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Mastering the modern superpower...
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Dear friend,

Welcome to 'THE WORD', a fortnightly newsletter celebrating lexicology and language in all its intricate beauty, one word at a time.

Today's word is...
'Equanimity'

(n) mental or emotional stability or composure, especially 
under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium

 
On the face of it, 'equanimity' is rather a 'vanilla' word. It's everyday and run of the mill. Nothing to see here.

But maintaining equanimity in the modern world is itself becoming a bit of a superpower.

Yesterday I went to a meditation class for the first time in months. The focus of the session was 'compassion for all'. As in not secretly assessing and labeling the people we meet as good or bad, nice or nasty, friend or enemy. Or even just 'stranger'. Instead, making a wish (and mantra) for *everyone* to be happy.

It's a bold and good message and one I strive to cultivate in myself, but the part about strangers really got me thinking.

As the digital age progresses, how many people will remain strangers? How many degrees of separation are there now? Are we sure?
 
Equanimity: stability, poise, composure, equilibrium

Sometimes it's easier to share details about yourself with a stranger, because there is less fear of judgement. It feels like it doesn't matter and it fulfills the need to 'share'. (And you're unlikely to see them again...maybe.)

In all sorts of circumstances I've found myself sharing personal information with strangers after a few minutes of meeting; things I'd struggle to confide in my closest friends or even family. I find it a fascinating aspect of the human psyche, especially as the boundaries between our online and offline lives begin to blur. 

We all strive to hold things together, to maintain an air of equanimity, when under the surface a thousand thoughts, emotions and circumstances swirl and bubble for our attention. Sometimes it's hard to keep everything in check.

And it's the same for the characters we create in fiction, but in their case, we revel in the secret details that spill from the closet for analysis, judgement, condemnation - and more. It's not always bad, but when it is bad, it's so good.

A character who is poised and composed in every scene, no matter the drama, would struggle to engage us as readers. They wouldn't feel real and we wouldn't feel a connection to them, in fact, they'd feel like strangers (we'd at least feel comfortable offloading our own guilty secrets then).

Unless of course they turned out to be a murderer with nerves of steal. That would be interesting. That is interesting. Yet just because they'd mastered the powers of composure doesn't mean they wouldn't have other 'tells'. It's always what people don't say.

What's your superpower? Are you composed under pressure or do you tell all your secrets to strangers? 
 

"Those who are doomed to become artists are seldom blessed with equanimity. They are tossed to drunken heights, only to be brought down into a sludge of headachy despair; their arrogance gives way to humiliation at the next curve of the switchback."

Patrick White, Flaws in the Glass


In other news, it's almost time for The 100-day Project. I've taken part for the last two years and I'm going for the triple, but I've been struggling to define my unique project.

My theme last year was 'words' - the very inspiration behind this newsletter. The year before it was Haiku poems.

The advice, as with many an undertaking, is to 'keep it simple', so I'm thinking about punctuation. "The Punctuation Project" has a nice ring to it, but there's only 14 standard punctuation marks in the English language (though I'd love to be proved wrong about this). Anyone else joining in?

It's also National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) in April. You can sign up for daily poetry-prompts from The Poetry School (thanks to Karen for sending on the details.) Could it be the start of a poetic 100-day project?

Thank you for reading. Remember to spread 'THE WORD' if you enjoyed this newsletter, either by forwarding to like-minded friends or sharing on social media - or both. It's much appreciated.

Yours (with equanimity)

Rebecca
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Copyright © 2017 Rebecca Johnstone, All rights reserved.


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