Chariot

Chariot: (n) a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in ancient warfare and racing.

“Negro spiritual. “

It’s not exactly an oxymoron, but within the two words there seems to be a contradiction of purpose.

After all, if you were a Negro, you might find it difficult to be spiritual to those who decided to know you only by that term.

Yet a race of people who were beaten, subjugated, raped and sometimes nearly starved managed to get around a fire late at night when their persecutors had retired to the Big House, and come up with songs which we now display in our religious catalogues today.

  • “Let My People Go”
  • “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
  • And of course, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”

Even though the songs are melodic, harmonic and perhaps even rhythmic, they all carry a central theme: “Dear God, I hope they stop beating me and if they won’t, I hope you kill me soon.”

You can be sympathetic to their plight.

“Swing low, sweet chariot,

Comin’ for to carry me home…”

A pretty simple passage: “Since there’s no solution here on Earth, since the Massa has the whip and since my family can be sold at a moment’s notice, maybe it would be wise to begin Eternity really soon.”

Negro spiritual–a music that tells us where people find solace when other humans abandon and mistreat them.

It is soulful, it is seeking and it is sad.

I can’t listen to the song about the chariot without realizing that my ancestors made the singer want to die.

 

 

 

Donate ButtonThank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix 

Advertisements

Ain’t

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Ain’t: contraction of am not, are not, is not, will not: e.g. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Every three weeks I experience a ritual. Yes, quite predictable. Every twenty-one days, I get a note from some austere, tight-assed grammarian, commenting on my wording, syntax or style of expressing ideas. These people have three things in common:

  • They’re always sure they’re right.
  • They’re always sure I’m wrong.
  • They are affronted by my lack of understanding of proper writing and suggest that I go back to Hoboken or wherever I last mis-learned my craft.

My thought? The best way to get a pain in the ass is to sit on it too long doing nothing. Thus the critic.

I will tell you this: words are powerful when they communicate and useless when they don’t.

For instance, there are passages from the Good Book, which I am told is divinely inspired, which are incomprehensible. I will wager that most people who teach in English departments and promote the great works of literature have not read those volumes themselves but instead, rely on Cliff notes to summarize the material.

Let’s be honest: “I ain’t gonna study war no more” is the best way to express that sentiment. Other options, like, “I am not going to study war anymore” seem to lose some punch. Or how about this one? “The pursuit of studying war has lost its meaning for me.” I guess at that point it would change from being a Negro spiritual to a Harvard spiritual.

Even though my English teachers told me that the word “ain’t” should never be used and would eventually become obsolete, the truth is, the only thing that became obsolete were my English teachers.

Here are three quick criteria for good writing:

  1. It’s understandable.
  2. It tells a story.
  3. The story lives on.

Anything other than this is just an exercise in futility which doesn’t create muscles anywhere … except in your self-righteous ego.