There’s a lot of earth in this issue, thanks
mainly to our feature interview (page
34) with the wonderful Felicia Cocotzin
Ruiz, whose new book is called Earth Medicine.
That got me thinking about the persistent
editorial riddle of when to capitalize earth/
Earth. The basic grammatical rule is that Earth
is a planet. Everything else is earth. Farmers
put seeds in the earth. From space, astronauts
can see Earth.
Cocotzin Ruiz’s book Earth Medicine is
about earth medicine. I suppose Earth medicine would involve a 1,000-mile-long needle
that could put a vaccine into planet Earth.
In her Creaturely Reflections column, Sarah
Bowen writes about the first images of Earth
from space (page 76). Clearly we’re talking big
E. These images inspired people to feel more
deeply connected to ... Earth? or earth?
I don’t think that there’s a right answer.
People felt more connected to the planet Earth
and grew more aware on a gut level that we live on an actual globe hurtling through space.
People also felt more connected to the abstract,
less scientific earth: The thin layers of breathable air and tillable soil that gild the planet
Earth, our earthly home on ... Earth.
But a choice has to be made, and either a
capital or a lowercase letter has to end up on
the page. It’s a good reminder that language is
an imprecise tool. Sometimes it buckles a little
under the strain of meaning. For example, our
authors often use idiosyncratic capitalization
to convey their ideas. Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s
Roadside Assistance column (page 9) offers
this: “While I don’t consider any scripture to be
true, I do find Truth in all of them.” The capital
T is vital to his meaning. As another example,
Kevin Anderson writes about the small-i self
and the large-I Self in his Soul of Therapy
column (page 12).
A suggestion for while you read this issue:
Try experimenting to see how small changes
in language have a huge impact on meaning.
What happens if you put a word in quotation
marks? Add an ellipsis?
Write to us at [email protected] and let us know. And as always, reach out
to let us know what’s on your mind ... or on your
Mind ... or on your “mind.”