Ever had one of those days when a big word just kept popping up ... a word you have seldom or perhaps never used? But you keep thinking about it until you go look it up just in case you need to toss it out at a reception or some other gathering that you would rather not be attending.
So today I heard the word “epiphany” three different times from different sources. I think I’ve used that word once in my life, but I wasn’t sure I was using it correctly.
Once, I was at a meeting and the guy sitting next to me raised his hand and said, “Oh! Oh! I’ve just had an epiphany!”
So I handed him a Rolaids, figuring it might help.
Well, in case you ever have one and need to know what to call it, an epiphany is a sudden understanding of something – at least, that seems a consensus of definition I found in my research. In other words, suddenly a light comes on.
An example: Many years ago, I was sitting out in the porch swing having a beverage, eating boiled peanuts and listening to Willie Nelson. It suddenly hit me that politics is more about money and oxen in ditches rather than liberals, conservatives and leadership. What I realized was one party is about as useless as the other. I guess if Republicans were your right hand and Democrats were your left hand, then you would be ambidextrous. In other words, you could screw up with either hand.
I’m sure many of us have had epiphanies.
One definition of an epiphany describes it as a sudden understanding in the spiritual realm.
Let me search for an example there. OK, let’s say my fellow Baptists decided we had to routinely fast. I can imagine I would have this sudden realization that I was really a Methodist. Maybe that’s not exactly what they’re talking about, but it’s hand grenade close.
Back to the secular kind of epiphany. One day I was playing around with my guitar and it suddenly hit me – an easy way to transpose chords from one key of music to another.
So now I can play “Gentle On My Mind” in several different keys. It broadened my musical abilities – not enough to sell everything and move to Nashville but enough that my wife could actually tell what I was playing. I had an epiphany.
Now, I don’t think the word epiphany has ever been used in a country music song, although lots of singers and songwriters have had them. For instance, the late Jerry Reed had a song out many years ago in which he described his failed marriage. Basically, he was drowning in child support and she had half his stuff. Suddenly in retrospect he asked himself, “Why didn’t I just learn how to cook?”
That is an epiphany. More specifically, that’s an epiphany after the fact.
Some epiphanies are bigger and more important than others. When Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers had their epiphanies, they greatly impacted our lives. I have no idea who had the sudden realization that brought us indoor toilets, but that’s an epiphany we probably take for granted once or twice a day.
Ironically, there probably were instances where people had epiphanies while seated in out-houses. Lots of deep thinking went on there.
So one day you are going to be watching a congressman on television telling you why the horse got out of the barn and who left the gate open, and if you’ll just re-elect him, he will close the barn door. And it’s going to hit you right between the eyes. Term limits! You will have had an epiphany.
Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.