Here/Hear, Hey/Hay, Sea/See, Weather/Whether—the English language has many homophones, which are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  We know how to spell the right/write word by how it is used in a sentence, or the context: the words that are used with a certain word or phrase and that help to explain its meaning. We sometimes say to use the word in a sentence so we know what spelling and meaning to use. If I’m talking about sounds, like a bell,  I say and spell it “I hear the bells.”, or if I’m talking about place I say and spell it “Please bring it here.” So context is very important!

Context has another meaning, context:. the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less of a black and white thinker and tend to be in the “gray” zone more often. Passing judgments of others without the full story has my name on it.  What are the circumstances and variables that affect mine and others behaviors and beliefs? My history, my past experiences and my current circumstances propel me towards behaviors that may make sense for me, but totally confound others. This is true for everyone, whether I understand or agree with their choices.  I like to eat with smaller forks, I’m for a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body, and I hate driving in big cities if I don’t know the city. These behaviors and choices, within the context of my life history, make sense to me. I can tell other people how I got “here”, if they are willing to “hear” my story. It’s the old “Walk a mile in my shoes.” thing, and my shoes have changed over time. I distill all this into the need for me to keep an open mind, don’t rush to judgement and listen, really listen to others.

How do I put myself in context? What is the meaning of my life? This question was pretty silly when I was 20, but now that I’m 70 it’s a lot more meaningful to me. I’ve lived for 70 years and have played many roles, created many things and contributed to society, but what exactly is my contribution to the greater good? The contexts in my life have changed many times, sometimes minute to minute. Lately, there is a lot of talk about “finding your tribe” and the positive outcome of belonging. Where do I belong? I exist within many “interrelated conditions” and I have to make an effort to keep growing so these “interrelated conditions” expand my life and not constrict it. The reality is I behave differently in different contexts depending on who I am with and where I am at. This is usually adaptive, but can also lead me to behave as a chameleon and/or believe  that “my” tribe is the only legitimate tribe.  

In our language, context is about spelling and meaning. The context of our lives is also about meaning, but also about the expansion or restriction of understanding.

Have fun exercising your brain and see how many homophones you can name. Their, they’re, there are over 100!