STANDING ON THE ACHING SHOULDERS OF THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

Don’t you absolutely love pithy quotes? They always get me thinking either because I agree with it, or because I don’t.

Today I went wandering down the mental pathways of history because someone repeated something I’ve heard a million times before, the ubiquitous quote everyone has heard and at which, we automatically nod in agreement. Everyone says it, so it has to be true, doesn’t it?

Everything that is happening or will ever happen, has happened before. That most people don’t remember and have never read any history is sad. Yet I have come to believe that ignorance of history has little bearing on what we (collectively) do.

I love history. I want other people to love it as much as I do, if for no better reason than to give me more people to talk to who share my passion. As a history buff, I want to believe if people knew history, they would not repeat the same bad behavior, make the same errors as we’ve made in the past.

That’s wishful thinking. We think a lack of knowledge is the root of the evil but there are other reasons. The biggest one? Ego.

Hitler (for example) wanted to be Charlemagne or Napoleon. He knew history. He was not unaware or unread. He wanted to rewrite history, stand on its shoulders and laugh at the past.

Lack of awareness or failure to remember is a symptom, not the problem.

It’s our human determination to prove history wrong which is so destructive. More to the point, we — humankind — want to prove we are above or outside history, not subject to its rules. This stubbornness is at the core of many of the most monstrous, terrible things we do. We keep trying to prove we aren’t subject to the same forces that have directed the past.

Not remembering history does not condemn us to repeat it. Refusing to accept the outcome of history because we want what we want — usually in combination with greed and a lust for power — that is what condemns us.

MY MISERY DOESN’T LOVE COMPANY – Marilyn Armstrong

We say stuff because it’s a thing everyone says. I mean, you know, it’s a saying. So we say it. A saying is something to say when you don’t really have anything meaningful or original to say. Sometimes, if you get the right saying, it makes you sound clever and perceptive. Mostly, it makes you sound like you don’t have anything to say. Just saying.

Today I would like to analyze Misery loves company.

This is a truism and a popular saying to which I cannot relate. What, exactly, does it mean? Do any of the following (or perhaps all of the following) apply to you?

— Miserable people like being with other miserable people.

— Miserable people like to make others miserable too.

— Miserable people hate being alone.

— Miserable people like being miserable.

— Misery spurs creativity.

— Miserable people resent it when the people around them are happy.

I don’t like being miserable. When I am unhappy, I don’t want to be around anyone. I want to hide. If I’m unable to hide, I put on my best fake smile and make a Happy Face. Being alone requires a lot less effort.

I don’t find unhappiness, depression or any kind of misery inspirational. Quite the opposite. When I’m down, I don’t want to write. I don’t want to take pictures. I don’t feel creative and I don’t care to share the feeling. Come to think of it, that’s not entirely true. When my mother died and I was in Israel, my Rabbi looked at me and said: “You’re a writer. So WRITE.”

I wrote. It wound being published and everybody cried. I guess that was my equivalent of misery loving company. And it was a near moment of fame for me. Literally, hundreds of people read the paper and cried on buses, at work, in coffee shops. I really shared that misery.

Since I hate being a drag, I usually stay away from everybody but the dogs. They don’t care about my moods. They’re just glad to be in my company, especially if I have a sandwich.

Humans, on the other hand, ask questions I don’t want to answer. Being around people who are equally miserable does not make me feel better unless it’s a funeral and misery is the heart of the event. Mostly, though, depressed friends increase my misery quotient. This concept doesn’t work for me. If it’s a truism, for whom is it true?

Are you miserable? Does your sadness make you want to be with other down-hearted people? Does it make you want to find happy people and explain to them why anyone who is happy simply doesn’t understand the situation?

Does sadness inspire you to write, paint or do something creative? Just wondering.

Because when I’m unhappy or depressed, the only thing I want is to stop feeling that way. Quickly. The world is a sad place too much of the time. I’d rather not make it worse.

BY YOUR OWN PETARD, THOU ART HOISTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!”

By which meant he had just become the victim of what he (in this case a movie character) had planned for someone else. Then, I paused, thinking.

“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”

“I have no idea,” said my husband.  Which is when I realized I’ve been using this expression my whole life and don’t know what it means.

Petard sounds French, but what is it? I grabbed my laptop and typed  “hoist on his … ” into Google. Before I got to petard … up it came. Don’t you just love when that happens?

petards

Voila! Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the rest of the story.

petard was a bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. Castles. Walled cities. That sort of thing. The word was originally (duh) French and dates to the sixteenth century.

Typically, a petard was metal (bronze or iron), shaped like a cone or box. Filled with two or three kilos (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder and using a slow match for a fuse, the petard was a primitive, powerful and unstable explosive device.

After being filled with gunpowder, it would be attached to a wooden base and fastened to a wall, on or under a gate. The fuse was lit. If all went as planned, the explosion would blow a hole big enough to let assault troops through.

Thus the phrase “hoist on his/her own petard” came to mean “harmed by one’s own plan to harm someone else.” It suggests you could be lifted — hoisted — by your own bomb.

THEORETICALLY SPEAKING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Theory

Theoretically speaking, “This too shall pass.” With all the hysteria, fervor, passion, anger, sheer madness … THIS TOO SHALL PASS.


Her son died. Her husband died. Their father died. His brother died, then his father. It was. Cancer. Heart attack. A minor infection turned virulent. A holdup gone wrong, a bullet gone astray. Senseless because death, disease, disaster are always senseless.

What to say? “This too shall pass.”

My mother said it all the time. It was her favorite expression. I never thought about it. She said it to comfort me when I was unhappy or when something had gone badly. It never occurred to me the expression was more than something a mother says when consoling a child.

It turns out the expression has a long, ancient history. It has been used to comfort a nation at war, a country consumed by unrest. Families, individuals, kingdoms. They are words you use when you run out of words.

king-solomon-cc

This too shall pass” (Persianاین نیز بگذرد‎, Arabicلا شيء يدوم‎, Hebrewגם זה יעבור‎) is an adage indicating that all conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.

The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets. The phrase is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by these simple words. Some versions of the fable, beginning with that of Attar of Nishapur, add the detail that the phrase is inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad — and the sad man happy. 

The legend of the quote finds its roots in the court of a powerful eastern Persian ruler who called his sages (wise men) to him, including the Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur and asked them for one quote that would be accurate at all times and in all situations. The wise men consulted with one another and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally came up with the answer … “This too shall pass.”

The ruler was so impressed by the quote that he had it inscribed in a ring.

Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The adage and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald and also used by Abraham Lincoln in a speech before he became President.

And when words fail me, I find my mother’s voice echoing in my head.

This too shall pass.

In theory.

COVET NOT YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS

So there we were in the car driving home. I was mentally shuffling the heap of miscellaneous stuff that passes for my brain and trying to remember all ten of the commandments.

Moses the Celebriduck

 

Why? Because I thought I should know them. They are supposedly the basis of all moral law, right? Why don’t I know them? Why aren’t they all on the tip of my tongue?

I found myself at a full stop around seven or eight, depending on how I divided the “How to behave to God” section which contains a lot of run-on sentences that could be interpreted as two or sometimes even three commandments but have — I suppose for convenience — been lumped into one.

I asked Garry if he knew the ten commandments. He replied, with some irritation, that he had to pay attention to the traffic. There wasn’t any traffic, except for one slow driver in front of us. I suppose Garry was trying to not ram him.

Finally, he admitted he didn’t know all of them, at least not in order.

“A sad state of affairs,” I pointed out, “When two educated souls cannot recite the ten commandments.”

“There’s a lot of stuff about not making idols. Not murdering or coveting.”

“Yeah, and taking one day off each week.”

When I got home, I looked them up.

Charlton Heston and the 10 commandments

It turns out there quite a few “proper behavior to God” commandments. Not all Christians — much less Jews — divide them the same way. You can count as many as fifteen (à la Mel Brooks in “History of the World, Part I”) or as few as eight. It depends on how you look at them — and punctuate the sentences.

Following are the Big Ten according to most Protestant sects, plus a second list containing my streamlined, easy-to-remember set.

Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)

  1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

I’ve always wondered how come we need laws from God to know that murder is not okay. Aren’t we born knowing this? Don’t we know without being told that stealing is bad? That we should take care of our parents and show them respect? Do we really need laws to tell us?

Modernization is all the rage, so here’s my take on them. Not etched in stone. Jealousy is mentioned once in the second commandment where it is good because it’s the Lord’s prerogative.

In the tenth, it’s covetousness, which is not good because jealousy is good for God, but not for us. That is also where your neighbor’s ass comes into the picture, one of the many things you are not supposed to covet.

A Streamlined Top Ten

  1. I’m God. The One and Only. Don’t forget it, not for a moment.
  2. Idols are O-U-T.
  3. Don’t swear using God’s name. Maybe no swearing at all. I’m not sure.
  4. Take a break on the seventh day of your week. It doesn’t matter what day you choose because when I started making the world, there were no calendars. So take your pick, then stick to it. Everyone gets the same day off, including your family, guests, slaves, servants, and animals. No work. Got that?
  5. Respect your parents. Take care of them.
  6. Don’t murder anyone.
  7. Don’t cheat on your spouse.
  8. Don’t steal stuff.
  9. Don’t lie.
  10. Don’t envy other people’s stuff, especially not your neighbor’s ass.

I’m just here to help.

YOU MEAN, IT ISN’T CHRISTMAS YET?

They are at it again, the annual group of “Let’s make EVERYONE SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS.” Not that anyone was ever prevented from saying it, mind you. Nor does everyone celebrate Christmas — and those who do not celebrate do not care what you say about it as long as you don’t make them celebrate your holiday.

I’m amazed that anyone takes this nonsense seriously. I’m barely ready for Thanksgiving. Give it a rest.

And guess who are the perps of this mini fiasco? It’s Bill O’Reilly, the sleazy sex-offender previously of Fox news, who is sniveling about Christmas. If he snivels and whines about the holidays, maybe no one will remember that he’s a sex offender. I’m pretty sure that’s what is really going on.

According to O’Reilly (who lied about violating the rights of the women in his workplace) we are being forced — FORCED!!! — to not say “Merry Christmas?” Amazingly, this has never happened to me or anyone else I know. No one has ever prevented me from saying Merry Christmas. Or, for that matter, forced me to say anything at all about the holidays. It has always been a matter of good matters and personal whimsy.

That’s right, world. No one has ever cared what I said about any holiday. Other than responding with a smile and a returned greeting, I’ve never met a anyone who gave a rat’s ass whether I said Merry Christmas, happy holiday, or “have a great time whatever you happen to celebrate” — which I occasionally say when I don’t know what holiday you celebrate or even if you celebrate anything.

Basically, I’m a nice person and I want you to enjoy your holidays, whatever they may be. So, I say Merry Christmas, assuming I’m reasonably sure you really celebrate Christmas. If I’m not sure, I go with “Have a great holiday!” If I know for sure you celebrate something else, I’ll try to remember what and greet you with that … and if I know you don’t celebrate anything, I just shut up and ask you “How’s it going?”

If I happen to say “Happy Holiday” and it turns out, you are gung-ho for Christmas — are you going to spit in my eye because I greeted you incorrectly? Using the wrong words and thereby stepping on your self-righteousness?

The cops aren’t going to pick me up for my accidental failure to greet you the way you want to be greeted.


There are no “political correctness” police.


Anyone can say whatever he or she wants including nothing. At all. So you can be friendly, or you can be a jerk. It’s not about religion or beliefs. It’s about being civil to other people who may or may not share your background. The whole little spiel about how I can leave if I don’t celebrate your customs? Since when did your customs become mine? Talk about offensive … you’ve got a lot of nerve! What’s next, forced conversion?

I am tired of oppressed “Christians” whose idea of oppression is not getting everything exactly the way they want it — and who grouse about oppression because they might have to move their crèche to the church around the corner.

When you live in a country where you can have a church — have a dozen churches — and attend all of them, any time? That is freedom. What you want is spiritual tyranny. The laws to which you refer do not exist. The police don’t care. Basically, neither do I. I’m just being polite. To you.

I’m going to make a suggestion: No matter what anyone says? Smile and say “thank you.” That’s a win-win for everyone.


Don’t be a jerk. Let everyone enjoy their holidays their own way.


IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN

They are at it again, the annual “lets make EVERYONE SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS.” Not that anyone was ever prevented from saying it, mind you … or that every celebrates it, either. The leaves have just changed and I don’t know what we’re eating for Thanksgiving this year, but it’s never to early to start whining about the holidays.

That’s right Bill O’Reilly, the sleazy sex-offender previously of Fox news, is sniveling about Christmas. If he snivels and whines about the holidays, maybe no one will remember that he’s a sex offender.

Did you know that folks are being forced — FORCED!!! — to not say “Merry Christmas?” I’m 71 and no one has ever prevented me from saying Merry Christmas. Or, for that matter, forced me to say anything at all about the holidays. It has always been a matter of good matters and personal whimsy.

That’s right, world. No one has ever cared what I said about any holiday. Other than responding with a smile and a returned greeting, I’ve never met a anyone who gave a rat’s ass whether I said Merry Christmas, happy holiday, or “have a great time whatever you happen to celebrate” — which I occasionally say when I don’t know what holiday you celebrate or even if you celebrate anything.

Basically, I’m a nice person and I want you to enjoy your holiday. So, I say Merry Christmas if I’m reasonably sure you celebrate Christmas. I would say something different if I thought you celebrated something else … or don’t celebrate anything for whatever reason. If I happen to say “happy holidays,” you’re going to spit in my eye? Because I greeted you with the wrong words and stepped on your self-righteousness?

The cops aren’t going to pick me up for my accidental failure to greet you the way you want to be greeted.


There are no “political correctness” police.


Anyone can say whatever he or she wants to say and that includes saying nothing. At all. So you can be friendly, or you can be a jerk. It’s not about religion or beliefs. It’s about being civil to other people who may or may not share your background. The whole little spiel about how I can leave if I don’t celebrate your customs? Since when did your customs become mine? Talk about offensive … you’ve got a lot of nerve!

I am tired of oppressed “Christians” whose idea of oppression is to not get everything exactly the way they want it — and who snivel about oppression because they have to move their crèche to the church around the corner.

You live in a country where you can have a church. You can have a dozen churches and attend all of them. Any time. That is freedom. What you want is spiritual tyranny.

The laws to which you refer do not exist. The police don’t care. Basically, neither do I. I’m just being polite. To you. For no special reason.

I’m going to make a suggestion: No matter what anyone says? Smile and say “thank you.” That’s a win-win for everyone involved.