Well. The vocabulary is divided into two – your ‘active’ or ‘productive’ vocabulary is made up of the words you use, and your ‘receptive’ vocabulary is made up of words you understand but don’t use. And this one is firmly in the ‘receptive’ category because, until this week, I don’t think I’ve ever said or written it in my life. It is often used to mean the focal point, something that attracts admiration, but another usage is something that guides or directs.
And this is because the word comes from the Greek name of the star we call Polaris, otherwise known as the North Star or the Pole Star. It appears positioned above the North Pole and doesn’t move in relation to it, making it a useful fixed point for navigation. And so the Pole Star – Polaris, Cynosura – became a lodestar. And ‘lodestar’, is of course, another word to describe a fixed point around which we navigate.
So, what are my lodestars? What are my fixed points? I’ve written before of my love and sense of rootedness in my home and the importance of home and family, but I could make a home anywhere (in fact, I have done).
So, I shall share with you some quotations that summarise the things that I feel are essential, eternal and the things I strive to live up to. These are all things I really, truly believe, put in elegant terms by writers more skilled than I. So here is my little constellation of lodestars.
Let’s start with Shakespeare – for there can surely be no better place to start. It’s true that the character who says these words is a bumbling old fool, but I don’t care because he’s right, bumbling and foolishness notwithstanding:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
On days when things seem a bit hopeless, I find this, from John Seymour, to be a bit of a tonic.
I am only one.
I can only do what one can do.
But what one can do,
I will do.
There now. Isn’t that better?
This is one, by Cavafy, I read when I have a tough decision to make. It’s never let me down yet.
For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; and by saying it,
he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he would still say no. Yet that no – the right no –
drags him down all his life.
Did that give you a bit of a shiver? It does that to me, every single time! And, treading a bit more gently, there’s this, by Raymond Carver:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
I love that, because it reminds me that among the busyness and activity and frantic writing of lists and despair of things undone, I have already ticked off the most important thing on the to-do list of my life. I have people in my life whom I love and who love me. I am beloved. The rest is just gravy.
Go and see Junebug to find out what others have done with the word.