One word, infinite uses



Column by Cassidy Herrington. E-mail [email protected]

One three-syllable word is all it takes to describe the complexity of life and the relative insignificance of our ‘plans.’


In Arabic, the word means “God willing,” but one doesn’t have to be religious to appreciate its significance.

Yesterday, I visited my Iraqi refugee family and heard their conversation freckled with

Inshallah’s. I asked my refugee “mom” why this is, and she replied, “because nothing is promised.”

Last week, my professor Terry Anderson had similar advice on the last day of class.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” Anderson said.

And Anderson should know best. After seven years in captivity, he is a living testament that our lives are not entirely in our own hands, although we prefer to think so.

Inshallah is more than an illustration of fate or life’s unpredictability; it is also a combination of worlds. It has emerged from the lips of U.S. troops abroad, after days, months and years of war and its consequential cynicism.

In 2007, Cullen Murphy, editor-at-large for Vanity Fair, wrote in the American Scholar that even Bob Dole and John McCain have slipped the word into their speech.

“It is neither optimistic nor pessimistic,” Cullen said. “It is the opposite of can-do.”

Inshallah is the opposite of our aggressive founding values. Rather than the ideology that we can dictate and slave over our fate, Inshallah says, “it’s out of our hands.”

So, our national attitude has taken a turn. Recent events, such as the recession, unemployment and ongoing wars have deducted from a previously exceptional, egotistical outlook.

Truly, nothing is promised. There is a time to be skeptical and cynical, but more importantly, there is always a time to be appreciative and gracious. Because every day, every cup of coffee and every news article is a gift.

The semester has finally ended, and now I can finally get some well-earned rest. Inshallah.