A Meaningful Person. by editors

Jonathan Safran Foer awoke one morning with the acute sense of not being a meaningful person. “I feel castigated,” he said to himself. “And meaningless.” He sat up in bed, and looked around him. At his bookshelf, full of books, books full of words: meaningful words meaning specific things. “How can I become meaningful, again?”

Carrying himself out of bed and round the room, yet was he still possessed by the lingering feeling of being without meaning, and of being castigated—not by anyone in particular, nor in any particular manner,—but castigated nonetheless.

He looked down at his still sleeping wife...

(...I forget her name but she's probably a writer. After all, writers are, as you may be aware, only sufficiently able to communicate, on any meaningful level, with—and not feel castigated by,—to the extent that they might be able to develop relationships conducive to eventual marriages—are only able to do this with other writers; hence, it's more than likely that she too is/was a writer.)

Looked down at his sleeping wife.

“What is your meaning?” he said. Albeit that his question was not asked of her in particular, it was asked aloud, so she awoke and promptly sat up to address her husband:

“Oh, Jonathan! I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamed that I felt reprimanded... in a general sort of way. That is to say, not by anyone, nor for anything in particular—”

“Reprimanded... that's a good word,” he said. “I'll write it down. Yes, go on...”

“—well, in the dream I felt reprimanded, and this feeling let me to question the appropriateness of myself'.”

Looking down at his notebook where he had written the word


he wondered if it were possible for a word to, like a person, lose its meaning.

“Perhaps,” he thought, “if a word, for some reason, fell out of vogue it could lose its meaning. Or if it merely failed to withstand the test of time: if its true value, as a word, could only have been gauged in the amount of time it took the speakers of a given language to use and consider a much wider array of older and newer, more valuable words.

“After all, if one's vocabulary consists of only a few words,—if one only knows a few words—then, until more words can be acquired, each will, necessarily, perform a more complex function than it would if it numbered among many.

Or maybe it was something else entirely—maybe if, one day, it became apparent to the aforementioned people that a given word had always been meaningless, and endured as long as it did only because a handful of poorly read but prominently situated authorities on words had conferred upon it the quality of not only meaning but good meaning—maybe then would a word, like a writer, lose its meaning.

“Am I meaningful person?” he asked his wife

“What do you mean?”

“Yes, that's what I'm saying.”