who went before us...
Like my uncle Phil Brumenshenkel...
Like my uncle John Costo...
And to those who came after us.
Like Gulf War veterans, Iraq veterans, Afghanistan veterans, and so many others.
 In 2005, my uncle, Phil Brumenshenkel, a master craftsman, built a memorial to the veterans of the Korean War in his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Tapas in Denver

El SeƱor Sol  (303) 455-2500 2301 7th St
 It's a Mexican Restaurant, but we go there for the excellent Spanish Tapas Menu.
 Nice spread of authentic Spanish tapas.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Thursday, November 01, 2012