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Looking at deeper meaning of words to find balance and depth


My topic involves a variety of definitions relating to cultural attitudes and thinking patterns. First of all, I must say that I am not talking politics. In general, the terms which we use in ordinary conversations mean many things depending upon the person.

The terms “conservative” and “liberal” in political terms may not carry the basic meaning of the words. Both are positive terms in their essential meanings.

To “conserve” something is to keep that which is felt to be worthy or valuable. It means to “save” or “preserve.”

“Liberal” has many aspects which relate to generosity. It also means being open to new ideas and ways of being. The term “broadminded” applies here. Both religiously and politically, it means “not bound by orthodoxy.” It implies a willingness to learn.

Naturally, there are negative attitudes about these definitions. The people who hold opposite positions often feel that the others are wrong or bad (stupid or dumb or evil….). All of us have both liberal and conservative attitudes toward different things. I may be conservative on some things and liberal on others.

Unfortunately, our human tendency is to demonize those who do not agree with us. Would that we could be gracious and magnanimous (great of mind; elevated above what is low and mean; honorable) in our attitudes and dealings with those with whom we disagree.  

What prompted my thinking on this topic may seem unrelated to what I have just said. However, bear with me. I believe that in our very materialistic American culture, things dominate our thinking. Note how advertisers try to convince us that we really do need their product when chances are that we do not. We are told that we must have the latest model car, or the newest gadget, see the latest movie  or take that cruise. We must be modern, up to date, in style and get rid of what has become obsolete.

I regret that some “advances” take us away from what is good and worthy of conserving and treasuring. Take, for example, long-playing records, cassette or reel-to-reel tapes, or VHS tapes which are now obsolete because one can seldom find a player for them. This is true for cameras and buying film. New inventions have practically eliminated them.

The expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can apply here. In a previous chapter, I told about the time my father was riding in the back seat of a car with new power windows. Unfortunately, the window next to him was open and would not close. He was frustrated to find no knob to turn in order to raise it, so he had to endure the wind blowing in his face. His comment was, “I believe that we are going to die of improvements!”

Just because something is “modern” or the latest invention does not automatically make it good, or useful, or even practical. Just because it is “old fashioned,” or 200 years old, or 2,000-plus years old (like the Bible) does not make it bad or impractical or out-of-date.

Recall the word “conservative.” Remember that it means to save, to preserve what is valuable, good or useful. The word “liberal” is a great word to express a life which is open-hearted, open-minded, flexible and generous. We need both words to give life the proper balance for daily living.

Ruth Justice Moorer, a resident of Las Cruces since 1996, is a former public-school science teacher and United Methodist pastor.

Ruth Moorer