Letters From An MBI Student – 7/1

Dear Family,

I think something is wrong with me. Or the world. Or both? Please don’t answer that. Because all jokes aside, truly, there is an enormous list of things that I do not understand and, lately, life has involved a lot them.

Here’s one that is easier to talk about. Gossip. We all know it’s bad, right? One of those “Thou Shalt Not” sort of things that was black and white.

I know I hate it. I know I hated it when I saw people I knew sucked onto the gossip train heading straight down the line towards the sister towns of Mistrust and Unresolved Issues, stopping along the way to pick up Resentment and Self-Righteous Indignation. Oh, and a whole bunch of logs.

But now I’m not sure I know what it is all of the time. I knew when it was petty, pointless, a rant behind a closed door that contributed nothing to the solution. I remember the sign that a friend suggested I hang in my office: “Complaint box [tiny little square]” and below it “Suggestion box [huge square].” I liked the idea that the nuggets of other people’s lives that were distributed second-hand, malicious or otherwise, didn’t have space in my life.

The problem is that gossip here isn’t so black-and-white any more. What is it when you’re retelling a tale about other parties that is probably funny but is also making-fun? What is it when you don’t have contact with someone and you’re checking in on them by talking to those in their periphery? Where is the line between bad-mouthing and debriefing, between spreading rumors and sharing information, between gossip and fellowship?

Here at Moody, there aren’t a whole lot of boundaries on conversation. We’re a sharing/caring/burden-bearing community that is in the process of removing all dividers, including the ones that should rightfully restrain our tongues. We may not mean to be unkind, but I think dishonesty is its own unkindness and we don’t know how to define that any more. We don’t know what is true about ourselves and each other enough to know when to just shut up.

So we talk, we babble, and sometimes I just want to flee the scene because I know it is not right. It’s surface-level word-vomit about someone else’s life, habits, decisions, character, and it protects us from our own. If we don’t have to speak the truth about ourselves then we don’t have to figure out what that is.

Sorry for the rant. I may be wrong about where the line about gossip begins and ends, and I know I will get it wrong again. When the students come back, I’ll ask them about a professor whose class I intend to take. I’ll ask about their summer. We’ll talk about life and relationships and breaking up and breaking out and the gray spaces in between. And in that gray will probably be more gossip than I like. But I hope I never lose the sick feeling in my stomach when we get on that train too far. I hope I don’t mind exiting the station when that conversation begins. I hope I learn better how to ask and how to say and when to let other people’s business be theirs and when to let it be mine. Until then it feels a lot like muddling along in a world that is as wrong as I am.

But you probably already knew that.

Maybe missing you,

~Rae

Tell The Truth Tuesday

1. I left class early last night because I was falling asleep. I’ve never done that, but last night was impossible. Governmental accounting until 9 pm while running off a weekend that featured less than 4 hours of sleep a night? Not happening.

2. I was planing on getting 8 hours of sleep last night. I overslept my alarm and got 9 hours instead. Whoops.

3. On Thursday I have an appointment with a doctor to go over the results of some blood tests I had done. My mom wants to go with me, even though I’m not dying, and the blood tests are actually pretty routine for me. I suppose I should feel gratified that she’s interested in my health, but having her along tends to complicate things more than I would like.

4. Do you ever feel like you’re dependent on your vehicle? My car may be an ancient, unattractive thing known as “The Green Bomb”, but I’d rather be driving it than the family vehicle that handles like a semi and is not ipod compatible, no matter than 5-years-newer difference.

5. This is my new favorite chart.

(source)

What’s happening in your corner of the world today?

Decimate, and other annoying words

Decimate. What does it mean?

Well, it’s a verb, defined by Dictionary.com as follows:

1. to destroy a great number or proportion of

2. to select by lot and kill every tenth person of.

Oh, and then there’s the obsolete definition: 3. to take a tenth of or from.

Really? How did we water down this word from one-tenth to a great number? Statistically speaking, 10% barely meets quantifiable significance.  My family loves to bother me with this word, using it to describe mass destruction. I’m not really allowed to argue, although I cringe at every use of it. The word originated in the Roman legions, where mutiny was punished by decimating the company, literally. The same happened in concentration camps in WWII.

To extend this specific word into “a great portion of” bothers me. As much as I love the changing, living, breathing nature of the English language, it seems as if words can no longer be misapplied. Instead, they are adapted. When do we draw the line and bring a word back to its roots?

Do you have pet-peeve words? Ones that make you shudder and cringe and look over your shoulder for the ghosts of Shakespeare and Noah Webster?