My student, when praising her son’s classmate’s artwork, said it was superb. Her grade three son said, “Don’t use that word. No one will understand. Just say nice, cool, or awesome.” She thought superb was an English word so she came to me to double check. Naturally I was horrified. The English language is so rich in vocabulary that to be left with only nice, cool or awesome is horrific. I know languages lose words and introduce new ones all the time but some of the words we are introducing, like lol and omg are hardly words at all. Then there are phrases like “dumbing down”, which means we are making ourselves less intelligent, stripping away any complexity so that the masses can understand. This process, now taking place in all arenas of society like language, music and entertainment, will simply ensure our rapid descent into the abyss of imbecility. We’ve become so informal, replacing our rich vocabulary with phrasal verbs and text language that it is no surprise that we are losing valuable words, knowledge and culture.
My fourteen year old daughter bought herself a Mac laptop today. She saved for two years for it and she paid in cash. It wasn’t easy. During those two years she wondered if she should get a cheaper computer. She wanted clothes but she held out for the big prize. There were many times she could have given up. The look on her face as she handed over the hundred dollar bills was pride and when the staff congratulated her saying, “two years is a long time!”, her expression was sheer joy. I know she will care this computer and treasure it. After all, she knows the work she put in to get it: she babysat and saved almost every penny. It shows tenacity and perseverance.
“How do you feel?” I asked her.
“Great,” she said grinning. It made me think of all the times I have purchased things I wanted but I didn’t feel great. In fact, I felt burdened. Why? I put them on a credit card or financed them. Perhaps I did feel great with my purchase for about an hour, maybe a day the most. Then I felt worried about paying the bill before the interest got too high. I didn’t feel great at all, nor did I feel pride and joy. The reason is I didn’t earn those things. I wanted to have them now.
It’s one of the absurdities of our culture: we don’t earn what we have but we feel it’s okay to incur debt just to have the newest or the best of whatever is out there. We give in to this immaturity like a two year screaming “Now! Now!” and tell ourselves it’s okay because we are establishing credit. What we are in fact doing is becoming a slave to the banks and credit card companies and teaching our children that we are entitled to have what we haven’t yet earned. It’s immature and stupid but we do it anyway because we think we’ll be happier because we get what we want. Tenacity and perseverance are qualities that have to be taught, nurtured and encouraged. We don’t acquire them when we get what we want immediately and all the time.
Well, I want a new computer. Mine is old and the keys are stuck. Some aren’t even working. I’m a writer and I feel I should have it now. But today I learned a valuable lesson from my daughter. I’ll just have to get out the piggy bank and save for it. Hopefully I’ll have a new computer in a year. Maybe it will be sooner. Perhaps later. Tenacity and perseverance.