A few nights ago, I quoted Gareth Higgins: “When we tell a diminished story, we make a diminished life.” I went on to talk about what the word diminished meant.

My friend Jeff offered this comment in response:

Another use of the word: “Diminished” chords beg to be resolved because of the dissonance- I think about it like going from off balance to balanced; making chaos into order. The important part is that it’s moving on . . .

I loved the connection, but what hung in my mind was the word resolve, so I went looking to see what I could learn. I found several definitions related to different fields.

In music, as we said, dissonance resolves into harmony.
We can resolve to take a different course of action or make a change.
In medicine, to resolve a condition is to cause it to subside or heal.
In chemistry, a substance is resolved or separated into components to be better understood.
In physics, something seen from a distance resolves into a different form when seen up close.
In mediation, to resolve is to settle a conflict or a problem.
Then we have the noun resolve that is a determination to do something.

When I went back to the earliest Latin roots, I saw the breakdown: re + solve: explain again, figure it out one more time.

I know. That’s a lot of word play, but there’s a lot going on in that little word:


That’s what I love about words. They create possibilities. Madeleine L’Engle used to caution that our vocabularies shrink during wartime, which means our options do as well. The dictionary of violence only has a few pages. The dictionary of hope is encyclopedic.

I’m weary tonight. I am not finding as many words as I would like, but I can hear in my mind the movement from off balance to balance. “It’s like The Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe,” Jeff said. I will let them sing us out.



Leave a Reply