Reciprocating Reciprocity!

When I was young and not yet college educated, I heard a guy use the word reciprocity in a conversation I was having with him in a bar. Something about the word snagged on my brain, and I later looked it up, happy to have a new word to chew on. At that time I didn’t know I was a writer, though I always have been a reader. And this particular word opened up something in me that I hadn’t been aware of before.

Partly, I liked the sound of the syllables clinking together: re-ci-pro-ci-ty. Such a small word to have so many movements within its structure. That fact seemed appropriate when I discovered that the origins were from Latin, moving backward and forward. The word itself seemed to do what its original meaning suggested, the sound rippling through those sound units and supporting the letters denotation.

Document5 copy.jpgBut the dictionary meaning of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit compelled me as a young woman as much as these other elements. I realized this ability to return favors or feelings with someone else was the basis of most relationships, the foundation of community. I had stumbled onto something totally unexpected and all because this one word forced me to take it in.

That experience of first hearing reciprocity was triggered recently because my husband is going through some medical difficulties, a major trauma since he’s been so incredibly healthy all of his life, never missing teaching a class or seeing a patient (he’s also a psychoanalyst) because of illness. I’ve discovered that one hopes one’s friends will reciprocate in these circumstances, tightening the bonds of community, and it’s a tremendous disappointment when that doesn’t happen, as has been the case with a few people we considered close friends. My husband and I had been responsive to them when they went through difficult times. It’s impossible to have a functioning community without reciprocity.

I’m also seeing the word as being connected to writing as well, especially to these blog posts that many of us make and the proliferation of tweets, Facebook, and other efforts to reach out to our friends, or to make new ones. A writer, I’m hoping to find readers who will join me on my journey inward and outward as I explore through poetry, fiction, and non-fiction what it means to be human in this 21st Century. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!





Compromising on Compromise: The Power of Words

compromiseWords and their origins and meanings have been on my mind a lot lately—not surprising for a writer. So when I was thinking of the word compromise the other day, I wondered why it’s become so abhorred by the ultra conservatives and their representatives in Congress.

For more insight, I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary in order to get closer to its origins and roots. “Com” means together. “Promittere” translates as to promise. Compromise then suggests a merger that eludes some of our current representatives.

For a country that prides itself on its democratic underpinnings, a government style that can’t exist for long without its people making concessions and agreements, its future doesn’t look too promising (pardon the pun on the Latin root “promise”). In a democracy, we must be able to listen to multiple perspectives and respect them. But we also must find middle ground where we can experience consensus.

Otherwise, we’ll live out some of the more negative meanings of the word: we’ll accept standards that are lower than what is desirable. We’ll get into situations where we’ll be compromised and be brought into disrepute or danger by indiscreet, foolish, or reckless behavior. We’ll be vulnerable and function less effectively as when a yo-yo dieting compromises our immune system.

I believe we have fallen into the negative meaning of the word and the health of our system depends on finding balance again.

Relationships, life, are all about compromise. In a family, it would be disastrous if we couldn’t come to some agreement that gives everyone a voice. No one ever get everything s/he wants. On our jobs. In our intimate interactions. Compromise. It’s the only way we can survive.