Friday, January 29, 2010

Further, Not Farther: A Personal Reflection on Word Care & Treadmills

I recently heard a great speech on word care. Perhaps the speaker wouldn't say his topic was word care, but it was. He spoke on differences like good/nice, smart/clever, and smart/wise. It was a great speech and I just might steal, I mean, borrow the idea for a sermon one day, ending with lawful/just. We'll see.

Today, I'm thinking about the words farther and further. I think of Finding Forrester when I recall this distinction:

"Farther" relates to distance. "Further" is a definition of a degree.

So, if you know this person who is good in sports and you find out they are smart, you might slyly say, "I see your skills extend further than the normal jock." But, if you're about to have an endurance race with this same person, you might taunt, "I can sprint farther than you can!"

I think about these words when I'm running on the treadmill. I run and run and run (and, let's be honest, walk), but I never get any farther than the point at which I started. How odd, to run, but never move forward. The treadmill runs counter to how I conceive of running as a practice to get somewhere fast.

But even though I never move, I do get somewhere. Never farther than when I started, but always further. I get further in improving and maintaing my health, further in self-discipline, further in taking care of God's creation (if I can't take care of myself, how can I take care of the earth?).

It's funny, running and getting further, not farther.

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