I’ve been thinking about words lately. About language and its ability to build us up or tear us down. Connect us or alienate us. And this is how it started.
A family member told me that she could not relate to an essay that I had written because she is too pragmatic. We’d had a wonderful conversation that inspired my essay, so I thought maybe there was an alternative definition of pragmatic that I was unaware of. I Googled it. It is defined as dealing with things sensibly and realistically…Synonyms: practical · matter-of-fact · sensible · down-to-earth ·
My first reaction was WTF! I’m practical! I’m sensible! You will never find a more down-to-earth person than me!
My second reaction, after I’d calmed down, was Huh, isn’t that interesting? We both consider ourselves pragmatic, yet we see each other so differently.
And then, after I’d decided that we could each be pragmatic in our own ways and I love her regardless, I started to ponder how this phenomenon occurs frequently in the world at large. So many of us are walking around, using words to define ourselves, our beliefs, and our situations, then yelling WTF when we are confronted with a polarizing definition. We build trenches to defend our definitions. We stay in a perpetual state of huff.
But what if we made the effort and moved past it. What if, instead of focusing on our differences, we searched for words and definitions that, instead, connect us?
Chrissie Lam, who started the Love Is Project did this very thing. She asked more than 600 people, representing 100 nationalities in over 40 countries the question ‘What is love?’ The answers, like ‘happiness’, ‘caring’, ‘a gift’, ‘God’, ‘compassion’, ‘limitless’, ‘passion’ highlighted the oneness of us all. People from all over the world shared the same definitions.
So there is one word whose definition is universal. There is one word that we can all agree on. I like that. I think I’m going to search out more of those words. I’m betting they’re out there.