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Monday, January 24, 2011

Introspeculation: The Quintessential 'Burke' trait

At this time of year, many of us become introspective trying to figure out what can be mentally and physically jettisoned in hopes of finding balance and harmony. A life with balance is serene and tranquil and creating such a thing could be my holy grail. I have always believed that it is fruitful to be introspective; that the happiest people look inward just enough to see beyond the flaws and scars which mar the surface to what lies just beneath, that which is purely good that isn’t visible for all to see. But even in introspection there must be balance; if one constantly analyzes then true happiness is still elusive. I look to my own kin to determine what level of introspection is enough and what is too much. The men in my family, particularly the Bill Burkes, my dad and Grandpa, illustrate this perfectly. My dad was a man who liked things the way he liked them, things were black or white, his way or the proverbial highway. I need to add that it worked for him because he was incredibly intelligent and remembered everything he ever read or heard. Every. Thing. And he read a lot. His way WAS the right way, the man did extensive research, right? His Einstein-like intellect made it so that he never questioned what he believed and why should he have? He was always right. But at least Einstein recognized that he was just a Mensch. My dad did not. Einstein had incredible patience. My dad did not. Einstein could see that life had nuance, shades of grey, if you will. Not my dad. Sometimes I wondered if he was happy since he never expressed it. He read and occasionally worked. He invested in the stock market and played Trivial Pursuit. He told stories. He smoked and drank. Which ultimately lead to his demise, sadly. He did what he did and didn’t question it. Ever. In hindsight I realize that my dad seemed to be more speculative than introspective. Speculate about the stock market? He did that with great success. Speculate about politics and law? That was just plain fun for him. I often wondered if he should have questioned his choices more. Wait, who am I kidding? He never questioned his choices and enjoyed his life the way it was. End of story. My Grandpa Bill, on the other hand, always seemed content. He was a dentist who worked until he was in his late 80s. Picture it, an octogenarian standing at his dentist’s chair pulling teeth! Oh weh! He was kind, loved to read, loved classical music and was a great cook. And he had infinite patience; when he taught me how to sail in a little Sunfish skiff I dumped us over many, many, many times. Each time he said, "Let's try again!" The last time I put us into the drink he lost his glasses. I was so dejected that I had dumped us yet again AND that he had lost his specs, but he just shrugged and said they were replaceable. That’s a superlative amount of patience if you ask me. My Grandpa had the same intellect and DNA as my father but they were so different, their personalities so divergent. My Grandpa Bill seemed more introspective and seemed to truly enjoy his life. My dad more speculative and not as content. So what is the difference between introspection and speculation? It is handily defined using my family as an example, but I still wanted them formally defined so I looked up the dictionary definitions of those two words. Here's what I found:

Introspection

Speculation

The denotations are a bit similar, really, whereas the connotations are completely different. Just for fun I also looked up the meaning of the word ‘Burke’ to see if it could lend more clarity and to possibly learn what is the quintessential 'Burke' trait which lives on in me or in Isabelle and may assist in my finding a more balanced life. After perusing the definitions which are below, I honestly hope that I don’t have much of either type of 'Burke' quality or that I don’t regularly act like a compete 'berk'. But it’s hard to tell since I do have some definite 'berk'ish moments. This may require a little more self-evaluation, or introspeculation, so to speak.

Definition of BURKE transitive verb

1 : to suppress quietly or indirectly -burke an inquiry-

2 : bypass, avoid -burke an issue-

Origin of BURKE

from burke to suffocate, from William Burke †1829 Irish criminal executed for smothering victims to sell their bodies for dissection

First Known Use: 1829

Definition of BERK British : fool

See berk defined for English-language learners »

Examples of BERK

1 :He was acting like a complete berk.

2 :I wouldn't like some silly berk from Fleet Street following me about.

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