I heard a new word this weekend.
I was attending a graduation ceremony. (Huge hat-tip to my daughter-in-law Kathleen for knocking out another degree—we’re so proud of you!)
So it’s not a new thing to hear new words especially in an academic environment. But the speaker, Baylor University President Dr. Linda Livingstone (an Oklahoma native and Oklahoma State graduate, by the way), referred to the Collins Dictionary’s post regarding their 2022 Word of the Year.
The word is “permacrisis” and is defined by Collins as “an extended period of instability and insecurity.” It’s new enough that my spellcheck is not happy with it.
It is one of those words that is pretty obvious in its meaning and very weighty in its implications. I’m sure that many of us would say we feel this word as much as read it.
Permacrisis. We’ve lived in so much of a turmoil storm that it’s become somewhat normal. I’ve wondered if we are really that much more crisis-riddled than in the past or if we are just bombarded with it so much more than in decades gone by through our worldwide instant availability of information.
Either way, it’s not an irrational fabrication for the lexicographers at Collins to embrace this new, obvious, ominous word. It might well serve as the marker of an entire generation of humanity—the permacrisis generation.
But even as I reflect upon and write about this term, I am gathered with my precious family to celebrate Christmas. And I recognize that it’s only the second time since the pandemic began that we’ve had all of our kids in one place… largely due to the permacrisis of our world.
It can suck a little of the Christmas joy out of you, can’t it?
In my reflections this early morning I find another great Christmas song playing in my head. It’s really Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Christmas Bells,” set to music. There are so many lovely renditions, but I offer this recommendation for a thoughtfully made, musically interesting version for your listening pleasure.
I find myself caught on the last two stanzas.
And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said; "For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men."
I know that for many of us this Christmas season seems clouded by the permacrisis of our culture. But the very reason we celebrate this season is that the baby we see in our manger scenes did not just come and live and die. He overcame death and puts His very Spirit within each believer so that, in the end, we will see God—who is not dead nor asleep—prevail over the darkness and the crisis and bring entirely and eternally the promise of peace on earth, good will to men.
Yes, I would agree with the folks at Collins that permacrisis is an apt word for this time. But one day “crisis” will fall out of use.
We’ll find a new word… permapeace.