This morning our local writers’ group met at Books on Broad, a delightful independent bookstore and coffee shop, and as always I left the meeting motivated to finish some projects I’ve been working on. Before leaving the bookstore, I wandered around looking and touching and glimpsing inside of dozens of books, an activity that further fueled my intentions to do the work.
Writing and reading on my mind, I stopped by the county library on the way home, and I checked out three books, none of which I have time to read right now. And yet. And yet…well, you know. I had to have them. I’m looking at Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott as I write this, and I know that somehow I’ll find the time to read this in the next couple of weeks.
I just opened Hallelujah and came across this sentence on page 89: “Being alive here on earth has always been a mixed grill at best, lovely, hard, and confusing.” Yes! I think Lamott’s book has just taken precedence over working on a family history I’ve been working on. And work is the operative word…not just for the history but for writing in general. Even choosing just the right word can be challenging.
Words, at least the English ones, come from twenty-six little letters, and those words can make a tremendous difference in how people interpret our meaning. Would you prefer to be skinny, thin, or slim? If you’re a policeman, would you rather be referred to as a cop, a law officer, the fuzz, or a pig? While the dictionary definitions are similar, the connotations of these words are quite different.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a sentence from a student’s discussion board post: I want to be brave and not perfect. And it’s true. I want to be bolder, braver. My daughter Carrie and I were recently discussing this, and I said something like, “Even God who IS perfect created the earth and then pronounced it “very good,” not perfect.
But then I went on a tear about the many translations the Bible has been through, about how many people copied from a copy that had been copied from another copy—more times than we know. And then I said, “To tell you the truth, I don’t really even know who wrote Genesis for sure.”
Who, after all, was alive to tell the tale?
My son-in-law, awake from his nap, walked into the kitchen just as I was asking the question and said it was Moses. While I knew that Moses is credited with writing the next four books of the Old Testament, I didn’t know he was the author of Genesis, too. Some people say God himself “wrote” the first chapter and that Adam, Noah, Terah, and others are responsible for other chapters and specific verses.
I’m sticking with my son-in-law’s statement.
Besides, does it matter? Well…yes, it does matter. If Moses received the words from God through revelation, were they in Hebrew? What is the Hebrew word for “very good?” I know only un poco and un peu about Spanish and French and practically nothing about Hebrew. I do know, however, that even in English there are subtle differences between words.
Quick story. Years ago, I overheard a conversation in which a diehard bachelor was describing a young woman he had begun dating. After a few moments of listening to his enthusiastic description of his latest heartthrob, a mutual friend said, “It sounds like you’re dating a nice girl for a change. I’m happy to hear it.”
He replied with a wink, “Oh, she’s nice all right.”
Nice is an easy, everyday word, and yet, everyone listening to the conversation knew the speakers had differing interpretations.
This rambling post does have a point. Do the best work you can and let it go. Even God, the Creator of heaven and earth, pronounced His handiwork as very good. After checking Genesis 1: 31 in three different bibles (NAS, NIV, and KJV), I’m trusting the translation as very good.