Monday, June 8, 2009

bene dicta, magister

It's 8:34 AM, and the streets of Ilsan are covered in a fine mist, rendering the pavement slick and slightly cool. Passing cars and buses scatter the puddles, tossing minute particles of water two or three feet into the air.

I'm out for a morning jog. Sequestered for the night earlier than I had planned, thanks to the compound effects of jetlag (despite my casually swaggering boasts of having grown accustomed to international travel, I am still impacted by the long reach of geography) and an afternoon spent out with friends, I woke at 5 AM. Completing some long-overdue tasks and emails, I decided to head out for a run, to clear my head and stretch some sorely-neglected muscles.

As I run, my mind drifts; 36 hours ago, when I was a knotted bundle of anxious tics: would my luggage clear through San Francisco onto my Seoul flight? Would the laminar plywood of my forcibly-checked skateboard (intended to be carry-on baggage) crack under the shifting mounds of luggage deep in the hold? Would my computer, with its finicky wireless connection, work in Korea? (Yes; No; Yes.)

My mind worries back and forth; 2 months ahead, with a host of invented complaints and light neuroses: will I grow prematurely bored of a repetitious summer, as I did my second summer in 北京? Will my students respond, grow, respect in the same way that they did (or did not) last year? How ought I - how must I - speak to them in such a way as to grasp at their attentions, or earn their mustered approval? What does it mean, to speak well?

The Benediction is the closing prayer of the Christian worship service, the opportunity for the presiding clergy to invoke the grace, mercy, love, and care of God for the congregants. Its roots: bene + dictio, which serve as a verbal phrase: adverb + verb: to speak well.

Context. One of the fundamentals which I've already begun drilling into my students, with which they will be well - and perhaps frustratingly - familiar by summer's end (or so I hope). What is the context of a speech made well?

My thoughts flow: a story. Bono, gregarious and irrepressible frontman and lead singer of U2, got his name from a music shop in his Irish hometown. He and his gang of youthful, gregarious, irrepressible friends used to hang around in the streets, staging absurdist plays and existentialist physical comedies. On one of the streets lay a music store, Bonovox; and so his mates began playfully referring to him as Sir Bonovox. The young Paul David Hewson disliked the moniker, at first, until he discovered the latinate roots of the word: Bono + vox, adjective + noun: good voice.

Actions speak louder than words. - American Proverb.

It occurs to me, that the phrase, "speaking well", possesses in itself two meanings: transitive and intransitive. To speak well, intransitively, means simply to speak skillfully or convincingly. "He speaks well", as synonymous with "he's a good speaker."

To speak well, transitive: in this case, however, speaking well of another. "He speaks well of her," as synonymous with "he praises her" or "he admires her."

My life is, of course, ostensibly one endowed with a career of speaking well of another: the most beloved condensation of the Christian creeds, to me, is the old chestnut, "To know Christ and make Him known". To proclaim Him; to speak well of His love for me. And it occurs to me, that, in this case at least, the transitive and intransitive uses of the verbal phrase dovetail: to speak well to those with whom I am surrounded for the summer, the most purposeful preparation is, quite simply, to speak well of the one with whom I have grown - am growing - more and more acquainted.

in nomine patri, et filii, et spiritus sancti

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