Many years ago, friends Penny and Derek gifted me with a kit called The Observation Deck: A Toolkit for Writers, a pack of cards compiled by one Naomi Epel that hold written suggestions meant to jackhammer the creative cement in the writer's mind. There is a whole industry devoted to selling creativity shovels to writing prospectors, and I rarely purchase such assistance, taking the advice of a Anglican monk I stumbled upon many years back, a man who started writing at age 70 and produced six books about spirituality and mysticism in five years. "Writing is applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair," he told me crisply. But I am thankful to P, D and Ms. Epel for one observation found in this pack, the card that simply states, "visit a dictionary."
As you can see, the card is on the wall by my desk in this humble office, next to the color printout of Mao with a Makeover, found on the Web at Stencil Revolution. These two pieces of paper are not constrained in fashionable frames, as methinks it more appropriate they be tacked to the wall with plain old pushpins. Each fettered only by a simple metal dot.
So frequent a dictionary I do. There are three here. The Oxford English Dictionary, compact yet formidable, its two blue volumes held in protective cardboard case, complete with magnifying glass, ready and waiting, with print so tiny I must remove my glasses and put this Irish nose so very close to the paper to comprehend. Random House and Webster are also on duty, in red cover and brown, holding clues to suggestions of what words mean, in case I've forgotten or haven't the faintest.
But when it comes to dictionary thinking, I hold the habit of looking for the less important. That within each word's definition, one can look to the third or fourth explanation, 'cause many times that's where the true meaning of a word resides. I suppose it is because I have always sought thoughts considered by most to be unimportant. That one's thinking can remain unframed by commonly-accepted clarification.
The word "journey" for example. "1. The act of traveling from one place to another; a trip." Yes, that's one way of looking at it. Yet the explanation that's fourth in line, states: "passage or progress from one stage to another." That feels better. Deeper. Life.
"Life": "1. The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism." Phew. "3. A living being, especially a person." Yes. Compassion.
"Being": "1. To exist in actuality; have life or reality." "4. To go or come. " Real. Attachment. Detachment. Attachment again.
"God": "1. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions. " "4. One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed."
You can put pigtails on tyrants, on old accepted ways that might not be making it any more. Sometimes it makes a much better story, and a more interesting life.