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AWADmail Issue 196

February 12, 2006

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Barbara Goodno (barbara.goodnoATdeploymenthealth.osd.mil)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dharma

In the early 1970s my husband served in Pohnpei, Micronesia, as a Peace Corps volunteer. The people were (and still are) very social and visited each other often. A typical meeting would begin with active discussions and then, when there were no more words, people would sit together in silence for hours. It was quite an adjustment for some of us, but now more than 30 years later, an adjustment that I truly appreciate -- and long for when the noise of routine living gets a bit too loud.

From: Debby Topliff (debbytopliffATcomcast.net)
Subject: breaking the silence

Many years ago while participating in an Outward Bound program, I spent three days on a "solo" in the Wyoming desert. Besides not having food or even a sleeping bag, there was no one to talk to except myself. We were given three matches and allowed to take our journal and a pen. The first night I accidentally dropped my pen into my fire.

One dawn I awoke to a tremendous rumbling sound and lifted my head off the dirt in time to see a couple of deer running close by. Another day I was disturbed by what sounded like the approach of a a helicopter. It turned out to be a dragon fly buzzing overhead. Unlike your reentry after nine days of silence, when my patrol reassembled we all spoke in whispers--it seemed only natural. But of course we were still in the wilderness. Out twenty-six days without a base camp, without electricity or running water, with only one change of clothes, with all our food and possessions on our back did much to conform us to nature and not vice-versa.

By that I mean that before my solo, I assumed I would domesticate my site. When actually confronted with the lone lodgepole pine that served as my "shelter", I experienced a profound sense of the tree's preeminence. I stood in awe of it and felt the need to ask permission to remove its dead, lower branches--to clear a place for rest and shade for myself and fuel for my fire.

Enough words spent.

From: Jill Heath (jillmheathATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dharma

I had a similar experience in Hong Kong in '99. Spent a few days there and didn't know anyone and didn't really speak any Chinese, of any dialect. So was silent for the duration of my stay there, as 'smile, point, and nod' was my mainstay. I fluked out and ended up in business class on my outbound flight where the very chatty and gregarious flight attendant overwhelmed me so much that I feigned laryngitis for the duration of the flight whilst I became accustomed once more to the cacophony as you phrased it. And same experience as you: found it an alien world.

From: Shelby J. Kuenning (sjkuenningATcentric.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dharma

After my first trip to Mexico from the US when, upon my return, my friends asked me if I had suffered culture shock, I replied in the affirmative that it had occurred upon my return, rather than the reverse. This was, as one might imagine, primarily because of our frenetic, consumer-oriented lifestyle, which I've never missed when away from it, yet in which I all too often heartily engage.

From: Jane Henley (sj1henleyATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dharma

I very much enjoy your Word a Day newsletter, especially the glimpses into your life. Your recent meditative retreat reminded me of a joke:

A young woman entered a cloistered monastery where the nuns could speak two words only every ten years. At the end of the first ten years, the woman said to the Mother Superior "Bad food." At the end of the second ten years, the woman said to the Mother Superior "Hard work." At the end of the third ten years, the woman said to the Mother Superior "Cold bed." At the end of the fourth ten years, the woman, not so young, said to the Mother Superior "I quit." To which the Mother replied, "Well, it's about time, you've done nothing but bitch since you started."

From: Megan Syverson (msyversonATriseup.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dharma

When I started meditating at home, my roommate's cat would invariably join me for my morning sit. Settling beside my cushion with one leg in the air, she would begin a thorough routine of licking, smacking, and chewing at those parts of her anatomy on which I was least disposed to meditate.

From that experience came the poem, more Ogden Nash than Basho:

The Dharma of the Grooming Cat

The dharma of the grooming cat
is to not let karma accumulat.
She faces beyond a stretch of a doubt
places I retch to think about.
So while my habits harden in clumps,
she sits and licks with the focus of monks.
Oh, how I strive to embrace my waste
with such undiscriminating taste!
But I'll need time and practice,
for, right now, the fact is
When it's crusted too thick--
I don't lick.

From: Paul Blumstein (pbandjATpobox.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mantra

So, if you keep invoking a mantra during prayer, would you be known as a praying mantrist?

From: Matthew Davis (mdavisATcoreknowledge.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ahimsa

Here's a nice treatment of ahimsa for the younger set.

Hurt No Living Thing
by Christina G. Rossetti

Hurt no living thing;
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle flat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.

From: Matthew Male (mattATmmale.freeserve.co.uk)
Subject: ahimsa

Many thanks for the Gandhi quotation. It took me some time to realise that he was referring to the second stanza of the British national anthem. Some readers may be interested to know that this knowledge is no longer part of a standard English education; back in primary school in the 1970s, we were taught the somewhat innocuous verses 1 and 3 only. I distinctly remember our headmistress making a comment about "knavish tricks" and how it was "no longer the done thing" to expose small children to such imperial dogma. Here is the full, outmoded anthem.

From: Jane Rubin (janerubinATaloevera.co.uk)
Subject: Inscription at Hingham? (Re: cancrine)

I'm probably not the only AWAD subscriber who looked up the Hingham church to try to discover the "curious cancrine inscription" that you mentioned. I received this reply:

    From: Simon (simonATsimonknott.co.uk)
    To: Jane Rubin (janerubinATbtconnect.com)
    Subject: Re: Inscription at Hingham?

    Hello Jane,

    You are the third person to ask me, and so I have updated the entry accordingly!

    The Hingham font no longer exists. The church was completely Victorianised in the 1870s, and the font cover was thrown out.

    But there IS one at Knapton, in the north-east of Norfolk. It reads, in Greek letters:
    NIYON ANOMHMA MH MONAN OYIN - "Wash not only my face but my sins as well." It probably said the same at Hingham.

    Hope this helps.


From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bon mot

One of my favorite bons mots is "Shake, shake the ketchup bottle/First none will come, and then a lot'll." No, Ogden Nash was NOT the author of that immortal couplet, although many people claim he was. (He DID write "Candy / is dandy / But liquor / is quicker".) The real author's name is revealed in the February edition of my free e-book.

For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. -Ingrid Bengis, writer and teacher (1944- )

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