Penultima (noun): Last but one. Example: the last syllable but one of a word. - Webster Dictionary, 1913 edition.
I've been engaged in a simple exercise over the past few months. A single word will occur to me - broad enough in meaning to keep turning it over in my mind, exploring its significance, its relationship to life lived large.
I think the word forgiveness was where I started. Like the forgiveness of events I can't control. Or forgiveness of people long dead. Or that daily forgiveness of self as I stare at the unattained and the imperfect. Forgiveness as a prelude to forgetting.
See that? Often, I've wound up making connections between words that share the same first syllable. For instance, one week I chose "authentic". That word seemed to me to be as fine a description you could have for a person, or an idea, or even an inert object. Authentic appeared to reach across time. At least one of the human senses had to be intimately involved. Authentic was a characteristic that drew whatever you were describing just a little closer to the very soul of its purpose.
I consider a leather jacket in my living room closet to be authentic. Looks good. Feels good. Smells good when it rains. I purchased it about 20 years ago. The leather is thick and stiff. The jacket can even stand in a corner upright. I get enough compliments from strangers that I've taken to stashing it under the booth in my favorite restaurant instead of hanging it out of sight. Recently, I spent half of what I paid for it to have the lining redone. There's every expectation that whoever wears it after me will consider the same investment someday.
Soon, "authentic" got me thinking of "author" and "authority". Good images to have handy in my struggles with self. Time passes. Soon a new word comes to mind and I'll play around with that for awhile.
The latest word I'm carrying is "appreciation". Like the others, it offers lots of room for consideration and has particular characteristics all its own. But at their root, I believe that each of these words I choose draws me nearer to essence, to being. I've learned just enough over time to realize that "being" has far too much room and way to many characteristics to become my next new word. It should probably be capitalized.
But forgiveness, authentic, appreciation - those are simply three concepts that lie within hailing distance of being. Maybe they're in loose orbit light years away in the darkness. Maybe these and any other words I choose will leave me with more questions than answers. A dead end. Then, just dead.
Right now, it's become a route to follow. Some discoveries await. And so, we'll begin with these three words and set them along a continuum of time. It is said that our being only dwells in the present moment. So this will be a running start in that direction - the step before the foot is planted to leap up and out.
That one step before is the penultima.