It was the best of years; it was the worst of years. Some days are diamond; some days are stone.
Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug.
You might be the hammer, or you might be the nail.
Or, as John Prine sings: “That’s the way that the world goes round. You’re up one day and the next you’re down.”
So much has been written about the ups and downs of life. We all have our highs and lows. The theater masks have two faces, comedy and tragedy. The emoticon tells others whether you’re a happy face or a sad face on any particular day.
Take Aeschylus. He must have had his good days and bad days. After all, he was a top Greek dramatist and was known, in fact, as the Father of Tragedy.
It is said that he died about 455 B.C. when an eagle mistook his bald head for a rock and dropped a tortoise from on high to crack its shell.
Did he cry out, “Why me, Zeus?”
I’m betting he rubbed his head, looked up and remarked, “Well, that’s a poetic end for a guy like me.”
Despite thinking of Aeschylus’ unfortunate conk on the noggin, I had to smile because it taught me some new words.
You see, as I hurriedly typed, I misspelled the dramatist’s name and my computer underlined it to show I had erred. When I right-clicked on his name, I was given a selection of words the program thought I might have meant instead.
Some of the options I recognized: “actualize,” “asylum,” “achiness.” Others were not so easy.
For instance, “otiosely” is a rare Latin word meaning idly, indolently, uselessly. I’ll be sure to use that one in conversation someday.
“Etiolate,” I discovered, is from a French word for to become like straw and means to cause to be pale and unhealthy, to weaken.
The similar-looking “etiology,” on the other hand, is from Latin and refers to the science of origins or causes, especially of a disease. I think I remember that one from high school but just haven’t found much use for it since then.
Aeschylus reminds me of my ninth-grade world history teacher. Mrs. Dykes had a way of making us remember history whether we wanted to or not.
When we studied that the other two great tragedians of ancient Athens were Euripides and Sophocles, she had a mnemonic joke: The mother handed her son a couple of tunics and said, “If you rip these (Euripides), sew these (Sophocles).”
While looking up how to spell all these names, I found a similar joke on the Internet involving Euripedes and Eumenides (playing off of “rip” and “mend”), but it’s actually weaker because Eumenides was not a writer but part of a play written by – you guessed it – Aeschylus.
OK, kids, that’s all today for our philosophy, history, drama and English class, so that’s your diamond. But class reconvenes next week, so that’s your stone.