Sunday, 23 April 2017

Kind nature deserves our kindness in return

A friend said to me yesterday that she believes the most important thing we can do in life is be kind. I was so taken with her remark that I thought how wonderful it would be to sum up someone's life with the epitaph 'She tried to be kind.'

And then, of course, I wondered about the origin of the word kind.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says it is an adjective, coming to us through Middle English, Old English and Proto-Germanic. It originally meant 'natural, native, innate, with the feeling of relatives for each other.'

The sequence may have been: 'with natural feelings' via 'well-disposed', to the thirteenth century meaning  'benign, compassionate, loving, full of tenderness', which is the meaning I would assign to the word today.

I enjoyed reading this blog post on KindSpring, an uplifting piece that says this word is one of the oldest in English. The author of the blog loves his dictionary, as I do also. After writing about the pleasant discovery that kindness means 'nature', the post continues: 

While these thoughts of nature swirled in my head, I decided to revisit the one book that holds so many truths for me - the dictionary. Seems odd, doesn't it? The dictionary? You see, I learned a long time ago that every word, like people, has a story. Every word started somewhere in time for reasons that are often buried in the dust of history unrecalled.
A man after my own heart.

There has never been a time in the history of the planet where one species dominated to such an extent that it has the ability to destroy the  environment we all share. If we humans can't learn to be kind, i.e. know we are within and part of nature, the results may be disastrous.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Beautiful Universe, beautiful words

A copy of Beautiful Universe appeared on our kitchen table recently, an old copy from 2010.

Leafing through it, I was captured by the glorious photos - but also enraptured by the gorgeous words. What's not to love about these?
Sun pillar
Thackeray's Globules
terminator line
Stephan's Quintet
pillars of creation

And Mooselookmeguntic. Wow! I'd like to live in a place with that name, especially if I could look up and see Saturn, Mars, Regulus and the crescent Moon lined up across the sky.

But I'll freely admit names like NGC 6820, IC 5070 and Messier 45 do't grab me.

I think I'll bookmark NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day  to look at whenever the abysmal stupidity of the human race starts to get me down. It's a big beautiful universe out there, and we have words to describe it.