The autumnal equinox passed not long ago.
On the equinoxes and solstices, I never fail to think of my mother, who loved lengthening days and abhorred shortening ones. Although that seems an odd perspective on seasonality from a physicist, who, presumably, understood the inevitabilities of our physical universe, her attitude spoke to her humanity.
When the days are lengthening, it is possible to believe that eternal expansion is possible, that whatever is happening now will continue, only better, and that life is always on the upswing.
This year’s equinox coincided with several grim anniversaries here in the United States. For those of us lucky enough to be able to do so, it was, according to the running calculation I have kept in my journal, day 194 that I have spent in lockdown, sheltering in place, isolating, or whatever other name you want to give to staying as far as possible from coronavirus. Two seasons have passed since my household began staying home pretty much all the time.
The equinox also was the day on which the U.S. passed the tragic milestone of 200,000 deaths from the pandemic, although the actual number is likely far greater.
Poised on the threshold between the season of life and the season of rest, I began ruminating on the prefix “eq.” What might it portend? What other words arise from it? How do they inform our lives in these times? Here’s where those thoughts took me.
EQUINOX. I don’t even have to look this one up. “Equal night.” Although, when I do, I find this confirming origin: “from aequi- equi- + noct-, nox night.”
EQUILIBRIUM. The EQ part is easy. Equal. But what about LIBRIUM? Does it have something to do with libraries? Liberty? No. It’s much simpler. In Latin, “libra” means “weight or balance.” So equilibrium is “equal balance.” Liberty holding her scales.
EQUALITY and EQUITY. We’ve been hearing a lot about these lately. A recent podcast, Nice White Parents, pointed out something I already knew: these words are not interchangeable, though we often act as if they are. I learned this early on as a parent. Treating my kids equally—giving each the exact same toy or experience—often resulted in disappointment at best and tantrums at worst. Treating them equitably—giving to each according to his need—worked far better. Although for some, the idea of equity raises the boogeymen of socialism or Marxism.
EQUANIMITY. The etymology is “Latin eaquanimatus, from aequo animo, ‘with even mind.’” Will someone please give me a clue about how to achieve that on what is now day 204 of staying home? I meditate, I practice yoga, I write, I visit with friends on Zoom—but sometimes none of it is enough. Perhaps I should be seeking not equanimity but equilibrium, which does not exclude wild swings toward one side of the balance or the other in the seeking of middle ground.
Have you found yourself drawn to explore the inner workings of words in an attempt to make sense of your current situation? What words? What sense? What situation? Let me know in the comments.
Definitions (with thanks to Merriam-Webster online)
- Equinox – “either of the two times each year… when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are everywhere on earth of approximately equal length”
- Equilibrium – “a state of intellectual or emotional balance : poise”
- Equity – “justice according to natural law or right specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism”
- Equality – “the quality or state of being equal”
- Equanimity – “evenness of mind especially under stress”
*I think all the words discussed here contribute in some way to an individual’s emotional quotient or EQ.
A couple spots still available in my Birth Your Truest Story workshop
Jennifer Browdy and I held the first session of Birth Your Truest Story on September 13. It was a wonderful meeting of minds and hearts among a small group of dedicated storytellers. Limited space is still available in this monthly workshop/writing support group ($149/month) if you want to begin with the second session on October 11.