Wally Armbruster, according to the wording on the cover, “manufactured” (as opposed to “published”) a little paperback that he titled “A Bag of Noodles” (Concordia Publishing, 1973). It’s a collection of random thoughts presented against backgrounds that suggest the artwork of an elementary-aged child.
There are no chapters. There are no titles on the tops of the pages. Wally just jumps into whatever apparently strikes him to write about at any given moment.
I remembered this little book when a thought struck me recently having to do with words. Here’s Wally’s entry on page 8:
And Pus …
Dung, Spit, and Afterbirth.
Kiss, Mood, and Friendship.
Fun, Sing, and Beachball.
Divorce, Poverty, and Hospital.
No, that’s not right at all.
You cannot string words together
Where are the verbs?
Who are we talking about?
What are the circumstances?
Vomit is beautiful to a mother whose child
Has just swallowed a pin.
Love is pain if you are a third party,
Outside, looking in.
Death is very nice for someone very old,
Very ill, and ready.
And surely you’ve danced with a clod.
Or had a sad spring.
No. Words aren’t sad
Or I am.
Or he is.
This mini-essay came to mind when I was watching TV recently and a commercial came on that used the word “entitled” (a woman, explaining the advantages she discovered through a Medicare supplement plan, says something like, “I can have all the benefits to which I’m entitled”).
Maybe my personal circumstances have gotten me to the point where I cringe whenever I hear people claim entitlement. I know people who have no qualms about asking for favors because they feel they’re entitled to them and I’m the person who should rightly provide them. As I scan the large picture of society, it seems to me that this idea of entitlement casts a dark shadow over any attempts at lifting everyone up. Perhaps Wally Armbruster can cast the word in a positive light, but, for the most part, to me, “entitled” sounds selfish.
Which brings me to another such word: “exclusive.” Hearing that word thrusts mind back to my seminary days when one of my professors told us that he thought the word “exclusive” was the most profane word in the English language, more so than the words we tend to think of as comprising the lexicon of profanity (I need not detail them here). It becomes pointedly profane when it’s used to refer to people. Excluding people is not in God’s plan. Case in point: opening the Gospel message to Gentiles, as declared in the New Testament through the letters of Paul. God reaches out to everyone. No one is excluded for any reason. Again, perhaps in a different context, involving a certain set of circumstances with a clearly-defined group of people, Wally Armbruster could show me a positive way to use the word “exclusive,” but for now, it sounds hurtful (“I’ve got something you can’t have, and it’s all mine, which excludes you”).
Having said all that, I do believe Wally’s point is well-taken. Words by themselves cannot fit neatly into categories. There are few words that are always disgusting, tender, happy, or sad. With that in mind, we do well to watch how we use them.