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I love grammar. I preach grammar. I grieve when I see the public schools largely ignoring grammar. How can something so important be ignored? How will the younger generations ever be coherent writers? I recently posted a blog against using object pronouns after “than.” I cringe when I hear a song that says “between you and I.” I am a staunch grammarian, and I’m proud!
Last week a friend posted a rant about people who double space after a period. Those who double spaced were considered idiots, and justification was provided. Oh my! I am a double spacer. I’ve always done it! HaHa! That is where we all get stuck. “I’ve always done it that way.” OK, when confronted by that article, I realize I have always done it that way because I’m 50 years old, and my keyboarding education was on a manual typewriter! Double spacing was needed because typewriters spaced every letter, space, mark , etc. equally. Not so with computer typing. Much more advanced. The seed has now been planted in my mind. I can no longer type freely with no awareness of my double-spacing. Still, the habit is formed, and the attitude of what’s right is hard to break.
I’m now reading a fascinating book on the history of proper English. It is challenging my set-in-stone attitudes toward the importance of grammar. Apparently every generation of grammarians has felt the same fear of loss and change, and indeed change is inevitable, but this author challenges the notion that change is necessarily negative. At what point in history do I, the staunch grammarian, think that English grammar was at its most perfect state? Shall we go back to Shakespeare’s English, which we can’t even understand? And even the Bard’s writings are sprinkled with what we modern grammar police would label as errors. The author’s point is that there has never been a time of perfect grammar, whatever that might be, and upon personal reflection I have to laugh and realize that perfect grammar to me is the grammar that was being taught when I was growing up! How convenient for me! Now so far the book has not changed my grammar or my love for it, but it has planted a seed, that maybe those who do not care as I do about grammar are OK! It’s a frightening but somewhat freeing thought!
All this got me to thinking about change in general. We all want to change others, but is it even possible to think about changing ourselves? Are we set and immovable, especially in those toughest areas?
ADDICTIONS: Those who smoke know what it’s doing to their bodies. Those who drink too much or abuse other medications know what it’s doing to their families and/or their jobs. Those with extreme highs and lows probably suspect their beloved caffeine might be a factor. And those who eat excessively know it’s causing their weight issues. Most would even advise others not to do as they do. Yet, addiction is a kind of security. It pulls us, and we follow.
HABITS: I have a friend who stresses greatly if she finds herself unable to sleep at night. She worries herself sick that tomorrow she won’t be able to function at work. Yet she does, and thousands like her do. But somewhere in her psyche, she has “learned” that she must get 8 hours of sleep every night, or her world will cease to operate. Can she relearn? Would she want to?
PESSIMISM: We all have Facebook friends whose posts are filled with doom and gloom. Nothing ever goes right in their lives, it seems. I always wonder if these glass-half-empty people think that life is perfect for everyone else, and I wonder if they would like to change their world view, and if so, is it possible.
ASSUMPTIONS: If you have always been taught that black/Hispanic/white/Asian people are lazy, not to be trusted, stupid . . ., are you able to step outside that “truth” and question its validity? If you saw that your assumptions might be unfounded, would you want to change them, or do they give you some kind of security because you have always believed them and you know others who agree with you? What about your own “truths” about gay people or immigrants or Muslims? Would you ever question the “truth” that gay people are a threat to the American family? Does holding onto that belief give you some kind of security?
POLITICS: Yeah, while we’re at it, let’s consider those unspeakable areas of our lives. Why do we believe that everything our own political party claims is positively the truth? What a strange concept really. Yet it has become our American way. He’s a Democrat, so everything he says and does is necessarily right, or wrong. That’s what the Republicans want, so it is automatically, no questions asked, right, or wrong. If we were able to see the ridiculousness of this, would we want to change our world view, and could we?
RELIGION: One of my Baptist friends, a college student, shared this week that he is taking a World Religions class and that his teacher is Mormon. He is thinking of speaking to her to invite her to know “the real God.” Our religions direct us. They give us values. Perhaps they even tell us that it is our God-given responsibility to correct all those whose religious views are different from ours. Another friend was challenged once: “How convenient for you, ” her friend said, that you just happened to be born into the only right religion.” Could it be that some of our religious teachings are off the mark? Does even that question seem blasphemous to you? What an opportunity to be taught religion by a Mormon, to hear firsthand what a real Mormon believes, rather than to be told by Baptists what Mormons believe. But are we ever really open to learn, or are we all set to wherever we’re set, and that’s that?
It seems we all develop the mindset that we have everything right, and that while change is needed, it is only needed for everyone else, not for us. Are we capable of changing our own views of the world? I don’t know the answer to my own question, but it seems that if so, we must open ourselves to the possibility that everything we “know” might not be perfect. Then we read from outside our box – articles, blogs, or books written by those who espouse other religious or political views, other views of grammar, etc. We occasionally listen to news stations that slant in the “other” direction. We listen, truly listen, to others’ different stories. And then we don’t change for the sake of change, but if we find an area where perhaps the ground has softened, we merely allow a seed to be planted.
Is it humanly possible to see ourselves objectively? Is it humanly possible to change the way we have always thought? Maybe not. I have double-spaced after every period in this blog!
Kathy Vestal is a college educator in Salisbury, NC. She has a Master’s of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master’s of Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. An avid writer, gifted teacher, and occasional public speaker/preacher, her passions include civil rights, social justice, church reform, and education. She has traveled to Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Ecuador, and The Gambia, Africa, and enjoys reading, nature, and history.