That's the good word, people! That's the word you've all been waiting for. Or, to put it another way, that's the word for which you've all been waiting.
You don't know what I'm talking about? You must be one of the half-dozen who don't read my stuff on a regular basis. If you did, you'd know I'm talking about the piece entitled "Led by the spirit" which appeared in The Telegram and the Western Star on Saturday, Dec, 5, and other papers the following week.
In that column, I challenged readers to tell me what they thought I was talking about. You first-timers should understand that I write at such a highly intellectual and spiritual level that only the brightest and the best can read and understand me. If you are not in that elite group, that explains why you don't know what I'm talking about now.
I also said there was one word I was looking for, and if someone could identify it, I would add a third book to the two I was already giving to the two people who understood that column best (yes, I am an extremely generous person). I thought there might be one or two at the highest echelons of the university, or in the provincial Liberal caucus, who might rise to that challenge.
The word I was looking for was "capricious."
Capricious means unpredictable, fickle and erratic. I once had a girl like that.
In my column, I was trying to point out that in the hands of a capricious or unreliable fate, our puny human efforts have no guarantee of working out the way we want or expect. The young woman worked lovingly and hard to turn her husband's wayward life around. She had the full expectation that everything would be fine if that came to be.
But almost immediately he lost his life and her efforts were all for naught. Ironically, he would've been better off had she left him alone. Many husbands are in that category.
My friend and I, in dividing what was left of our merchandise, were deliberately working towards a chaotic conclusion. There was no attempt to make it all work out evenly. To the contrary, we fully expected everything to be random and without any organization, especially financial.
So what happens? Everything worked out so beautifully balanced that we couldn't believe it!
In both instances, fate seemed to be mocking the intentions of the people involved. If fate wasn't deliberately undoing our efforts, it was at the very least being capricious.
The title of that column, "Led by the Spirit," was suggested by my father's habit of invoking the spirit whenever he was required to make a decision with which he wasn't totally happy or comfortable. His normal response to such was, "I'll do that if the spirit moves me."
"Going to St. John's tomorrow, Dad?"
"If the spirit moves me."
"You need a new suit, Alex," says my mother. "How about we go to the clothing store?"
"If the spirit moves me."
It was notable that the spirit - I was never sure whether or not 'spirit' should be spelled with a capital S - was never invoked when the option was to do something Father himself really wanted to do.
"Going fishing tomorrow morning, Dad?
"Yes my son! Got the bait cut and the boat gassed up!"
It seemed that he only needed guidance when the situation involved something he didn't want to do. In that sense, then, the spirit was never as capricious with my father as fate seemed to be with other people. If he decided not to go to St. John's, it was because the spirit didn't move him to go.
As far as fishing and hunting were concerned, for example, the spirit didn't enter into it at all. My mother used to remark that Father and the Spirit were always in total agreement with each other. She never knew the spirit to advise him to do something he didn't want to do.
My characterization of fate in the other column was based on the old quote, "Man plans and the gods laugh." In short, it makes little difference what we attempt to do in this life. Crap can happen entirely independently of our best efforts.
That's a far cry from believing hard work and careful planning will ultimately lead to success and the good life. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't. Whatever, you have to decide whether or not God had a hand in it if it worked out, or didn't, and that's why things went to pieces. Or if, and how, God decides to get involved in any of it.
As we begin another decade, it's a matter of opinion, I guess, as to how much an impersonal fate does rule our lives to the exclusion of all else. Or if there is a wise and all-powerful deity who plans and decides things for us.
In short, is life simply a matter of ducking as many bullets as we can, or living out the plan someone has for us?
You pays your money and you takes your choice.
You're wondering who came closest to identifying the point in that other column.
Most people knew I was talking about fate, but thought I was being a little more optimistic than I really was.
OK, drumroll please! The two winners are Fred Dalley of Embree, and Guy Mitchell of Hant's Harbour.
No one came up with "fickle" or "capricious," by the way. I would have accepted either one. Several people suggested "fate" and "destiny." Both were good choices, but they were not the words I thought were the focus of the column. Anyway, they weren't what I had in mind at the time.
Thanks to all who did get involved in this little exercise. I enjoyed reading your letters and hearing your ideas.
A Happy New Year to everyone from OH and me.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is email@example.com.