Adam Jacot de Boinod has trawled through 280 dictionaries and many dozens of Internet sites to find interesting words from the worldís languages. The Inuitís, for example, have a word - "areodjarekput" Ė for the practice of exchanging wives for a few days to help pass the time in the long winter nights. Danes use the word "olfrygt" to describe the fear arising from a lack of beer.
And the Japanese speak of "bakku-shan", a woman who looks attractive from behind but not from the front. The title of the book, "The Meaning of Tingo", takes its name from the language of Easter Island. Tingo means to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there is nothing left.
Many of us know what itís like to be unable to find the words to express what we mean. Sometimes, we simply lack the necessary breadth of vocabulary. Sometimes our minds have gone blank because of the accompanying circumstances. Perhaps the thoughts we want to communicate are still taking shape Ė only as we struggle to articulate what is emerging in our minds do we ourselves begin to discover what we are thinking; the ideas take shape partly through the process of trying to express them.
But occasionally there just arenít the words for what we want to say. Our feelings are just too deep or complex for any language to be able to express them. This is perhaps particularly true of feelings of deep affection and love Ė thank goodness we have other ways than words to express such emotions. It also sometimes applies when we try to convey our spiritual awareness. In the Book of Revelation, there is silence in heaven at a particularly significant moment. Sometimes, this is the only appropriate response.
Letís be grateful today for words Ė and for those times when even they are not enough.
A new town designed primarily for deaf and hard-of-hearing residents is planned for Sioux Falls. It will have all the usual amenities: hotels, a convention centre, and churches. Streets, shops and public buildings will all be designed to eliminate any disadvantage caused by deafness. Speech and sound will be kept to a minimum and sign language will be the preferred way to communicate. A comparatively silent environment may well appeal not only to the hard of hearing.
Silence is what epitomised the atmosphere of Calvary once the crowds had dispersed and the now lifeless bodies on the crosses were left to hang there. But the sight of the one on the central cross spoke volumes. The signs were there for those who could read them of love generously and courageously offered and violently and bitterly rejected. The battered and tormented body proclaimed loudly the brutality of which human beings are capable and the willingness of God to be on its receiving end. Itís not surprising that central image has become the symbol of Godís self-giving care for all people.
Today silence is a fitting reaction to such love. But there are other kinds of response. One is to demonstrate that same selflessness in the way we love and, silently but in a way that can say so much, to make our lives signs of generosity and self-giving love.
After a stay in hospital, young Laura Barton was given a hamster. On the way home, the rodent chewed a hole in his cardboard box, dived into the foot well of the car and disappeared behind the dashboard. Lauraís mother tried to coax the hamster from his hiding place but he preferred to remain out of reach and nibble the carpet and wiring. 'He kept popping his head out to see what all the fuss was about but when we tried to grab him he ducked down again.í
Searching for something which eludes us is a common facet of our daily lives. Sometimes itís something important like a major decision where the right solution just doesnít seem to hand. Sometimes itís something more minor like finding the right present for someone or the answer to a crossword clue. In such situations, itís not unusual to feel that the answer is cheekily popping its head out but we just canít grasp it.
There is something elusive too about belief in God. Our attempts to understand Godís ways and to live consciously in Godís presence are often fraught with an awareness that there is more to be experienced if only we could just lay our hands on it. However deep our faith already is, the tantalising sense that there is yet more just around the corner frustrates but also motivates us.
Eventually the Bartons called the AA who quickly unscrewed the dashboard. The hamster, now named Bob after his rescuer, was captured. Not everything elusive is recovered so easily. Perhaps today, we will feel frustrated by not quite being able to lay our hands on an idea, thought or decision. If so, letís also be conscious of the important part played in our lives by such reaching out for what we canít quite yet apprehend.