Saturday, April 15, 2023


Odd, but among all the ASL I've taught myself since my granddaughter was born, I just learned the sign for "sorry." (I could legit lose my Canadian card for this oversight.) 

Always impressed by ASL's iconicity, this circle over my heart says so much more than the casual throwaway "sorry" we all tend to use. In one gesture, it encapsulates the essence of an apology much more eloquently than the hearing version. 

Whether a painting or a poem, a film or a farce, I'm always energized by analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating textall genres and mediums. It's a classic English teacher flex. I love to poke around in story: inciting incidents, character motivations, internal forces, flaws, and consequences. 

It's like dissecting a frog. One of my favourite essays highlights the serendipitous yet ultimately meaningful nature of the scientific process. Entomologist Samuel H. Scudder's professor advised him repeatedly to "look at your fish" (c) 1874. Scudder wondered, for what, exactly? Like Scudder, I am rarely certain what I'm looking for but I know when my nervous system reacts, there's something to be found. Whether a frog, a fish, or text, I must examine how tiny organs connect, otherwise how would I find the life within them? And that's the most important part in understanding anything: the looking. 

ASL inspires me to look at text anew: it's a window into language I stopped gazing at. ASL's "sorry" wisely connotes both the act and the outcome of a long-churning heart. In other words, without examining the churning that prompted it, "sorry" may be rote, or empty, or even unnecessary.  

Poet Mary Oliver famously said, "you do not have to be good, you do not have to walk on your knees, for a hundred miles through the desert repenting." 100% agree. I am tired of people claiming to be the arbiters of good. (I've made that mistake many times too.) At this stage in my life, I am more interested in being real than good. "Good" by whose definition? Black and white notions of good and evil may make things simple, but life has taught me that if I truly hope to understand myself and others, I should look for the spectrums where I once saw categories. 

In my ongoing quest to avoid the atrophy I call "becoming a grumpy, old man" (old yes, grumpy no) I aim to embrace evolution and that requires applying a little Socrates-inspired self-examination; to "know thyself" means I must do the hard work: dissect my churning heart. 

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