Have you ever heard of the word “merism”? Somehow, it had escaped my memory which came as a huge surprise, because, well, I thought I was pretty well-versed in all things English. Ahem. Nevertheless, I welcomed what felt like an introduction.
A merism is a linguistic phenomenon; “phenomenon” because it refers to two or more contrasting parts that make a whole. (Remember, we’re talking words here, so the whole refers to a complete idea.) For example, “I swallowed her pitch hook, line, and sinker!” means I fell for the entire story she was telling me, and in all likelihood, followed through to buy what she was selling. Flesh and blood, rich and poor, young and old are also examples that paint a word-picture of a body, a life experienced, and an entire population, respectively. I’ve even used the merism heaven and earth in the title of this post to mean “everything”.
Merisms are common enough. Most of us use them without knowing what they’re called. The word derives from the Greek (no surprise there) meaning “divided” and is often confused with two other terms “metonymy” and “synecdoche”, which is a blog for another day. Suffice it to say, while complementary, the former and latter, differ enough to have unique names.
This lovely, if somewhat obscure word, has come as gift to me today reminding me that there is so much in this world to learn about; that in learning well there is an opportunity for greater understanding. It is a poignant reminder that if I keep myself open and willing, I remain a student. And a student is a good thing to be. To learn, a student needs patience and discipline, discernment and research, practice and trial and error.
My wish is that we recall what it feels like to be a student – the highs and the lows. In your mind, you might want to extend a spiritual hand to a teacher who hurt or mislead you. Teachers are, after all, human beings who make mistakes. They also come in all forms – parents, family, friends. Forgive their foibles, notice and release your own resistances, and watch the barriers to learning, dissolve. Then, recall and enjoy the sensations experienced in lightbulb moments. We have many of them. And it is important to remember that, like the Universe, we are always in a state of expansion – another word for learning. Allow it. I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re here for.