RUMINATE: (Verb, Intransitive) contemplate . consider . ponder . think about . mull over . chew over
This week’s word, ruminate, has an interesting background or etymology. Coming into the English language as it did from animal life, the word refers to ruminants, such as cows, who, after satisfying themselves with a full stomach of grass, find a shady spot, regurgitate, and ruminate, allowing their meal to digest. Today, in English we have phrases such as “chew the cud” and “turn over in one’s mind.” In our quiet times, a variety of ideas—wishes, dreams, desires—pass through our minds. Ruminate is an apt description of what we do at such times.
A poem by Judith Viorst led me down this path about ruminating. Judith Viorst is a writer, journalist, researcher, and the author of many children’s books. She is also known for her humorous observational poems. In her poem “If I Were in Charge of the World,” the speaker is a young boy who thinks about what he would do if he were in charge of the world, and he has quite an agenda. For one thing, he says, “If I were in charge of the world, I’d cancel Monday mornings.” This is something a lot of us adults would do if we could. After an enjoyable weekend, we might not be too eager to face the reality of the work world with its possible unpleasant encounters with colleagues. For the little boy, Monday morning brings up that miserable place, school.
Later in the poem, the youngster poignantly says, “If I were in charge of the world, you wouldn’t have lonely.” There is a tinge of sadness in his words here, even though they are placed alongside other wishes, such as “you wouldn’t have clean” and “you wouldn’t have bedtime.” Loneliness in childhood pulls the shades down on the world and makes it a dismal place. The number of adults who are able to identify with this child’s wish is legion. For them, the lonely world is a bleak place. Canceling the loneliness would erase the awful feeling that fuels depression.
Then toward the end of the poem, our little guy says, “If I were in charge of the world, a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and nuts would be a vegetable.” Hold the spinach and broccoli, please! For us adults, if we were in charge of the world, the intrusive diet that spoils our fun would be eliminated, and we could convince ourselves that something that is not good for our figure or our health is perfectly fine by simply renaming it. Don’t people do that all the time, not only with food, but also with things of moral consequence?
Many people aspire to be in charge of the world, at least, in charge of a part of the world. The field of would-be world leaders is becoming crowded as individuals make their desires known. What will be the consequences for the rest of the world of having any of them in charge of the world? What would you do if you were in charge of the world? What would you cancel? What would you rename?
Actually, we are in charge of the world—our little part of it, where we can cancel the negatives of unkindness and injustice; where we can treat all God’s children with fairness and acceptance, regardless of their color, gender, ethnicity, or religion. When we are in charge of our world, we will plant seeds of faith, hope, and love to spring up and blossom into goodness.
*We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”