The seeming invariability of the laws of chemistry and physics always reassured me, but in my lifetime some of the things once deemed immutable have been changed. With absolute certainty, my first college chemistry book asserted that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but in our lifetime matter has been changed into energy to enlarge this concept considerably.
Knowledge and use of chemistry, physics and math is based on consistent rules of behavior, but we often underestimate the level and the complexity of the consistency.
Look with me at how the human mind might analyze the authoritan statement that “Man does not live by bread alone.” Because of his training, one man might say that this is surely true because you have to throw in a potato and a little fruit and vegetables for man to prosper physically. The poetically inclined among us will instead go into the raptures of a full emotional and spiritual life. This choice of venues makes the Bible a very flexible document.
When Robert Browning was asked to explain what he meant in a line of one of his poems, he replied that he had no idea as the line grew out of the circumstance of his life at the time he wrote it. When we translate from one language to another, we have the feeling that a perfect fit for ideas can be accomplished, but this is not quite true. A single word in one language may require a page of explanation in another and still leave the word with a somewhat variable meaning. We have long acknowledged that we have perceptions, intuitions and feelings that we cannot put into words. Spoken words can carry meanings that are often lost when written down (or up). Take the words “excuse me.” They can be a humble apology or an arrogant put down, depending on the tone in which they are uttered. All of this probably makes life more interesting as we try to craft a thought into a clear meaning or maybe just the opposite. We speak to clarify, to confuse, amuse,and to evoke, and we often play our cards close to our chest. Should we feel joyous or depressed that life is not so simple after all? Well, maybe a little of both. How is that for a firm stand?
TOBY HIGHTOWER is a retired educator and former Hopkinsville High School teacher. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to him at 222 S. 25th St., Apartment 434, Terre Haute, IN. 47803.