Some people have chuckled at my newly defined identity of “restored English major.” I want to talk about it. I’ll use words to explain.
Having lived to the age of 69, I have at times presented myself otherwise to the world. Psychiatrist. Father. Athlete. But I keep coming back to a preoccupation with–and at times to wallow in–one of the things that makes us uniquely human, our gift of language.
When I was learning to be a psychiatrist I had a teacher who taught psychotherapy by exploring the value and meaning of words. He scorned any activity of psychiatry that used medications, or any other type of doing-things-to-people even such as giving advice or setting goals. It is by the act of talking and understanding the meaning of the words that one makes sense of the world. He would wax eloquent about the difference in meaning if, for instance, you called someone “beautiful”as opposed to “attractive.” Just listen. Talk. Listen. Understanding will come. Achieving the things that are worthwhile follows understanding.
Yet using language in that way was still by definition utilitarian. I think there might be even a more peaceful and joyful way to engage language. So I wish to spend the rest of the time I have to breathe and think by “majoring” in language (English). I’ll read, I’ll write, and I’ll smile and maybe laugh out loud when I hear someone turn a phrase that catches my ear, sounding unique or beautiful. Maybe I’ll even write something that others will … what?… think is worthwhile? I don’t want to become too utilitarian.