When I asked the question about the word with the longest list of definitions last week, I had not set a time or manner in which to inform readers or tell those of you who guessed it right. Vi, from Jacó, who loves anything regarding linguistics, let me know on Friday morning at 6:15 that the word was set. And at least six others responded correctly. It is not a versatile word. None of set’s many definitions wander far from its primary meaning. (Unlike the word cop that has a short list of definitions and a wide variety of meanings.)
Usually my week has no theme. That is, I don’t have the routine of a job (except for writing my column, which I don’t consider a job), or something repetitive to give it form. The days are complete unto themselves. Sometimes I have a week of lunching out or a week of seeing old friends, or even a week of living dangerously. But usually, after the routine of my morning coffee, each day is whatever I plan it to be.
Or don’t. But the days of this past week did seem to tie together harmoniously.
I joined other English speaking expats at the Luis Dobles public school located in La Sabana in what used to be the former airport complex. The students were in their auditorium which once was the airplane hangar, so you can imagine the size and height. It was English Day. Groups of students had tables with decorations, brief histories (in English) and hand-made artifacts and were wearing costumes depicting holidays celebrated by English-speaking people throughout the world
After we viewed the displays there was a program, the highlight of which was a group of students dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Then we formed small groups and talked with the students, when possible, in English. Afterwards we were asked if we could stay for coffee, as they wanted to thank us. We were led to a room where the white clothed tables were set with coffee cups, and then we were served, not only coffee, but sandwiches, fruit, cheese and cake. Miriam, the teacher who is working with members of the Little Theatre Group to bring English speakers to schools, thanked us. That was quite a thank you!
The next day I attended a meeting of the Professional Women’s Networking group where the talk was about sustainable growth, recycling and conscious living. It was held in the newly built bamboo room at the Tin Jo restaurant. The room was filled with women in all kinds
of businesses from running bed and breakfasts to making jewelry with recycled tabs from cans and other nonprofit organizations. A small group of people are organizing to revive San José as a destination of choice.
They want to advertise the one-of-a-kind places to visit in the city. I was overjoyed. I have felt like a voice in the wilderness lauding San José and talking about frugal living, and now I am not alone.
Then to tie it together for me was hearing some quotes from Erich Fromm the psychiatrist and philosopher who died in 1980. I had read some of his works but forgotten them. Googling him, I discovered that 40 years ago he was talking about two personality types that embraced two ways of living: having and being. A having personality looks for happiness through accumulating and possessing things, sometimes even people. This personality type has increased in some countries. The urge to own and keep stuff is responsible for the appearance and success of a new business: renting storage units. In its extreme, it can lead to pathological hoarders.
Being personalities savor the experiences in life rather than what possessions they can accumulate. They are the people who believe in the saying “Be here now.” of Ram Dass and the 60s. (And believe me, talking with students you are here now, even if they are not.) The extreme of this group might be the mendicant monks.
Fromm, not surprisingly, thought that the being types were healthier, more productive people. Well, this group is growing. They are the small is beautiful, less is more, frugal, recycling, let’s appreciate the here and now and save our planet for future generation.
I felt like the band is joining the different drummer, and this is not happening just in Costa Rica.