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Today's Word



Sep 25, 2023
This week’s theme
Biblical people and places that became words

This week’s words
tower of Babel

“Goshen is my happy place”
Must be a place of comfort and abundance
Goshen, Indiana (not Goshen, Egypt)

Previous week’s theme
Words related to colors
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with Anu Garg

As a non-believer, I have probably spent more time with the Bible than many believers have.

I have a deep interest in religion, in an anthropological manner. I often invite door-to-door missionaries in for tea and a chat. I like to learn why people believe what they believe in.

An old man, a doctor in Ohio, used to email me from time to time. At the last chapter of his life, he was wrestling with mortality. Also, with inconsistencies of religion. He was afraid that if he disavowed belief he’d be consigned to hell.

Fear can be a potent motivator. It can make us believe in the unbelievable, follow the worst (especially demagogues), and do the unthinkable. It’s hard to cast away the shackles we have accepted since childhood.

I don’t know why the doctor wrote to me instead of, say, his pastor. I suspect it was because he saw someone who had no fear in this world, or of what he believed lay beyond. He also saw someone who told it like it is. He was looking for real answers instead of the unsatisfying His-ways-are-mysterious.

I’d write back that I didn’t have all the answers. None of us are perfect, but I try to do the right thing and if there’s a cosmic judge, he would look at what I did, at my actions. Beliefs are a dime a dozen.

A thousand thoughts and prayers amount to less than a single action.

I haven’t heard from the doctor in a while. I hope he’s well. Or that he was at peace.

I may not have the answers, but I do have words. I’d read any book to find words. This week I have taken a dip in the Bible and have come back with words that are now a part of English. These words were derived from names of people and places in the Bible and are now used figuratively in English.



noun: A place of comfort and abundance.

After Goshen, a fertile region in Egypt, east of the Nile delta. In the Bible, it was allotted to the Israelites. They were also spared from the plagues of flies and hail. Earliest documented use: 1625.

“Land o’ Goshen!” is an old-fashioned exclamation of surprise, dismay, annoyance, and other similar emotions, comparable to saying “My goodness!”

“Where is that Goshen of mediocrity in which a smattering of science and learning will pass for profound instruction ... ?”
George Eliot; Evangelical Teaching: Dr. Cumming; Westminster Review (London, UK); 1855.

No battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools. -William Faulkner, novelist (25 Sep 1897-1962)

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