The GASP: A couple of days ago I introduced some of my friends on Facebook to a thought I’d been mulling recently –about gasping.
There is lot of wordplay in and around that word, “Gasp” and we’ve been having fun with that.
Originally, I had given a couple of GASP examples from my own recent past: (you will probably recognize the first one from my recent Garden Notes.)
1. I gasped when I saw my first Morning Glory bloom just a few days ago. I had more or less given up on them flowering (–perhaps I had planted them too late?–) and then, one morning –there it was, just one bloom, a glorious purple with a beautiful texture, clean and cool!
My “Gasp” was an entirely involuntary response; a lovely surprise. The Gasp –almost by definition– comes from completely unexpected, unanticipated situations.
2. I gasped, too, when I was going through a collection of unfiled papers –items of interest that I had put aside. Turning over one particular page, there it was, a page of Early Irish Uncial calligraphy that did quite literally take my breath away in the precise beauty of its execution.
I came up with the idea of The Gasp Index –occasions of positive gasping in our lives. (Positive gasps are unusual; “Negative Gasps” do seem to evaporate as one ages; perhaps nothing surprises us in this regard; indeed, perhaps the essence of survival is not to be surprised, or to be surprised less and less, by those frequent Nether Gaspabilities of Life.
I’ll have to think about that one –is there not a danger of cynicism here? Or is there a distinction from cynicism to be made –a sort of “Smile of Reason” distinction. I like to think that our humanist aspirations (–there’s another “-spire” word–) help us to develop an understanding, a tolerance….but that’s another subject.
We kicked the idea around a bit on Facebook –people came up with many funny associations. There are often insights that emerge; there can be a bit of showing off, but we indulge each other (–having first, perhaps, indulged ourselves!–) in this regard. The playfulness, the different individual chemisteries, plus the uniqueness of each individual’s life experience can be wonderfully and unexpectedly productive. Almost, if not quite, gaspable.
Etymological enquiry can often bring surprising illumination and even unsuspected poetry to a word that might have seemed quite ordinary in normal, unquestioned, encounter.
So it was with Gasp. Here are some of the stages along the way showing how my enquiry evolved:
To gasp: “To take one’s breath away”. We often use this to remark on a “Gasp Situation”.
We breath in, we breath out –we inspire and we expire. We refer to “The last gasp” of expiration at the point of death –the last breath.
There is the ubiquitous Expiration Date, which is stamped on just about everything these days. Except ourselves!–we don’t have Expiration Dates stamped on us (possibly because we have so many ways of expiring, any one of which we, or fate, may or may not employ!)
But what about “inspire”? In the dictionary, “‘Inspiration’ meaning “to breathe in” is the last of six different definitions.
We would not think of “breathing in” when we hear the word “inspire”.
At this point, a Gasp poem started to gell…(see my next post.)