The Middle English noun form of the term connotes a conniving and negative tone, as in the focus of Shakespeare’s play, “The Taming of the Shrew”; but the adjective form merely denotes a practical astuteness in utilizing scarce resources in creative and constructive ways, whereas the altered noun form of “shrewdness” simply extends upon that kinder, gentler meaning. When truncated as a compound concept with the term encompassing language and communication, however, it is meant to imply a practical force of conveying which sheds itself of unnecessary embellishment and unrequited force of utterance.
We live by narratives. They form the foundation of who we are, the essence of that image which we carry about, and we readily push the proverbial “button” of the subconscious when queried about our past. It is not so much that Grandpa or Uncle Ben are getting senile when they repeat the same stories, tell the parallel jokes, or convey the identical remarks from the previous merriment of holiday cheer; no, the narratives kept deep within the treasure troves of the inner soul and psyche are mere traces of a recording played with repetitive muse.
Can they be altered or amended? Of course. Can corrections occur? Always.
That is why, when a third party is invited to dinner, who by happenstance was present to confirm or deny a shared and common experience, or to correct a detail not heretofore known (it turns out that Grandpa wasn’t quite at the “first” landing of D-Day, but arrived a few days later as part of a “clean-up crew” in a more “administrative” capacity), the sudden need to rearrange and reorder the ensconced narrative forever frozen in a timeless eternity of thought, historicity and remembrances, becomes more of an irritation than a grudging concession.
That is why it is vitally of importance when a Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker who is preparing an OPM Disability Retirement application, to recognize a need to depart from the automaton-workings of life’s daily routine. Language is more than a conveyance of directions and recipes to prepare a meal; it is the manner of osmosis for higher animals and angels unseen in a universe of trolls and trollops.
For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, recognizing the power of linguistic shrewdness, wrapped in the methodology of forceful dialectical argumentation — of that combination of words, facts, forming narratives of undulating emotional sensations which reach down into the depths of souls unmoved, and yet pragmatic to the core because of the sufficiency of correlating and confirming documentation gathered and research unearthed — these are what make for the fine gold dust which must sprinkle from the wings of angels when the flight of the Phoenix must arise from the ashes of a Federal or Postal career ended by no fault of your own, but through a medical condition unplanned for and unnerving to the unknown exponent of a future to be followed.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire