Plunge Forward

Recently, I read the final column written by contract columnist Bernadette Kinlaw for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Though I do not subscribe to the publication, I have had the privilege of reading her columns for quite a while, thanks to a kind and generous friend who regularly forwards to me links to the articles. Kinlaw’s articles always addressed the humor, quirks, and absolute joys of language; its structure, usage, and related matters. One of her columns a couple of months ago addressed the crucial importance of apostrophes, while mourning the death of the founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society. I fear it’s not just the danger to apostrophes we must fear. Rather, I believe the breadth, depth, and scope of the English language is in danger. And I admit my role in putting the language at risk. Thanks to my increasing acceptance of informality, incomplete sentences, and my own commission of grammatical crimes, I have to concede that I have some responsibility for imperiling the language. I suspect it’s not just English, though. I would not be surprised to learn that the modern world also exposes Mandarin Chinese and Italian and Portuguese to the hazards of informality and colloquialism gone awry. Rather than simply screaming about the death of language purity, though, I take action by sleeping with the enemy, as it were, while plotting the resurrection of modern languages circa 1960-1970. That’s all I can say at the moment except that I am, for the moment, the sole under-cover member of De Resistentia: Societas Linguae Puritatem, AKA The Resistance: Language Purity Society.


I hosted a small gathering of wonderful friends, all female, yesterday for an afternoon of conversation, laughter, and varying degrees of inebriation. Fortunately for those driving home, that level was very slight. For some of the rest of us, it was more intense and significant. My friends brought massive amounts of food and drink, leading to my open display of gluttony. Mostly, though, my friends’ presence led to a state of supreme enjoyment; so very glad to have such good people in my life. I owe my original exposure to each of them to my church. Who would have thought, even five years ago, that I would belong to, much less be actively involved in, a church? So, in spite of my misgivings about the very concept of “church,” I am much happier because of it.  I mentioned “all female,” to punctuate the fact that the majority of my friends are female. I’ve discussed the fact that most of my friends are female with several people (mostly female) over the years. I have concluded the reasons for the overabundance of females in my society sphere are these: women generally are comfortable with a much broader range of conversation topics than men; women in general are kinder and more compassionate in their world view than are men (in general); women tend to view simple conversations as simple conversations, not as opportunities for competitive advantage. There are more. But that’s enough for now.


Men could learn a great deal from women. While that statement might, to some, seem a welcome and long overdue admission from a male, it is a stereotype hidden within a compliment. The statement carries with it the implicit assertion that women are in some sense superior to men in some areas. “Yes, yes, we’ve saying that all along,” some women might say; to which I might reply, “Uh huh, so it’s okay as long as the stereotype is in your favor?” Like it or not, all of us are prone to making stereotypical judgments about one another. We seem to be innately biased, bigoted, and otherwise intrinsically judgmental. In my opinion, we need to be conscious of and willing to rectify our biases, no matter who is put on a pedestal or thrown under the bus. By the way, women could learn a great deal from men, too. Because that’s just the way the world works.


From my ever-present book of Zen wisdom:

This is what is strange —
that friends, even passionate love,
are not my real life unless
there is time alone in which to discover
what is happening
or has happened.

~ May Sarton ~

As I mull this pronouncement, I consider that “time alone” does not necessarily mean hours or days. It can mean just moments after waking or in the stillness of night, alone with one’s thoughts though not necessarily alone in bed. Time alone can be the solitude of sitting silently on a couch next to one’s lover, reading a book. Or it can be the empty hours of a solitary cross-country drive or in an airplane. Time alone just means time to reflect; it can be seconds or days.


Every time I hear it spoken or read it silently, my appreciation of my church’s doctrine increases just a touch more: “Love is the doctrine of this church.” That, especially in the absence of church dogma, is enough. Knowing that a solid group of people in the congregation take that to heart is enough. And with that I’ll plunge forward.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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