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It's All in the Prepositions

They don’t get much press. They hang out in between the super star nouns and verbs.

They are generally not very big. They are sometimes confused for other parts of speech. But they can make a world of difference in the meaning of a sentence! It’s all in the prepositions!

Take the simple concept of loyalty – say, political party allegiance. Do we stand with Republicans or against Democrats? It may be splitting hairs because it looks like the same thing but the first is an affirmation of affiliation or compatibility while the second is an assertion of separation or opposition. Those little words carry a lot of freight! Emotion. Mood. Meaning. Think a spoken hug versus verbal boxing gloves. With. Against. It’s all in the prepositions!

Decades ago, a new term popped up. Counter-culture. Ok, some people don’t use the hyphen. Sure, we usually think of a “counter” as a noun, as something we chop our vegetables on in the kitchen. (Did you catch those prepositions?) And yes, we commonly speak of “over-the-counter medications” or of “under-the-counter transactions.” A world of difference between those two! See, it’s all in the prepositions!

But “counter” can also be a verb or its cousin, an adverb. And that’s the way it’s used in the term counterculture (there, no hyphen). Opposing or going against the mainstream. The term first surfaced in the late 1960s, which some people consider a time of “social revolution.” With public statements such as “Make Love Not War,” those dubbed “nonconformists” took stands for things they perceived most of the country was against. All the tension that was generated brought about unrest, violence, tons of finger-pointing, and change. Going against the grain can be painful but also necessary for the world, for life, like birth.

Many of us spend our days and a good bit of our nights zipping about from this to that, attending to all manner of commitments and responsibilities. We want to do well in this life, with our life. But sometimes our desires to please and succeed take a toll on our wellbeing. Odd, isn’t it? Like hamsters in a wheel frantically going around and around, it is often not until we flop exhausted and broken-spirited that we realize we really haven’t gotten anywhere that matters. Is that our purpose on this planet? Can we resist the spinning and stand against the tides of pleasing and succeeding to make time and space for the repair of our fractured spirits? Ah, it’s all in the prepositions!


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