Vocab Lesson

I’m reading The New York Times on the couch when I look over at my middle school daughter on the couch who’s reading. She’s in her athletic pants, her hair carefully up in a bun like her friends, her face still tawny from a summer mostly outside. When she’s finished with her chapter, she tosses the library book on the couch, and I ask if she knows what the word anti-Semitic means.

She doesn’t.

The word is so terrible, I’m not sure what to say. In our house, we sometimes joke about language. This week, the girls have been tossing voluminous around playfully, like a half-deflated, helium-filled balloon.

I glance into the dining room I’ve spent all weekend painting a color described as lemon custard, my motivation simply love of color and warmth.

And then I look back at my daughter who’s waiting, patiently, on the couch.

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly… Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

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