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Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the
Hudson Valley

Spell check and safety nets

  • 02/10/2015 12:23 PM
    Message # 3222395

    While I was working on my dissertation, I disabled the automatic spelling and grammar correction tool in my word processor. I also disabled those red and green squiggly lines underneath words that indicate you might have typed something wrong. And I fell out of the habit of running my spell check. Like I never ran it. This was, in large part, due to the fact that my dissertation had endless passages in Latin and Italian and German and French, and short of loading in a whole bunch of dictionaries that never seemed to want to load properly, my best recourse to retain my sanity was to get rid of that auto-correcting, shaming-by-squiggly-lines system. It did nothing for my father's sanity-- he was willing to proofread endless pages with commas in the wrong spot and words misspelled. But here's the problem. I have never re-enabled it.

    So I find myself without the safety net of the spell check and out of the habit of checking myself. The end result is... well... typos. More often than not I will remember to proofread on my own, but sometimes I forget and out goes a draft of a document with obvious and ridiculous typos that I later feel some measure of guilt? shame? over. But I still haven't re-enabled. It would take a few swipes and clicks and it would be done, but I still haven't done it.

    Perhaps it's because I like to be reminded of that time I wrote a book-length project that used so many other languages.

    Perhaps it's because I'm just straight up lazy.

    Perhaps it's because I like living on the edge. Typing without a safety net. I know, I'm so wild and reckless.

    When someone pointed out some typos in a draft document recently, it did make me pause to try to think. When I was first working on computers toward the end of high school and through college, I had to proofread; it was my responsibility to make sure my work was solid grammatically and in terms of spelling and punctuation. Then, I didn't need to check myself anymore. Why was it so easy to fall into the habit of not needing to check my work? And why, after only a handful of years with no back-up, haven't I fallen back into the habit of needing to? I really do wonder if it is about laziness... But at the end of the day, I think it's more about how easy it is to become complacent. To become comfortable. To sink right into the feeling that we deserve and can expect the safety net we've grown accustomed to. Or that somehow we've earned it.

    I think this plays out in other ways-- we acquire material comforts and we can easily forget what it was like to not have them. We can lose that perspective we might once have had. We experience physical or emotional health and we forget what it feels like to be in daily pain, or to feel uncertain in our bodies and minds. When we are comfortable in whatever way, we can forget what it was like to feel uncomfortable. And when we forget, we can lose our ability to empathize and/or sympathize with those who don't feel comfortable. We come to think we did something to deserve our comfort, to deserve the moment of joy or health or wealth. We come so easily to think that those comforts are ours and our ours alone, that we have no need to fear their disappearance because now we have arrived. And we can look derisively on those don't have the same comforts. As if somehow we were better or special or different. As we don't all need spell check because all of us run the risk of making mistakes. As if we don't all need safety nets in case, heaven forbid, something tragic should happen in our lives.

    Living too deeply into our comforts, buying in too much to the notion that we alone deserve the comforts we have found in life, can lessen our ability to love others in the broadest sense of the word. It can make us miserly with our sympathy and empathy. It can make us miserly with those comforts we can afford indeed to share. It can make us closed off and, eventually, lonely.

    So maybe I need to re-enable my spell check.

    Maybe I need those vaguely mocking green and red lines, as annoying as they are, to remind me that everyone needs a safety net every now and then.

    Maybe I need them to remind me that, despite (or because of?) whatever pride I might have, I am a flawed human being, as at risk for spelling and grammar errors as others.

    Maybe I need them because even if I make fewer mistakes when I write than I used to, I could stand to cultivate greater openness for others' mistakes.

    Because we all make mistakes and that has to be okay.

    We all need help sometimes, in ways big and small and that has to be okay.

    We all need to be accepted in spite of our flaws. 

    We all need to be loved and welcomed with open hearts.

    Even if we put our commas in the wrong place.

    Last modified: 02/10/2015 12:24 PM | Anonymous
  • 02/11/2015 11:12 AM
    Reply # 3223526 on 3222395
    Kenneth Counselman

    Or, as anonymous put it,

    Spell Czech

    Eye halve a spelling chequer.  It came with my pea sea.

    It plainly marques four my revue miss steaks eye kin not sea. 

    Eye strike a key and type a word and weight four it two say 

    Weather eye am wrong oar write.  It shows me strait a weigh. 

    As soon as a mist ache is maid, it nose bee fore two long

    And eye can put the error rite.  Its rarely ever wrong. 

    Eye have run this poem threw it, I am shore your pleased two


    Its letter perfect in it’s weigh.  My chequer tolled me so.


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