If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

29 June 2005

Today's language & philosophy lessons

My use of the word euphemism in the last post reminded me of one of my other favorite not-so-often used (or rarely used correctly) words... aphorism. I share it with you now, courtesy of Merriam-Webster online, because I'm a total dork for languages. Really. And in the case of both euphemism and aphorism, I have to say I must disagree with my teenage hero Ferris Bueller, who said, "Not that I condone fascism. Or any "isms" for that matter. "Isms," in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an "ism." He should believe in himself." (Which is, in and of itself, an aphorism: vicious language circle!) But I've kept you in suspense now too long:

Main Entry: aph·o·rism
Pronunciation: 'a-f&-"ri-z&m
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French aphorisme, from Late Latin aphorismus, from Greek aphorismos definition, aphorism, from aphorizein to define
1 : a concise statement of a principle
2 : a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment : ADAGE

So. To use our new word in a sentence, class, we would say that 'If Not Now, When?' is Viaggiatore's current favorite aphorism.

And so it is.

I certainly didn't create it. Memory is a little foggy on this, but it seems that I read it in a book? Saw it in a movie? Either way, it resonated with me and sort of accidentally became my mantra 3 years ago, New Year's Eve, to be precise... (*never a banner holiday for me.) It struck me that for that year, instead of those horrible 'lose 10 lbs, buy fewer pairs of shoes, volunteer more, drink less, nurse stray animals back to health' resolutions, that my ONE resolution would be to ask myself that question: 'If not now, when?' about all major decisions in my life. To articulate decisions about IF I was going to do or not do things -- and if they were going to be postponed, until when? (not just that horrible LATER or SOMEDAY trap that people fall into; to put actual dates on things.) This is a variation on Beatrice's 'put it on the calendar' mentality. It works for minor decisions, too, interestingly. Allow me to illustrate:

That New Year's Eve -- the question was:
If I'm not going to sell my house and move into the city NOW, when am I going to do it? (Answer: I am going to sell the house. Not today, but in February.)

Nearly 18 months later, the question was:
If I'm not going to move to Italy now, when am I going to do it? (Answer: if I don't do it now - with every opportunity wide open and no reason NOT to - I will never do it. And that's not okay with me. Statistics say that the longer we live, the more complicated our lives get ... and mine is oddly wide open now with no reason standing in my way to not go. Almost as if I was supposed to, which depending on your particular religious belief, maybe I was. Fated. Beschert. Divine intervention. Destiny. And who am I to mess with that? I can't not go just because it's scary, I will never forgive myself.) And, if it ends up not being all those things, I will invoke another favorite aphorism -- this one courtesy of my favorite comedian, bartender, businessman, everyday hero: my Dad -- "there are very few decisions in life that are irreversible" (having children and suicide were his examples. I'm confident, upon reflection, that this was during some sort of a teenage sex-discouraging talk.) But the principle is true, and has stuck with me.

So. If not now, when:

Illustrated with little (hypothetical) decisions:
If I'm not going to eat that entire sleeve of girl scout thin mint cookies now, when am I going to do it? (Answer: Never. oh, please. The sugar rush alone would kill you.)

If I'm not going to learn to speak Japanese / spin wool / play the harpsichord NOW, when am I going to do it? (Answer: Probably never. The follow up question -- is that okay with me? Yup.)

... and it works when counseling others...

If you're not going to dump that guy who is so obviously, classically wrong for you NOW, then when are you going to do it? (Answer: After the wedding you've agreed to go to together in two weeks. Or before he introduces you to his mother. Or before you have to throw him a surprise birthday party or suffer through another totally thoughtless stupid christmas present from him. Or before you meet his kids. Or you're not going to drop him completely because there's SOME redeeming value there at least for the moment(ahem), and you're willing to settle for that for now, but you're going to be brutally honest that this isn't going anywhere and is just casual. Or heavens, before you walk down the aisle. Or whatever. Because you're not meeting anyone ELSE while you're spending every spare moment with Mr. Wrong. But sometimes filling time with Mr. Wrong is easier for the moment. But make the decision, either way -- consciously.)

Answer the question. Put it on the calendar. Live a deliberate and aware life. Make conscious choices -- even if they're choices to keep doing what you're doing. You can always change your decision later. But don't just float along thinking you don't control what 'happens' in your life. You do.

If not now, when?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Se non ora quando?"
is the title of a book by the Italian writer Primo Levi.
Supposedly he borrowed it from a east european poet.
(-supposedly- since I don't remember now if Levi fictiously pretended to cite a poem written by another author or it was actually real)

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If God is love and love is blind, is Stevie Wonder God?"

Not as prolific as Jack Handy but good enough for not having any caffeine this morning. Heading off to my first of two Cubs games this week. Let's hope my mere presence doesn't immediately set off a tidal wave of dropped fly balls, stranded men on base and strikeouts, as seems to be the case for the last several games I have attended.

Keep the updates coming, Kel. I smell a book deal....chick lit meets wayward traveler. Can't you see it?


5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UPDATE: I spoke too soon. They lost 10-6. Hopefully will have better luck Saturday.


1:41 AM  
Blogger green gazelle said...

hmmmm, I'd leave a comment yet am too pensive, dry & reflective at this early dawnish hour....your insightful words provide one much to ruminate upon, thank you.

*yes, I am a night person yet when I get writing...the hours, they fly*

2:23 PM  
Blogger green gazelle said...

Woot woot!...Some fun for all us Dictionary Dorks. What's YOUR favorite non-word? Let's make our own list!

Merriam-Webster Asks: What's Your Favorite Word (That's Not in the Dictionary)?

What a lovely bunch of vocabularians (persons who make up new words) you are! Lasterday (refers to any day before today) we squinched (action required to fit something into a space that is slightly too small) a schmiglet (a small unit of measurement) of your awesomtastic (so wonderful the words just meld in your mouth) one-of-a-kind entries into this space in preparation for our Top Ten reveal. With so many chizzy (awesome, super, happening) creations to choose from, we admit to becoming a bit flusterpated (a state of being flustered that's so intense, one's actions and words become bound up) and fahoodled (confused, esp. when trying to think of too many things at once). We craughed (to cry and laugh simultaneously), we troddled (to wander around without knowing of doing so), and finally decided to use the schwack (a large amount) of multiple entries received as the basis for the Top Ten—this is, let's not forget, all about favoritism.

From the thousands of submissions we received, here, then, are the ten words (not in the dictionary) entered the most often:
Top Ten Favorite Words (Not in the Dictionary)
1. ginormous (adj): bigger than gigantic and bigger than enormous
2. confuzzled (adj): confused and puzzled at the same time
3. woot (interj): an exclamation of joy or excitement
4. chillax (v): chill out/relax, hang out with friends
5. cognitive displaysia (n): the feeling you have before you even leave the house that you are going to forget something and not remember it until you're on the highway
6. gription (n): the purchase gained by friction: "My car needs new tires because the old ones have lost their gription."
7. phonecrastinate (v): to put off answering the phone until caller ID displays the incoming name and number
8. slickery (adj): having a surface that is wet and icy
9. snirt (n): snow that is dirty, often seen by the side of roads and parking lots that have been plowed
10. lingweenie (n): a person incapable of producing neologisms [1 : a new word, usage, or expression
2 : a meaningless word coined by a psychotic]


what a hoot, huh?

9:20 AM  

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