Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday's Words July 31, 2019

You always know when the couple you’re with is married and has been for some time. There’s a distinct language I’m going to call “marriage-speak”. This language is peppered with quick back and forth exchanges of snappy repartee and contradictory thoughts, sentences or sometimes, just single words. It’s also marked by a propensity to transport the speakers away from the main subject being discussed to an entirely different conversational planet altogether.

I understand this language because I speak it myself. Of course, there are more dialects in marriage-speak than there are in Chinese. After all, the rule of thumb for the determination of the number of possible dialects is: the more speakers there are of a basic language, the more variations of that language one may find. I know that China alone has approximately 1.386 billion people; no one has ever determined how many married couples there are in the world but I’m guessing it’s more than 1.386 billion. Logic tells us, therefore, that there are more speakers of marriage-speak than of any other language, and therefore there must be more variations of same.

Often, when I visit with my brother and his wife, or with my son and daughter-in-law, I spend a fair bit of time, my head swiveling like a spectator at a tennis match, observing marriage-speak in action. It can be incredibly informative as well as highly entertaining. It can tell you a lot about the couple in question. Are they truly happy in their marriage? This, of course you can determine by the temperature in the room and whether or not the couple is smiling as they indulge in marriage-speak.

And sometimes—rarely but it does happen—listening to a couple mid-marriage-speak can lead to a personal epiphany for the listener.

The thing about epiphanies is this: they are not simply moments when one has one’s eyes opened to something profound and not previously recognized; they can also be moments when something—a particular bit of knowledge, say—makes the final transition for the listener from head knowledge to heart knowledge.

I was at my brother’s house one day last week. We live in the same town and have done so since David and I moved to this town in 1989. In those days we were struggling, financially; housing was less pricey in this town, so we sold the lemon-house we had in the county in which we’d lived for most of our married lives and ventured to here. Now, when we moved here, my big brother laid down the law to me (strange how big brothers tend to do that no matter what the age or maturity of the little sister may be). He said, “don’t you think you’re going to be over here all the damn time.” I never would have thought that, but as you likely know from all the essays I’ve written over the years, I have always been an old-fashioned woman, relationship wise. This man was my big brother, the man of the house in my birth family after the death of my daddy. I took his words to heart. In the last couple of years, my brother and his wife have commented that they don’t see me very often. Of course, they don’t. I’m a dutiful baby sister.

But I digress.

I was over there, because my brother had a stroke in June and was recently released from the hospital. Thankfully, the doctors were able to eliminate the clot in the left artery, and while his left side is weak, he’s walking with a walker and he is speaking without impediment, other than having a reduced volume to his voice. His wit is as sharp as ever. The doctors feel he will make a close to full recovery in time.

Our conversation was animated. My sister-in-law, who’s a vegan sometimes and a vegetarian at others, declared the only reason he had this stroke—and the heart-attacks he’d had in his 60s, was because he has been a meat-eater all his life. But, no more! He will eat no more meat. Then she looked at me and said, this is true, trust me. I, being ever honest, informed her that I didn’t particularly trust her, but I did love her, and that would have to do.

We began to chat about other things, and in the course of this leg of the conversation, my sister-in-law declared that there is no truth anymore. I’d heard this, of course, but was interested in hearing her say this because she’d always been convinced that she always walks in the truth. Then they both declared it! “There’s your truth and my truth and their truth. So, see? No real truth.” The truth, my brother concluded, was indeed no more. That sounded familiar to me because I’ve heard public figures, and public disgraces, say that very same thing on my television.

And that was when I had my epiphany.

Everyone, somehow, has conflated “truth” with “belief”. They’ve forgotten that belief is something personal to one’s self. Truth, however, is a statement verified by evidential fact, whereby the evidence is presented without the aid of prevarication. Belief is personal; truth is universal. And rarely the twain shall meet.

And I have even figured out why it is so many people are confused. The difference is simple. Too many of us think that we’re the only ones who matter. We’re the only ones who are important. And so therefore, if we say it’s so, it is.

We’ve forgotten to nurture the quality of humility in our hearts, and then live it in our lives.


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