Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

“You Have No Idea Where They’ve been.”

“There are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.”
~ Mark Twain

Twain mentioned awkwardness, stupidity, and ignorance, which are things with which I’ve had some experience over the years, both as antagonist and protagonist.  Took a fencing class as a theater student. Once on the mat, I was able to score well in competition. I was feeling pretty good about it when my professor, John Rudy, pulled me to the side. After staring at the ground for what seemed like several minutes (though probably only seconds) as if he was struggling with the words, he finally spoke:

“Don’t get a swelled head about beating the competition today. There are two primary reasons you looked good out there:

  1. You’re left handed, and most of the others were used to seeing a different approach, in fact, an opposite one;
  2. But the main thing is, you didn’t seem to have any idea what you were going to do from one moment to the other, and neither did your opponents.”

After awhile I realized I was the only student in the class that could get a technical advantage from practicing in front of a mirror. The image I saw in it would have an accurate juxtaposition, while all the others just saw everything backwards.  Never became great at fencing.  Sometimes I’d just paint the fence, and at other times, just sit on it.

In time, I took classes in modern dance, acting, and directing. I look back on my successes with the realization that most of the prosperity of favorable outcomes may have been due to the outrageous courage felt, because and in spite of, not being aware of what I didn’t know.

In 2002, Donald Rumsfeld is credited for saying:

“…there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

However, the term “unknown unknowns” had been around in NASA for a while, and also used by other engineers.

“Known unknowns result from phenomena which are recognized, but poorly understood. On the other hand, unknown unknowns are phenomena which cannot be expected because there has been no prior experience or theoretical basis for expecting the phenomena.”
~ Statement of Evidence of E. D’Appolonia, D’Appolonia Consulting Engineers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the British Columbia Royal Commission of Inquiry into Uranium Mining, Phase V: Waste Disposal, ISBN 0-7718-8198-3

In recent years, there have been a number of unpleasant results from hydraulic fracturing, such as earthquakes and polluted ground water, that was not the expected or hoped for outcome.  At the same time, you’d think by now most adults have some experience with placing a spoon in the sink face up, and turning on the water.  Even when some people know it’s likely to splash water all over the place, they turn the water on anyway.  So it brings up the question of there being a difference between unknown unknowns, and just making stupid decisions.

My mind goes back to the first grade.  It was a regular practice to wash our hands before lining up to go to the Lunchroom.  I distinctly remember the teacher telling me and some of the other boys:

“When you wash up, use soap.  And wash both hands.  You have no idea where they’ve been.”

I’ve struggled with those instructions now for six decades, and from time to time I think the teacher was correct.

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Car-mageddon, and the Karma-chanic!

We took the ramp coming off the interstate.  It was our intended exit, but we would’ve gotten off there anyway, as our car was puffing steam and smoke, running a fever, coughing, and wheezing as if it was barely able to breathe.  Our plans had been to meet with some friends for a breakfast, but it looked as if our car was not going to let us be able to keep the appointment.  Seemed the end of the trail.  Figured it was Car-mageddon.

As we limped into the parking lot of a service station just off the interstate, we didn’t notice at first the vehicle following us that pulled up right beside us.  Evidently, a man in a pickup truck saw the smoke signal, and stopped to help.

Before I was barely aware of his presence, he’d already raised the hood, and was poking around at this ‘n that.  He said he saw the problem, and was pretty sure he could fix it, pointing to a connection near the water pump that appeared to be made out of a brittle piece of plastic, or perhaps elbow macaroni.

It was shattered, which is evidently where all the coolant had spewed out.  There were two of these such parts, giving the system a front and a back door like you’d want to find in any good tavern, much less the cooling system of a Buick.  The back door wasn’t compromised yet, but the man said it was not long for this world.

When asked, he offered up an estimate that was specific about his labor plus parts.   Said the macaroni parts at an auto parts store would be about seven dollars apiece, but I could get metal ones (less likely to explode under pressure) for about twelve.  Since his labor quote was about half the price the dealership might charge just to diagnose the problem, his price sounded more than reasonable, in fact, generous.  So we said:
  “Yes, please, and use the metal parts.” 

We exchanged some information about each other, then called our friends to explain our situation.  They offered to come get us.

The man under the hood said to go ahead and have breakfast, and that he should be finished about the time we got back.  Soon, a wonderful lady pulled up to get us, and we were off to have a meal with her and some of her good family.

I had a mouthful of eggs and grits when my phone rang.  Seems the serpentine belt had cracks in it, and the suggestion was to replace it while he had all the pulleys loose.  Evidently serpents shed their skin about every hundred thousand miles or so, so I was not surprised.  

The price of the belt sounded fair, and less than half the price the service department of an authorized dealership would likely want for it.  Seemed to make good sense, so I “OK’d” that procedure, and put some jelly on my biscuit.

Due to extreme kindness being on the day’s program, I was not allowed to pay for our breakfast.  I did try, but a loving young person grabbed the ticket, insisting it was her turn to treat, though I have no memory of it ever needing to be her turn.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by generosity, I tried to remember the last time I was nice to anybody.  Had to think back over quite a bit of history to come up with a thing.  Couldn’t put an exact date on it, but I believe all television programming was in black and white back then, and I’m sure to have anticipated a reward for it.

While the unexpected angel of the mechanical realm was under the hood of my wife’s car, he adjusted and fixed a few other things he saw needing attention.  But no extra fee was added to our bill.  The receipts for parts, including a gallon of antifreeze, were well within the original estimate.  

When I pointed out he had forgotten to add the charge for changing out the serpentine belt, he said:

“Oh, no charge for that.  I had to be down there, anyway.” 

I paid him, and wanting to be fair, threw in what I thought was a reasonable gratuity, since he was providing significant value-added service.  He looked surprised, and said I’d paid too much.  Told him if there was any money left he didn’t need, I’m sure he’d know somebody who did.  

We were soon on our way, car running fine, grateful for a chance to have met…
 The Karma-chanic!

Be nice to somebody out there today–it just might be him.  Oh, and rock on chilluns, rock on!

Where Fire Ants Get Their Fire

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Casual dress: loafers – no socks; cargo pants, and a loose fitting shirt not tucked in.  Errands to run.  Formal attire not required.  Managed to get a few blocks from the house, while the “do it” list scrolled across my mind.  Felt it was a good day, and had plenty of time for my chores, so was in no hurry.  Further, there was not a single thing on the list that was urgent or necessary, or that could not have been postponed, if not ignored altogether.  In other words, it was the kind of day a younger me never knew existed…past the age of ten.

What started with an itch on my ankle soon became more itching on both ankles, then the stinging started.  Felt something crawling on my arm, my ear, and the back of my neck, and soon in a panic mode feeling creepies all over me.  It was time to immediately pull over to the curb, and I did so without hesitation.

Ants!  The cab of my pickup truck was full of ’em!  What?  Where’d they come from, and why are they in here?  Not just any ants, mind you; these were fire ants!  Put it in park, and leaped out of the truck.  Hard to sit still when you have ants in your pants, and I did.  I began a series of gestures and gyrations unbecoming of a sober man of my age in broad daylight unless some ceremony preceding a live sacrifice was in progress.  Felt I was the sacrifice.

The festive dance was a spectacle, I’m sure.  Just glad the police didn’t ride by, as they would’ve hauled me to the looney bin.  I believe my coarse epitaphs scorched some nearby wildflowers, and no doubt would’ve offended anyone in earshot.  But I was alone except for a passing stray cat, who quickly went to the other side of the street.  I didn’t blame him, as I’d have done the same in close proximity to some animal exhibiting bizarre behaviors.  I’d invite you to imagine, but most imaginations might not be that flexible.  Sometimes it’s hard to interpret the incomprehensible.  It was motion of quantity without quality defined.

Went back to the truck.  Observed some ants crawling on the floor and driver’s seat, but noticed the console and ashtray were teeming with them.  A pipe and an old cigar butt gave support to the image of ants chewing tobacco.  I knew grasshoppers did this, but never read any review or critique of ants doing it.  Now, I have seen ants chewing on a grasshopper, so with some stretch, it’s possible to extract the idea that eventually the ant might get around to a chaw, I don’t know.

I’ll admit to some sloppiness, and have often left crumbs about, as my habit of eating on the move has allowed for lots of crumbs.  No doubt, there are bits and pieces of hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, French fries, and other snacks permanently ground into the upholstery and carpet.  Surely sweet nectars have spilled without any serious cleanup other than to wipe at them have occurred.

Looking in the cab, I saw them busy as if trying to locate all such prizes, and also watched as they gave special attention to the heads of some matches lazily resting in the cup holder.  Perhaps they were just fueling up.  Thats when I realized their attention was mainly directed on some other object: a regular tin of breath mints–ants were all over it.  With some bravery, some wiping, huffing and puffing, managed to clear the ants off so I could look inside the tin.  To my surprise, the closure of the package had been no serious deterrent to the ants.

The peppermint Altoids inside the tin were covered with a frothy sea of churning ants.  Each ant in the box had a mouthful of high octane peppermint that seemed to excite them.  If I’d been able to see their ears, I’m fairly certain a mist of steam would be coming out of them, but my bifocals are not that refined.  The pepper-like candy had evidently gotten them electrified, and me opening the container also opened the circuit.  Evidently, it was motive enough for action. If you will, envision a thousand fire ants clumped in an area of a few square inches, and imagine them all spreading out over a few square yards in less time than it takes a firecracker to rupture when the fuse burns down to the quick.

As they charged up my arm to do battle, I dropped the tin of peppermints onto the seat of the truck, and began singing a song in some foreign language I’ve never heard before.  The dance began anew, then the religious ceremony followed–at least in as much as some of the same conjuring words were put into use.  The literary anathema may have started out like a hymn, but transfigured itself into a level of depravity that would’ve offended a congressman.  I’ll not likely live long enough to atone for such coarse and troubled cussedness, but those who know me well realize I crossed that threshold years ago. 

After some success brushing most of them off, the stragglers that remained let me know unquestionably why the name “Fire” had been sewn on to the label of that species.  Some of my friends educated in the sciences tell me the pain from the venom is caused by formic acid.  That may be true for some ants, but my recent discovery brings me to believe the species that lives in my pickup truck get their potency from match-heads, burnt tobacco, and peppermint Altoids.

As you’d expect, I vacuumed and washed the truck, but never did discover where the queen, her nest, or hatchlings were hiding.  Next day, the ants were back as if I’d done nothing.  I thought about all the fine places a self-respecting ant colony might set up housekeeping, and remain amazed they’d still choose to hang out with my old truck.  The only thing I can think of is that the occasional trip to the grocery store and the cargo I bring back appeals to them.  Additionally, once there, the parking lot around the truck being full of delicious snacks an ant might take delight in having is also brought into the bargain.  This would be a diminished benefit, of course, if human beings ever figure out how to use nearby trashcans.  As it is, candy wrappers, soda cups, sandwich wrappers, and chicken bones tend to drop from hands as soon as they have reached the point of diminishing return.

Since the experience of discovering ants in my truck, I’ve come to approach getting into it with both caution and dread.  But one thing disturbs me: instead of maintaining residence inside the cab of the truck, they seem to now camp on the outside.  I see them outside of the windows, and marching back and forth around the edges of the cargo bed.  The worrisome idea now emerges, that now with enough peppermint to fuel an inferno, they have decided to eat the paint off my truck, as if such as that might be an antidote for any gastric reflux the peppermint might’ve caused.

A few years ago, I took note of the apparent disappearance of Fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) mounds on my property.  A few neighbors had remarked about it, as well.  Some theories were that they were driven out or killed by infestations of other ants that might eventually eat my house as well as take over the lawn.  But now I know where they went.  With the prospects of finding matches and peppermint so readily available, the logical thing for them to do would be to relocate to my vehicle.  Not only would they find plenty to eat, but the opportunity to take off on an excursion was probably more than they could resist.

So, there you have it.  Altoids and matches in my truck are the true source of the fire.  Now if I could just figure out a way to harness it, the next time I’m told the truck is due for new spark plugs, I’ll be able to tell ’em…“never mind.”

“I Never Promised You a Beer Garden…”

Once upon a time, it became obvious to me that having fun is fun…only as long as I never allow someone else to require it of me.  The simplicity of it is connected to wanting the freedom to have fun, and understanding how to make that happen.  The problem for most people that keeps them from allowing it to become a way of life, is that they feel obligated to pursuing activities driven by concepts that move them further and further away from understanding.  The motivations for people to plant gardens and work in them will vary.

Those who believe the effort is just about not having to buy their veggies at the store need to consider the economics of their time spent.  For most of us, the simple math will suggest we’d be better off pursuing other performance activity.  The same is true for those of us whose hobbies include making bread, cheese, beer, and wine.  If fun is left out of the equation, you could be pursuing a false economy.  There is work involved, not the least of which is washing and sanitizing containers and utensils, that needs to be considered if you place any value on your time at all.

An avid sportsman told me the cost of fishing and hunting, besides dues to hunt clubs, included boat, trailer, camping gear, fire arms and munitions, an extensive apparel wardrobe, licenses and fees, the expense of trained dogs, and that doesn’t account for his investment of time.  He said altogether, his cost of meat and fish last year averaged about seven hundred dollars a pound.

But if you want to hunt, fish, or garden (or make bread, cheese, beer, wine, etc.) and enjoy doing it, all the other reasons to justify the behavior, including the concept of having control over the contents of your food and beverage supply, are secondary.  In fact, if you don’t enjoy it but do it anyway, how is that different from all the other compliance regimens that require us to be aboard some agenda other than our own?

Hobbies and avocations should be fun, and not allowed to become donkey-work.  And that also goes for many other projects, even home maintenance.  If the rent for allocated storage space for ladders and tools, the cost of getting those tools, and if the value of your time is not a consideration, the only cost of repainting your house is just the price of the paint…plus spackling paste, caulking, thinners, cleaners, masking tape, drop-cloths, rags, antibiotic ointments, bandages, splints and crutches (which you will need when you fall off the ladder), along with other supplies including liquid refreshments for the painter.  You might consider these last few items to be essential if your other hobbies include making beer and wine, with a possible exception for refreshments already paid for.

For the pure fun of it, try this:

Pick out a small patch of ground (or a patio box if you have an apartment with a balcony or patio), and plant caps from beer bottles.  Then, show it to people from time to time, and act as if you genuinely expect it to grow a beer garden.  Be enthusiastic about it.  The more excited you seem, the more fun you’ll have with their reaction. One visitor was so taken by such lunacy that he left immediately to go to the store, returning with a case of beer and placed it in my garden.  I left it there.  The next visitor was invited to go with me to my garden to pick beer.   If this doesn’t happen for you, I’ll beg your pardon.

There’s just no end to the fun you can have with this sort of thing.  Next year, I’m planting the corks from bottles of expensive wines.  If a case of Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Dom Perignon, Giacomo Borgogno Barolo, Ghost Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, or any Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese shows up, I’ll call you.  Then, we’ll plant Scotch bottles!

In the meantime, I’m going smile hunting.  Game warden says it’s always open season, no license needed, and there’s no bag limit.  Additionally, the more you catch and release, the more you harvest.  If you want, you can throw in a few handshakes and hugs if targeted recipients of them find it acceptable, and rock on chilluns, rock on!

Hunting Golf

Looking for another player to round out your four-some?  Occasionally such an invitation comes my way, but I do my dead-level best to discourage it.  It’s not that an outing or a walk on a nice day is not enjoyable.  Not that at all.  It’s just that if I wish to subject myself to that kind of language, I’d go to church.

My favorite place at the club is the 19th hole.  I have no trouble keeping my head down in there, due to the chance of seeing someone who thinks I owe them money.  Can play the 19th straight up, and never have a bad shot.  On the other 18, I’d need too many chasers.

People ask me about my handicap, which I think is too personal.  I have many.  One is lower back and hip pain my doctor referred to as “sciatica”.   That’s not a facility in upstate New York for the criminally insane as some of you might think.  No, it’s an inflammation of what my mother calls my “psychotic nerve”.  If it weren’t for malaprops, Mama might have no props at all.  Asked what she was watching on television, and she said it was a documentary on polio bears living on the ice burgers.

Back discomfort is not the only thing that hampers me.  I’m also far-sighted, but that’s okay, as I never get very close to the pin, anyway.  I can triple-bogey a driving range.  My clubs don’t need new grips because I have Dupuytren’s contracture–well defined in my left hand and developing in my right.  No problem gripping the shaft firmly, but letting go often requires WD-40. The most comfortable golf glove for me would look like a catcher’s mitt.

Pro said my average game has more slices than a truckload of watermelons.  He criticized my clubs, saying they were intended for a younger player.  But I just think he has some prejudice against the “Nerf” brand.  Well, not all my clubs.  My driver is a Louisville Slugger.  Asked me if I’d considered a caddy. Told him I’d considered it, but for budgetary reasons, we’d settled on a Buick.

Always carry 18 balls to the course, because that’s how many I intend to hit. As for scoring, I always mark down “18”.  All I do is tee off–not just the ball, but all the other players with me.  Once I’ve hit the golf ball, there isn’t much point in looking for it, as it has sure to have gone…somewhere.  Besides, most golf carts don’t have four-wheel drive. For me to attempt a retrieval does require a current valid hunting license.  So, I just move on to the next tee box, and whack another one into oblivion.

When I’m playing conservatively, I just hit the tee.  Saves money, and doesn’t endanger as many innocent bystanders.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to use an ultra-light rod with open faced reel and four pound test line to play the water hazards.  Hope I passed the test, and look forward to hearing from you soon.

The Roar, The Smell, The Feel, and the Flavor of the Greasepaint…

The natural woman is a beauty.  So, is the beautiful woman a natural?  Sometimes she is.  The girl who knows herself to be pretty might let go of the crutches of enhancements once in awhile, or not use them at all.  And the unassuming one without pretentiousness that leaves it alone can be wonderfully alluring, and not even know it.  But the painted woman, exotically so or not, can also be attractive.  When tastefully applied, certain shades and highlights can attract in a fascinating way, even perhaps be temptingly erotic.  Leave it rare or medium-rare, and not overdone.  Remember:  Overdone is not necessarily well done.

In fact, the incorrectly done can look clownish, obviously exaggerated, and even plastic when seen up close.  Some ladies mark and draw all over themselves as if to be seen across an arena from the back of a chorus line, but up close take on an almost ghoulish appearance rather than girlish–untouchable, almost dirty, glaringly advertising that a deception is afoot.  All the obvious accouterment gives it away.  If your mascara has big lumps in it, a man might think you got your face too close to a bucket of roofing tar.  In that case, he might want to hire you to help him work, but not necessarily want to dance with you.

Oh, by the way, don’t overdo the artificial aromas, either.  Teenagers, lacking the experience of years of proper practice, mingle in herds as if they are all trying to out-smell each other assuming it to be of some benefit.  At that age, to be irresistible to a boy is not nearly as difficult as some young ladies presume it to be.  To be sure, a lot of the perfumes and colognes available and sold everywhere from salons, department stores, and even service stations, are rather offensive smelling to men, unless it has motor or gun oil in it.

By saying men might find your store-bought fragrance to be unpleasant, I let a cat out of the bag that might otherwise suffocate.  It’s an amazing truth well hidden behind an avalanche of advertisements.  And the lie sells by the ounce.  The industry does not want you to be aware at all that what you’re buying costs a thousand bucks a gallon.  Most of the time, you’d get better mileage with about twenty-five cents worth of soap and water.  To bathe might be nice, but natural pheromones override fraudulent ones almost every time.

But don’t worry about it.  Once you’ve gotten their attention, they will put up with the odor of it even if you sprayed it on with a fire hose.  If it is a disagreeably odor-some distraction to them at first, be certain men are tough, and will charge full steam ahead as if going into battle given half the chance, or even the hint of any chance at all of a victorious outcome.  A good rule of thumb is the more you pay for a perfume, the less the man will care for it.  But other women will be jealous of you if they get a whiff, which, if you’re being honest with yourself, may be why you have it on in the first place.

I remember a young age when the boys were having to learn how to use their voices as hormones began to erode their ability to sing soprano.  During that time, the girls in my school peer group began to experiment with base makeups, eye shadows, and lipsticks.  It seemed customary to not paint the entire wall, but to abruptly stop at the chin-line so as not to get it on the collars of their blouses.  But I was willing to let them get it on mine, if I’m recalling correctly.  Yes, I was, and a bit curious about the taste of that lip gloss as well.  At that age, the game seemed to be to transfer all the paint from her face to mine, and wear it home almost as if it were a trophy, even though the prize won was only a kiss and the hint of a possible future promise.

One night I came in having spent the absolute best part of the evening in pleasant company.  As soon as I walked in the door, my father said:

“My God, son!  Don’t you carry a handkerchief?  Wipe your face before your mother sees you.  And learn to launder your own shirts from now on so I won’t have to see her cry.  Mercy!”

In theater, makeup is a part of the illusion, sometimes exaggerated to allege youth, or to confess age.  From any proper aesthetic distance, without makeup, the audience might just see washed out and almost shapeless faces in the bright lights, with features of any definition remain unnoticed.  Up close, the illusion doesn’t work.  And once the colors are known to be artificially applied, the illusion is broken, and all who see know that what is in the package is covered by more wrapping than required to make it pretty.  Other than that, it’s just ceremonial war paint, so be mindful of that as you head out the door to do battle.

I began performing as Mark Twain almost forty years ago at this writing, portraying him as a man in his seventies.  Back then, I needed the crutch of lots of makeup to be convincing.  Today I still spend hours in the makeup room, but not to put on much makeup, now.  No, I need the extra time just to fasten the buttons on the vest of the costume, as over the decades it seems to have shrunk tremendously around the waist.

So, to paint or not to paint?  Ladies, that is up to you.  But be ye not deceived about the benefits of it.  Please accept that you do it to declare something you might subconsciously feel necessary to compete with the other girls–not so much to outshine them at attracting the boys, but to declare rank.  If you even for one wild minute presume the boys will not be attracted to you sexually without a thick coat of mud on your face, you will be mistaken.

Want to make sure to be attractive to a man when standing close enough to see each other’s face?  Just make eye contact, and hold that gaze a bit.  And just as you break the stare and look down as if to blush, smile at him.  He will read your direct attention as an inspection, and read your smile as a clear sign of him passing it.  All men are vane in that way.  And if you court that vanity and if he likes you at all (and trust me he does), after that you can then drag him about by the nose if you wish.  You’ll not need to spend a penny at the makeup counter, trust me on this, as well.

One more thing:  Don’t play dumb.  The best thing that conveys, if there is any benefit to it at all is, you might be easily persuaded to make hapless decisions, or even stupid ones.  And if you think that is what the boy is looking for, go out and find another boy.  They’re around.  A new one is born about very twenty seconds–that’s more than four thousand of ’em a day.  Just be careful you’re not the one birthing a disproportionate number of them all by yourself with no one wanting to stay around to help.  But that’s another story entirely, isn’t it?

 

Strike While The Iron Is…Still Plugged In?

“If it’s in quotation marks, it means it has to be true, and that somebody very important must have said it.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    ~ some important person

How often do we see posted on social media some banal remark or statement, seldom original, but presumed to be significant, that is immediately followed by comments saying: “So true…yes, absolutely true…I agree…OMG, I’m sharing this one…”, and so forth, when in fact you have your doubts about it being true at all?  What is it about putting quotation marks around a phrase or sentence that would make them any more believable?  The only thing that makes a statement any truer would be…bold type?

Things Mark Twain said have become important to me, and especially so during the last four decades, as I’ve been expected to be able to repeat them.  From time to time, I’ve gone even further with that responsibility by adding things he never said at all, but only attributed to him in error.  Recently, a friend mentioned a quote of this nature, and asked me who said it.  After realizing those same words had appeared in the text of a speech I’d given as Twain himself only to find out later the inaccuracy of it was a huge mistake, I said to my friend:  “I did.”

Do you ever get the impression that believability is more the intent of using the quotation marks than it is to give credit to the source?  And when credit is given, although often not factual, is the name used just intended to give the platitude some authority?  Another thing that helps people to believe almost anything is to attach a photograph of a celebrity, even though that celebrity did not say, or have anything else whatsoever to do with the quote.  While it’s a good idea not to believe everything you see on the internet, Abraham Lincoln never declared it to be unwise, and neither did Thomas Jefferson.  And it is also correct not to give either credit for saying:

“Haste Makes Waste.”

I’ve seen it attributed to John Ray, Benjamin Franklin, and Sinclair Lewis, but I think it is much older.  It could’ve been something Noah was saying to the animals he noticed eating their rations too quickly.  However good of a caution it might be for those who tend to be careless, it can be tragic if taken too seriously by firemen, ambulance drivers, and athletes in most sporting events.

The frequency of hijacking names and images of celebrities is that sometimes the quotes would not have any impact if only you or I said them.  In fact, if I said some of them that are circulating right now, you would be able to see through it right away.  And the point is to not have you see through it. So, if the intent is to motivate the masses, they will use a popular figure.  And if the intent is to draw disfavor, they use a despicable one.  For example, Niccolo Machiavelli never said:

“The ends justify the means.”

What he actually said was:  “One must consider the final result.”   I think it reasonable to want to predict the outcome, or to “look before you leap”, so to speak.  But to add justification for anything believing the end result might be to your benefit, is perhaps the root of all bandit decisions.

I’m sure you’ve noticed some of these fake postings want to encourage some ideology or other, occasionally including something intended to sound like highly moral instruction.  But most seem to hover around religion and politics, as well as other kinds of things that might be considered inappropriate at the dinner table.  The reason for such taboos may have to do with the difficulty of getting anyone to pass the biscuits around due to concerns about who among those seated might be worthy of having one.  Some of you would have starved to death years ago, were it not for this measure of etiquette.

Now, not all of these fake quotes and misguided philosophies are so full of deceptive intent, nor are they all mean-spirited.  Some are just incomplete, and the person posting it is unaware of what might be missing, such as the logic of it that might benefit a sane person.  Some are not intending to mislead anybody, but instead are meant to comfort all who might read it.  But even that does not guarantee their validity. for example (I’ve said it myself):

“Time heals all wounds.”

It is reasonable to notice some wounds do heal over time, and to the extent that the harm or hurt originally felt by the wound is no longer a problem.  But that time would heal all wounds is not true.  In fact, scientists in the sub-discipline of anthropology that deals exclusively with mummies have found empirical evidence that would suggest this isn’t true, or at least is not true all the time.  As a youth, I broke a few bones.  They healed for a while, but now that I’m getting older, time is no longer a benefit, as they all seem to get more aggravating as the  years roll by.  I think it better to say:

  “Wounds that heal usually take time to do so.” and,                                                                       “Old wounds that have completely healed hurt a lot less than they did at first, until you get old.”

Or, we could say:  “Time wounds all heels,”  but it doesn’t.  And because some wounds do seem to heal in time, a corollary that’s right up there with it is:

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

Oh, really?  Well, no.  Some injuries and diseases can leave a person forever weaker than they would have been otherwise.  And weaker is not the same as stronger, or at least it wasn’t back at Park Hills Elementary School.  No, I think there are much better ways to build up strength than just surviving a close call with the Grim Reaper.

But this does not mean we cannot rise above some adversities.  In many cases, we can become aware of, or even develop a new passion that leads to our attempting things we would never have thought about trying before.  Yes, we can learn from trauma, but not everybody learns something positive from it every time.  Living through a collision with a train does not in and of itself improve your chances of future survivals if you continue a habit of running into trains.  But even if the statement were some kind of axiom, what else would we learn from it?

“What makes you stronger won’t kill you?”                                                                                 “What does kill you will not make you stronger, and could even weaken you?”                 “What makes you weaker could be hazardous to your health?”                                              “Is any of this the secret behind Superman’s amazing strength?” 

Maybe it would just be better if we were to say:

“What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you.”  and,

“What makes you stronger, makes you stronger.”  or,

“Hey!  Watch me cook on that stove without setting my clothes on fire this time!”

In a world where we are effected by experiences determined by strengths and weaknesses, we learn to temper our impulses.  If a seasoned lioness detects a herd of gazelles, she instinctively knows not to run after the first gazelle she sees, but looks to see which one will most likely result in a successful kill.  It is natural for her to use strengths and abilities to take advantage of some recognized weakness.  And as she moves to improve her position, she has learned that the hunger she feels will best be served if she doesn’t leap out prematurely.  So, from that, and from other lessons, we’ve been taught to accept that:

“Good things come to those who wait.”

I’ve known some waiters that said they got good tips.  So, sometimes good things do come to those who wait.  But when they do, the cause of it may not always have anything to do with the act of being patient.  If “those who wait” were the genuine target of good things, you’d expect them to occur more frequently at bus stops, wouldn’t you?  That being the case, we could substitute “Buses” for “Good things”, and it should read:

“Buses come to those who wait at the proper bus stop, and have arrived in a timely manner according to the bus schedule, assuming the bus does not break down or become delayed for some other reason.”

More often than not, I suspect a lot of good things happen because folks took action to make them happen.  Perhaps it would be better to say some things of value evade those with the character flaw defined as the inability to postpone gratification.  That’s why baited traps work.  But even that is not always true.  Some decisions made in haste do not result in waste:  impulses fueled with adrenalin have often saved lives.  That being said, good things, then, can also come to those who hurry up a little bit, too.

Often, the encouragement to expect something good if we wait for it comes on the heels of a disappointment.  When young couples break up, one or the other might expect to hear:  “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”  And there may be, but it’s still a good idea to use the right kind of bait and hook, or at least have a good net if you want to catch one.

Patience may be a virtue, but let’s not confuse it with procrastination.  We might wait for a good thing, but it is possible to do so beyond the point of diminishing return.  That was a point made of Ebenezer Scrooge’s postponing a commitment to the girl that would have been the love of his life to a time when the window of opportunity was not just closed, it was boarded up.  So, might it be more honest of us to declare:

“Things happen; some good, and others not so good.  They happen while we are doing things, and also while we are just waiting to see what will happen next.  And whether it be good or bad, will not be necessarily improved or even determined by the time spent waiting for it to happen.”

While some are on standby in anticipation of a good thing happening along, others accept the call to do quite the opposite, and:

“Strike while the iron is hot.”  

In fairness, the intent of that one is to urge us to recognize when an opportunity has reached its greatest potential, and to take advantage of it right then.  It’s an old proverb.  Some think it was something cowboys said while branding cattle, but that’s not true.  Instead, it comes from the idea of a blacksmith working at his forge.  If you’re shaping horseshoes, that may be wise.  And even so if you’re pounding a piece of steel into the shape of a sword or an ax.  But if you want to cut down a tree with that ax, you might wanna let it cool off a bit before striking the tree with it.  So can we mix this proverb with the one before it to get some kind of double wisdom out of it?

“Strike while the iron is hot…as long as you wait for the good stuff.”

No, that doesn’t make any sense.  I suppose if your business with the iron is some pressing matter, you’ll want to make sure it’s plugged in properly, or if not an electric one, has had ample time on the stove to be ready for service.  And for goodness sakes (after all, what are we waiting for?) don’t be late, because:

“The Early Bird Gets The Worm.”

A thing to keep in mind, is that today, competitive compensation packages often include a lot more enticements than worms, and that is true for all kinds of creatures, not just birds.  The early cheetah may get the impala, but the hyenas that show up a few minutes later might take it away from her.

I’m not suggesting you not come in early and get started.  There are lots of sensible reinforcements for being prompt.  I’ve never used them personally, but I’m sure they are out there.  Just remember that while Benjamin Franklin was noted for saying: “Early to bed and early to rise…”, he found himself doing business in a French court that got started about mid-day, and carried their business into the wee hours.  But if we scroll through our list of platitudes and proverbs with hammer and nails to connect them all together, we might find some weaknesses in our structure:

“The early bird might get the worm, but not necessarily the good worms.  Those come to the more patient birds; the ones who wait.  Now, the early worms can make you strong if they don’t kill you later.  But even if they do, you’ll get over it…in time”

Then comes the promises we’ve made to ourselves and others that there will be some additional leverage to be expected quite above and beyond nature itself, if our intent is selfish enough.  For, you see:

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Seems I’ve read somewhere that over 80% of the American people surveyed in one study actually believed this to be a quote from The Bible, although it isn’t.  In a conversation I had on that very subject recently, a man did tell me he thought that “…it used to be”, which I found…interesting.  Perhaps there was some misunderstanding, and that it should have said:  “God helps those who help others?”  If that had been the saying, you might be able to find some liturgy to support it.

Observations of the activities leading up to the arrest of some criminals, who “helped themselves” to other people’s property, found no evidence the Deity was cooperating with, or having any complicity to their crimes. This could of course be argued by those who do not believe in free will, but if we’re going after that can of worms, we’ll need a much bigger bird, or at least a bigger can opener than the one I brought with me here, no matter how early we start.  But please keep in mind many books have been written giving various deities credit for saying this or that, on the presumption that their authority will carry some weight with those who listen.

But the encouragement to take the initiative in anticipation of help from outside our own strength, is often in harness with another saying that urges us to think positively, and not be held back by the fear of failure.  I support that kind of encouragement and for having a positive attitude, as long as it is used with an awareness of what is attainable,  and is also realistic.  Now, here is an actual quote:

“When there is harmony between mind, heart and resolution, then nothing is impossible.”                                           ~ Ritu Ghatourey

I think it may be a bit unfair to the laws of physics and chemistry to say “nothing is impossible”, unless you are of the opinion alchemists gave up to soon on the prospects of turning lead into gold.  But in matters of human endeavors:

“Impossible is a concept.  It cannot exist in you as an idea unless you believe something to be impossible.  While it may be impossibility in fact, it will not be the fact, but the thinking it is that will keep you from trying.” ~ (things I’ve said before)

More commonly, you more likely have heard people say:

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

That may be true if you’re very sleepy, and put your mind to a nice enough pillow intending to go to sleep.  Still, I would add there are some points that have to be qualified.  One of them is that you have to have the ability to do what is required.  You can stand on the top of a skyscraper putting your whole mind into believing you can fly like a bird.  And with only the use of your naked body, you might jump and flap your arms, but you would be acting on what I believe would be a delusional concept.  But if you scramble around, I’m sure you can find a quote to justify your thinking:

“Might as well jump. Jump!  Go ahead, jump. Jump! ”  ~ Van Halen

The prospects of the results of such an action may be less than satisfactory.  I’m sure you can think of other examples of things that would be more than just foolish to attempt under any realistic circumstances.  And I’m fairly certain the not knowing you cannot fly like a bird, is not going to result in any long lasting pleasure and joyfulness if you jump from the top of The Empire State Building.  So with that, consider that people have often also said:

“Ignorance is bliss.”

Now, it is true that finding out about some truth or reality can take away some previous sense of happiness, if the information proves to be in contrast with some of our sense of well-being, or wishful thinking.  For that reason some would prefer to not accept anything as true if it would refute or challenge the way they are hoping things are.

But can we presume it to be an equation?  If ignorance is bliss, then bliss is ignorance?  If that were true, it would take all the joy out of discovery, wouldn’t it?  It would also require that learning anything whatsoever will bring about unhappiness, and that just isn’t true at all, is it?  If the Spanish Inquisition had known that what Galileo was telling them was true about the planets orbiting the sun, then the knowledge, and not the prevailing ignorance, might have made for a much happier ending to the story.  As it was, he was convicted of heresy, and sentenced to life imprisonment–but only after openly claiming things he knew to be true, were lies.

Bliss is synonymous with joy and happiness.  It is not usually considered an insult to say someone is happy, but it regularly is received as such if you call them “ignorant”, even when some other words are used that mean the same thing.  You may have said something similar about someone else in the past without for a minute thinking you meant they were “happy”.  

Happiness is a by-product of getting something you want, or having something you want to happen occur, isn’t it?  And to some degree, it can be keeping something at bay that you don’t want to happen.  Even if we allow it to mean “contentment”, and associate it with a state of mind that exists not knowing a tree is about to fall on us, or that a large predator is about to pounce.  The tree nor the predator, or our awareness or lack of awareness of them can take credit for any pre-existing happy state we may have been in.

We could have been sitting there completely sad about something, just the same.  In fact, a person could be sitting there completely ignorant they had just purchased the winning lottery ticket.  A state of being happy or sad could be changed by becoming aware of some pending boon or doom, but the previously held attitude existed because of other things entirely.

No, ignorance in such a sense is at best hapless, or even stupid.  The not knowing might leave us still momentarily blissful, but the happiness is being felt due to some other circumstances that had already made us feel happy; some vision, some sound, or smell perhaps.  It will not be the ignorance that caused the happiness, but rather we are happy (for some reason) in spite of what we do not know.  Also, ignorance is not a quality that would normally lead to being able to accomplish much of anything that you would need to know how to do, that would lead to you being happy about it.  Your state of mind could be sad while being ignorant of some pending wonderful thing.  But that does not mean ignorance is sadness, does it?  Maybe we should say:

“Ignorance is not knowing something, that if you knew, might leave you feeling happy, sad, or just indifferent.  The lack of knowledge about anything does not change what it is.  And the ignorance of it does not improve the chances that you will deal with whatever it is in any beneficial way.  It just means you don’t know any better.”

Or, shall we even consider shuffling the deck again?  If we did, might we come up with:

“Blissful we are to Strike without knowing whether the iron is hot or not.  For as long as we put our mind to it, God will give us the boost we need every time, assuming our motive is a selfish one.  But if not, we should act quickly to be patient, though not too hastily, knowing the best is yet to come, and that we will eventually heal over time, as long as we are the first in line for the worms.  And when we feel strengthened by this, we will know with a degree of certainty, that something did not kill us.  Amen.”

So just because something is in quotes does not mean it is always true.  And if a credit is given after the quote, it does not always mean that person actually said it.  Think I’m overstating it, and that you are above being tripped up by such measures?  If you participate in social media, I’m sure you’ve seen:

“I am not what happened to me.  I am what I choose to become.”                                                                                        ~ Carl G. Jung, “MemoriesDreamsReflections”

However, that statement is nowhere to be found in that book, nor can I find evidence that Jung ever even said such a thing at any time.  In fact, I personally doubt he ever did, as it would seem so out of character for him, but I could be wrong.  Also, consider this famous statement:

“You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Most people will be absolutely certain they know who said this.  In books, speeches, sermons, conversations all over the planet, these words are used and attributed to Abraham Lincoln.  Some of you are right now saying:  “But he did say it.  I know he did.”  You think so?  You will not find it in any collections of Lincoln’s speeches, nor was it even mentioned by the newspaper covering his speech at the time he was supposed to have said it.  In fact, there is no real evidence that he ever said it, though you’ll find credit given to him for it all over the internet.

And before go off trying to find it, you might also want to see if you can find where Thomas Jefferson actually said:

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

You won’t.