I’ve been reading Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, in which Bob Goff encourages us all to stop philosophizing about love and to go do love.
I first heard about Bob Goff in Don Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and it was there that I learned of Bob’s love of whimsy. Bob thinks the world would be a better place if we all embraced whimsy. He says in Love Does:
I’ve come to understand more about faith as I’ve understood more about whimsy. What whimsy means to me is a combination of the “do” part of faith along with doing something worth doing. It’s whimsey that spreads hope like grass seed in the wind. Whimsy reminds me of the Bible, too, when it talks about stuff being like an aroma. It’s not an overpowering one, just something that has the scent of God’s love, an unmistakable scent that lingers.
The dictionary defines it like this:
playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor
I love the concept of whimsy, and all things whimsical. I always have.
But the word makes me cringe.
It hasn’t always. Whimsy (the word, not the idea) and I were on great terms until 2005, when my son was diagnosed with cancer. When we first spotted the problem with our son, we headed to our family doctor. He suspected a rare form of cancer–and he turned out to be right–but he’d never seen a case himself and didn’t want to make the diagnosis; he referred us to a specialist to confirm his suspicion.
My friend had met this specialist before. “I don’t know how to describe him, exactly,” she said, “He’s an odd bird. Unusual. Whimsical.”
The specialist was unusual, as promised. More than unusual: he seemed straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Everything about him was exaggerated. He was tall and thin, with hipster glasses and a bow tie. When he spoke, his pitch rose too high, then fell too low, all in the same sentence.
He moved through the tiny exam room as if on a dance floor, bending from the waist at a cartoonish angle to peer into our baby’s eyes for just a few seconds. He swooshed over to consult with his resident, whispering and gesturing in hushed tones, then he swooped back to us to deal the devastating blow with a theatrical flourish: our son had final stage retinal cancer, it was possibly already in the brain, and if it was, he would die.
The man wasn’t whimsical. He was a cartoon, but I still can’t shake the association between him and that word. I love whimsy, the concept, but the word has been ruined. I’d like to reclaim it one day.
But I’m not there yet.
What word has been ruined for you? How do you go about reclaiming it?