This is my passion blog, and it is not usually going to be very useful, so if outright useful information is what you are looking for, you might want to look somewhere else.
This blog is going to be fun and artistic, about things that may not always have an apparent purpose… Specifically, it is going to be about unique words. These will mostly be words that are rarely used and that express something in a unique way.
Now sometimes, on occasion, we may stumble upon some useful realizations about words or about language. So don’t be disappointed if you actually learn something on this fun little mostly-pointless journey.
The word I would like to share with you all this week is metanoia. The meaning of this noun has been described as a transformation or conversion, usually spiritual. Thus it has also been described as the process or journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life. According to Merriam-Webster, it originated from the Greek word metanoiein, which means “to change one’s mind” or “repent.” Metanoia has been used in religious context to refer to repentance.
When we read into the meaning and origin of this word, we have already stumbled upon something interesting. Often when people think of “repentance,” they think of feeling sorry, regretful, or remorseful for one’s mistakes or sins. That is one way repentance can be defined. Regret is usually an uncomfortable feeling, though, and may make some people associate repentance with discomfort. However, if we instead think of repentance as changing one’s mind, metanoia, it may have a more positive and less uncomfortable connotation. It could just be me, but I think this is an interesting example of how the different connotations of words that may be listed as synonyms can shape people’s opinions about what these words refer to.
Some groups even use the name Metanoia, such as this holistic community development group. An organization called Metanoia Films offers “powerful, educational, and free online documentary films.” One website calls itself metanoia and seeks to talk people out of suicide. The word metanoia makes sense for all of these because each offers a way to change people’s minds about something and/or even take them on a spiritual journey, whether it be by teaching them information on how to holistically improve their communities, providing documentaries online, or changing their minds about suicide.
Personally, I like this word a lot because I like the connection between changing one’s mind and going on a spiritual journey. The word also sounds really cool and mysterious in my opinion. I could use it to describe multiple moments or “snapshots” of my life so far, where my opinions and perspectives on reality were questioned and I thought more deeply than I had ever thought before.
One time that I experienced metanoia was in ninth grade when my English teacher challenged my class to think philosophically, to question the world around us and to ask whether or not the world really has to be the way that it is. He was the kind of teacher who got students to question their religions and to think for themselves. In the metanoia I experienced, I really did question my own religion, but after all the thinking I still believed and I still do today. Sometimes doubting and questioning something makes you realize more profoundly the nature of that thing and how strongly you feel about it. That’s what happened to me and in all honesty, it continues to happen to me.
I may even be having a metanoia in the Sociology of Gender class I’m taking this semester. It has been encouraging me to see the world in a new way and realize how deeply gender stereotypes our ingrained into society and also our minds, especially when it comes to double standards and people assuming that they know what someone wants romantically based on their gender. Society is becoming more open and accepting, but it is slow and difficult to change the way people see the world as split up neatly into heterosexual males and females. With how policies have been changing the past few years, though, it’s almost as if a big part of the world is slowly experiencing some metanoia of equality.
I’m not sure if I’ve been using the word correctly, and that may be difficult to figure out because it’s a word that is rarely used in everyday English speech. Online dictionaries use examples that refer to “the metanoia” almost as if it is a spiritual movement or revolution, almost as though it is even prophesied to occur once at some point and change the entire world. Regardless, I used it in ways the definition suggests to me that it could be used, and I think most people experience metanoia at some point in their lives.