Lessons From the Oldies

When I was in college one of my English Profs suggested a method to find a topic to write about. I won’t bore you with the details but it is simply to make a list of topics. Period. Then select one and begin. That is what I am doing right now. When I hit the very first key I had no idea what my topic would be for today. I still don’t, but eventually it’ll kick in and I will start pounding keys at a great rate.

I spent a few minutes reading other peoples BLOGS today. It always amazes me as to the variety. Some are so simple yet so entertaining, others are eloquent and just plain confounding. Some writers write words, words, and more words. Usually these are eloquently phrased words, and sometimes I even understand what they say. In most cases they read like an eighteenth century novel. The author is speaking English but with a different twist. It makes for very hard reading. During COVID I began reading books that I downloaded off the internet for free. The operative word there is “Free.” Many of them are extremely old. Like “South, the Story of Shackleton’s Expedition,” or “The Pioneers,” by James Fenimoor Cooper, or The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana. The oldest and toughest to understand is the Kama Sutra.

Reading stories like these gave me a greater appreciation for our modern language. One thing I noticed throughout the works is the author’s use of vocabulary. I found myself constantly switching to the dictionary to learn the definition. In most cases I had a sense of the word, but not the exact meaning.

Currently, I am being visited by a friend who migrated to our country from the Baltic States. Frequently, during our conversations she will stop me and ask what does that mean? Every time, I have to stop and think about how I will explain the meaning of a word without using it in the definition. Most times I am able to finds simple words that I can use to explain. In rare cases I find myself going to the dictionary for help. Recently she asked me the difference between woods and forest. Again, I was challenged, but came up with the difference; “woods” pertains to a small grove of trees, while a “forest” is endless acres and acres of trees.

Another thing I am gleaning from these ancient stories is a better understanding of the hardships people lived with. For instance, In “Pioneers” by Cooper, the harsh temperatures of northern New York during the winters of the late 1790’s was explained in detail. Just cutting the amount of wood that was necessary to heat a small cabin during the cold months required continuous back breaking labor. Cooper also pointed out that if locals continued to cut down centuries old trees that soon there would be no more trees to cut. He further realizes that the trees they were using for heat take a hundred years to grow. He relates a similar concern about fishing. Instead of using the native Indian philosophy of, if you are hungry catch a fish, they used the more modern approach of let’s use a long net, sweep it through the lake and catch a bunch of fish. He questioned how long it would take the pioneers to fish the lake empty. Today, we ask the same questions not only about our inland lakes but about the world’s oceans as well. Thankfully, we have been smart enough to regulate fishing seasons and to put limits on fish populations.

All in all, I have enjoyed reading the oldies, but didn’t like the difficulty which I encountered trying to understand the written words and grammar of the age.

The most disappointing book I read was the Kama Sutra. Having heard so much about the work beforehand I expected something like an ancient Playboy. I’m sure in it’s day, it was that, but in my day it was not very stimulating, and I had trouble with the philosophy that led the authors to write this tome. I am also certain that the ladies of the world consider this to be a male chauvinist work because it is written from a man’s point of view with little regard for that of the woman’s

Here I am seven hundred and thirty-one words after beginning a post that had no direction at all in the first paragraph, and that is all I’m going to say about that.

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