Finding the Perfect Word

Words are under valued. They’re thrown around casually with little appreciation for the awesome tasks they accomplish. Shakespeare argued “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” To which I say “nay!” The name rose possesses meaning. A name is simply the word something is called. When I write rose everyone who reads it conjures an image of that flower and not, for example, a lily. A rose scented candle and a lily scented candle don’t smell equally sweet. Without words life would be a constant combination of pictionary and charades.

Even with words, it’s sometimes a struggle to accurately convey thoughts. I think these thoughts that are perfect. Thoughts that form music and art in my head but I can’t express them with my limited language. I can differentiate between angry, mad, and hurt. I have those words. But there isn’t a perfect single word for the feeling when I’m hurt that I’m angry because it’s mad to be mad yet I’m inevitably enflamed with emotion. In picture form that’d be someone getting burned while simultaneously kindling and smothering a fire. I just don’t know a word that conveys that emotion. I hate it. I can’t draw or paint or sing. Words are my best avenue of expression. So I learn as many as possible.

I love meeting new words. That beautiful feeling when I discover a term that conveys my exact sentiments. Usually I found new words in books and television shows. However I’ve recently come to the point in my Chinese language education where I’m learning terms that don’t necessarily exist in English. It’s like magic. This happened to me in Chinese class the other day with the term 知音 (written zhiyin in pinyin).

Finding someone who is 知音 means finding someone who understands the music of your soul. It’s sometimes compared to the english concept of a soul mate but it doesn’t have the romantic undertones often associated with a soulmate. It’s not another half of the same soul, but a complementary sole. According to folklore the word was inspired by a skilled Chinese musician. He played music every day and many people praised him for his skill, but only one person could listen to his songs and identify exactly what he was thinking. The man would play a song and the other man understood exactly what he was thinking. When the second man died the musician cut his strings and never play again because it wouldn’t be worth it if no one understood.

Needing to be understood is a universal feeling. That need can be explained in English. It means your person. That person who gets it. The person you’d call to hide a body. The one who knows when “I’m fine” is a lie. Chinese just says it succinctly and with poetry.

Sometimes another language does a perfect job of conveying a concept. For example the often used phrase Carpe Diem. Lately it appears the English equivalent of this is YOLO (You only live once). I prefer Carpe Diem. Let’s steal more perfect foreign phrases. Has anyone else ever experience that discovery of the perfect word (in either English or a foreign language)? I’d love to hear about it.

Best of luck,

Caitlin

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A Realistic Discussion of Sexual Assault

Let’s talk about sexual assault. It’s a very real and very scary issue. I want this discussion to be realistic so let’s talk facts. Namely that every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted and that 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim (statistics taken from http://www.rainn.org/statistics).

The first statistic shows why this is such a real issue. It’s something many men and women face in their lifetime. I’ve seen statistics citing that somewhere between 1/3 and 1/4 of all college women are sexually assaulted. Does that anger anyone else? I will concede that a lot of progress has occurred in the fight against sexual assault, but there’s still a long way to go. Debunking myths about sexual assault is a critical step in this war against disrespect for the basic human right to chose what we do with our bodies.

Myths come in many different shapes and sizes. A recent one was Representative Todd Akin’s comment about legitimate rape.

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

The internet and news media have been all over Akin for his comment. Avoiding the abortion issue for the moment, what’s really upsetting about this quote is the disinformation. A women who survives rape deserves the facts of her situation and doesn’t need this false science where the female body magically shuts down pregnancy from rape.

Another myth I want to address is the constant “stranger danger” mentality that people learn as children and tend to apply to rape. The second statistic I mentioned earlier is one that many people seem to ignore. TWO-THIRDS of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Sexual assault isn’t always or even usually a creepy stranger in a back alley. That misconception is so dangerous because it leaves many people completely unprepared to address any situation besides that of stranger sexual assault.

Sexual Assault perpetrators aren’t all creepy men in the dark.

Thankfully people are starting to realize this mistake. I recently attended a sexual assault protection program called Elemental. The program was created by Ball State University students working on an Immersive Learning project. It included an informative booklet and seven hours of hands-on training. The program did a great job of addressing all aspects of sexual assault.

It made sure to include information for both men and women as well as stranger and non-stranger defense scenarios. The program featured realistic self-defense tactics (inspired by Ninjitsu) that attendees were able to practice on “Creepers” who acted out the scenarios. The programs made use of two mattresses and couches to address scenarios common to college students in particular. I learned ways to stop someone from lowering me to a bed or assaulting me on a couch as well as ways to attack a stranger. Punching a stranger and kicking someone you may not want to injure off a bed are entirely different tactics. It was great how many options Elemental showcased.

The program even had a scenario that adressed sexual assault in long-term relationships. Dating someone doesn’t give them a right to your body. No matter what, you always have a right to say no. Elemental provided verbal and physical ways to counter unwanted advances. It additionally generated dialogue on consent. Miscommunication often leads to uncomfortable situations and confused expectations. It’s important to understand giving and receiving consent.

Failing to discuss sexual assault won’t make it go away. Information is power. I refuse to be a helpless victim. Sexual Assault is unacceptable and I want to do my part to make it stop. You should too. The first step is information, a great resources if Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) http://www.rainn.org. Another great idea is to look for sexual assault protection programs in your area. They’re often offered at Martial Arts studios, police stations, and universities.

Best wishes,

Caitlin