Fine line between magnificent and ridiculous

A famous French author, Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle, (1657-1757) wrote: “The magnificent and the ridiculous are so close that they touch!”

By Dorothy Weismiller

A famous French author, Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle, (1657-1757) wrote: “The magnificent and the ridiculous are so close that they touch!”

These words should stimulate our thinking. There is a very fine line between “magnificent” (grand, proud, super or stately) and “ridiculous (meaning absurd, nonsensical or pointless). I have been pondering the two words and it reminded me of my childhood.

Having spent my formative years in a convent school, I will always remember Sister Gabrele Madeline, who in my mind, looked magnificent always in her black habit (gown and shawl) and her coif (starched white headpiece) that she wore everyday.

Then one day, one of the more nervous students in our Grade 10 class came in with a wilted rose that she had picked up on her walk to school. As she was late for class, she usually would have crept in so that Sister would not notice her but that day, she marched up to Sister and gave her the rose. We all held our breath, knowing Sister had a furious temper if someone was late.

Sister turned to the nervous student who was a newcomer to our school and said, “Thank you, my child.” She put the rose, gently on her desk and smiled — a magnificent smile and we, who had expected our poor classmate to be ridiculed, knew a brief moment of insight into our teacher’s soul.

A present that could have been ridiculous in our eyes became magnificent. Sister picked up the rose and smiled, then said, “Everyone get back to work.”