“Words are things I’m convinced. You must be careful about the words you use or the words you allow to be used in your house. In the Old Testament, we are told in Genesis that in the beginning was the word and the word was God and the word was with God. Words are things, we must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names using sexual pejoratives and racial pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Someday we will be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things, I think they get on the walls, they get in your wallpaper, they get in your rugs, in your upholstery and your clothes and finally into you.” — Dr. Maya Angelou.
My grandfather, Don Fernando Ramirez, was not known for being a nice man, but he’d gotten into his head that my older sister and I should know how to read before starting school. He and I spent time every afternoon during my fifth year, reading from a spelling book called “Mantilla” and I took to it like a champ. This is my first memory of words, the magic of learning the sound two symbols make together, then you string them together and voila, you’ve unlocked the mystery of reading.
On my sixth year, after spending a month in kindergarten I was promoted to first grade – a great confidence boost and start to my academic life – and the reason I will always be grateful to my grandfather, even though he was not known for being a nice man.
When I reached high school my relation with words was one of accuracy. Near perfect grammar, proper verb conjugation and punctuation were a source of pride and my ticket to a couple of national competitions which are some of my best memories from that time.
Another world of words opened for me when in my nineteenth year I immigrated to the United States. This was a fantastic time of learning and discovery and I can confidently say I had the most wonderful ESL teachers (English as a Second Language) who would play Beatles songs in class, so we could sing along to help us gain language fluency.
Eventually I found my way onto the beautiful UCLA campus to earn a certification in interpretation and translation and this has also been a great adventure. I love falling into the rabbit hole of trying to figure out the meaning of a word, its roots, archaic meaning, synonyms , antonyms etc., etc., and although as interpreter my job is not to interpret or translate words but meaning, the fact is, vocabulary or words are the building blocks of any language and key to being a good interpreter/translator.
Now to the portion that makes this my Lenten Meditation for today, Day 30. For the first time in seven years as parishioner at ASC, I decided to take the journey of Lent, you might deduct from this long delay that Lent is not my favorite liturgical season and you would be right. To quote Mike Kinman’s Lenten Meditation for Day 1, I agreed to meet in the desert which is a place of vulnerability.
First, I signed up for two consecutive Saturdays of Tonglen (Giving and Receiving) Meditation, I am no stranger to this style of meditation and it was a wonderful chance to practice in community. Second, I signed up for one of two bilingual Lenten Book Groups offered this year, our book is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and here are the agreements as he lists them:
• Be impeccable with your word.
• Don’t take anything personally.
• Don’t make assumptions.
• Always do your best.
All four are challenging, and my conclusion is that they are like the 4 wheels on my car, I need all of them. Yet, I was stricken by the first one in particular. Because of my almost life long affair with words, this question was heart breaking, Am I impeccable with my word? I had to go to the dictionary and read every possible meaning, because I knew after doing so I would have no choice but to give an honest, albeit, vulnerable answer. IMPECCABLE 1: not capable of sinning of liable to sin 2: free from fault or blame.
Well, that answered that. The thing is, I am learning to live in vulnerability and experience it not as place a weakness or fear but a place of strength and Lent is a 40 day course on how to do that. I have been challenged, disturbed and changed by this book, and by agreeing to meet in the desert — and I would not have it any other way.
Today’s Daily Lenten Meditation is by Ada Ramirez, Administrative Assistant, Peace & Justice. Watch for daily postings from All Saints Church as we take the forty day journey to Easter together.