Weeks like these make me hate the internet. In times of catastrophe and tumult, I can’t control myself from gobbling up all the information I can locate. Which is silly, because it’s not as if me learning about the current water levels of the spent nuclear fuel pools at reactor #3 that will help douse the radiation pulsing from those pools. None of this information helps ease my anxiety. I’m way behind on the work I had planned this week and I’ve lost track of the issues that I’d been most concerned about, like the anti-labor activities in Wisconsin.
I told my friend I was going to enforce a “moratorium” on myself. For five hours, I would close my browsers and finish the first draft of a short story that I started late last week.
Yet when I wrote this email, the word “moratorium” jumped out at me, bringing to mind “mortuary” and other such connotations. The word seemed downright cold-hearted. I felt guilty, as if my selfish desire to carve out time to complete a short story (God, does anyone even read those things anymore?) by turning my back on the news coming out of Japan might somehow foredoom the Japanese nation.
Which is silly, but silly notions are apparently all I’m capable of clinging onto nowadays.
Luckily, etymology came to my rescue. The words are entirely unrelated.
“Moratorium,” which is now the 16th most popular look-up on Merriam-Webster.com (rising sharply over the last seven days), is derived from the Latin word morari, meaning “to delay.” It’s also derived from the Latin morātōrius, meaning “to delay payment.”
“Mortuary” owes its derivation to a different set of root words: the Latin mortuus (“dead”) and the Late Latin mortuārius (“burial”).
This made me feel better. Or at least helped me to believe that I wasn’t being cold-hearted as I go to wrap up my short story. I’m still hopeful for some good news to come out of Japan though. My attention may be elsewhere today, but my heart’s still in the right place.