May 9, 2014

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Taking the time to ponder obscure mysteries of life

Cynthia DewesAs Easter people, we should make hope the dominant emotion in our lives. Springtime makes it easy to feel hope, as do seasonal events like weddings and graduations which look to the future.

Another sign of hope is the ability to feel no guilt in “wasting time” now and then. Somehow, sitting in the sun on a balmy day, chewing on a blade of grass and watching puff clouds roll by, is what we need to be doing. Schedules and deadlines and appointed tasks lose their importance, and we feel free to let our minds wander.

We have years of experience to reflect upon and memories to enjoy—or not. But mainly, we feel we have the time to contemplate things we’ve always wondered about. We’re not in a hurry.

We’re not talking biggies here—not “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is the secret of the universe?” No, things more like those nagging questions that pop into one’s mind at odd moments: As in, “Why do women never like the hair (looks, figure, smarts) that God gave them?”

Take my own hair (please!). I have Norwegian hair. It is lank, thin, fine and tends to disappear with age. It’s probably the exact opposite of African-American hair, which appears to me to be thick, curly and shiny. However, many of my African-American friends complain about their hair as much as I complain about mine. Ditto with wishing to be tall when we are short, shorter when we are tall, slender when we are curvy, and curvy when we’re not.

Then we have the question of why language changes for no apparent reason. I am old enough to actually have heard the phrase “hubba hubba” used as an expression of appreciation for feminine beauty. This often accompanied another now-outdated compliment, the wolf whistle.

To express approval of other things, we’ve run through “copasetic,” “hip,” “cool,” and “rad,” among many others. For other opinions, apologies or comments, we’ve said, “heading south,” “my bad” and “downer.” Ours but to wonder why.

Not just words, mind you, but how they’re strung together as well. Reading any educational document would drive a terse wordsmith like Hemingway crazy. And try to read Shakespeare in rap style sometime.

Or did you ever wonder about differences in taste? Why do some folks love over-decorated, frilly, ruffled décor and others go for Shaker reproductions? Or where did people like Frank Lloyd Wright and the Arts and Crafts designers live in a world with rococo and baroque buildings?

Now, such frivolous concerns may strike the more serious among us as unworthy of our time. After all, what’s to be gained from speculating on such things except to pass time?

There are so many really important problems to worry about such as our failing economy, global warming, prevalent obesity and increasing division between the upper and lower economic classes, not to mention the erosion of the middle class altogether. And that’s just in our own country! Don’t even get me started on the international threats we’re dealing with: Russian expansion, militant Muslim terror and systemic greed.

But that’s why we need to back off now and then and rest our minds by thinking about trivia. We do what we can: keep informed, vote, raise responsible children, and work for the good of others in every way we can. But when we’ve done all that, it’s not a cop-out to rest a bit. It’s knowing when to let go and let God.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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