"Minimaxims for My Godson"
(from: Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul - By Arthur Gordon)
4-26-2000 SOW Seeds Service from Church Within #81
Greetings my Dearest Sisters and Brothers, and welcome again to Church Within Story of the Week ["SOW Seeds]
This week's SOW Seeds - #81 , contributed by: Cynthia Taylor
Story of the Week
Minimaxims for My Godson
(from: Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul - By Arthur Gordon)
Your nice thank-you note for the graduation present I sent you a few weeks ago just came in, and I've been chuckling over your postscript in which you say that such presents are dandy but you wish someone could give you "half a dozen foolproof ideas for bending the world into a pretzel."
Well, Sandy, I must admit I don't have any very original thoughts of my own. But through the years I've encountered a few ideas of that kind -- not platitudes but ideas sharp-pointed enough to stick in my mind permanently. Concepts that release energy, make problem-solving easier, provide shortcuts to worthwhile goals. No one handed them over in a neat package. They just came along from time to time, usually from people not in the wisdom-dispensing business at all. Compared to the great time-tested codes of conduct, they may seem like pretty small change. But each of them has helped make my life a good deal easier and happier and more productive. So here they are. I hope you find them useful, too.
**If you can't change facts, try bending your attitudes.**
Without a doubt, the bleakest period of my life so far was the winter of 1942 to 1943. I was with the Eighth Air Force in England. Our bomber bases, hacked out of the sodden English countryside, were seas of mud. On the ground, people were cold, miserable and homesick. In the air, people were getting shot. Replacements were few; morale was low.
But there was one sergeant -- a crew chief -- who was always cheerful, always good-humored, always smiling. I watched him one day, in a freezing rain, struggle to salvage a Fortress that had skidded off the runway into an apparently bottomless mire. He was whistling like a lark. "Sergeant," I said to him sourly, "how can you whistle in a mess like this?"
He gave me a mud-caked grin. "Lieutenant," he said, "when the facts won't budge, you have to bend your attitudes to fit them, that's all."
Check it for yourself, Sandy. You'll see that, faced with a given set of problems, one man may tackle them with intelligence, grace and courage; another may react with resentment and bitterness; a third may run away altogether. In any life, facts tend to remain unyielding. But attitudes are a matter of choice -- and that choice is largely up to you.
**Don't come up to the net behind nothing.**
One night in a PTA meeting, a lawyer -- a friend and frequent tennis partner of mine -- made a proposal that I disagreed with, and I challenged it. But when I had concluded what I thought was quite a good spur-of-the-moment argument, my friend stood up and proceeded to demolish it. Where I had opinions, he had facts; where I had theories, he had statistics. He obviously knew so much more about the subject than I did that his viewpoint easily prevailed. When we met in the hall afterward, he winked and said, "You should know better than to come up to the net behind nothing!"
It is true; the tennis player who follows his own weak or badly placed shot up to the net is hopelessly vulnerable. And this is true when you rush into anything without adequate preparation or planning. In any important endeavor, you've got to do your homework, get your facts straight and sharpen your skills. In other words, don't bluff -- because if you do, nine times out of ten, life will drill a backhand right past you.
**When the ball is over, take off your dancing shoes.**
As a child, I used to hear my aunt say this, and it puzzled me a good deal, until the day I heard her spell out the lesson more explicitly. My sister had come back from a glamorous weekend full of glitter, exciting parties and stimulating people. She was bemoaning the contrast with her routine job, her modest apartment and her day-to-day friends. "Young lady," our aunt said gently, "no one lives on the top of the mountain. It's fine to go there occasionally -- for inspiration, for new perspectives. But you have to come down. Life is lived in the valleys. That's where the farms and gardens and orchards are, and where the plowing and the work are done. That's where you apply the visions you may have glimpsed from the peaks."
It's a steadying thought when the time comes, as it always does, to exchange your dancing shoes for your working shoes.
**Shine up your neighbor's halo.**
One Sunday morning, drowsing in a back pew of a little country church, I dimly heard the old preacher urge his flock to "stop worrying about your own halo and shine up your neighbor's!" And it left me sitting up, wide-awake, because it struck me as just about the best eleven- word formula for getting along with people that I've ever heard.
I like it for its implication that everyone, in some area of life, has a halo that's worth watching for and acknowledging. I like it for the firm way it shifts the emphasis from self to interest and concern for others. Finally, I like it because it reflects a deep psychological truth: People have a tendency to become what you expect them to be.
**Keep one eye on the law of the echo.**
I remember very well the occasion when I heard this sharp-edged bit of advice. Coming home from boarding school, some of us youngsters were in the dining car of a train. Somehow the talk got around to the subject of cheating on exams, and one boy readily admitted that he cheated all the time. He said that he found it both easy and profitable.
Suddenly a mild-looking man sitting all alone at a table across the aisle -- he might have been a banker, a bookkeeper, anything -- leaned forward and spoke up. "Yes," he said directly to the apostle of cheating. "All the same -- I'd keep one eye on the law of the echo if I were you."
The law of the echo -- is there really such a thing? Is the universe actually arranged so that whatever you send out -- honesty or dishonesty, kindness or cruelty -- ultimately comes back to you? It's hard to be sure. And yet, since the beginning of recorded history, mankind has had the conviction, based partly on intuition, partly on observation, that in the long run a man does indeed reap what he sows.
You know as well as I do, Sandy, that in this misty area there are no final answers. Still, as the man said, "I think I'd keep one eye on the law of the echo if I were you!"
**Don't wear your raincoat in the shower.**
In the distant days when I was a Boy Scout, I had a troop leader who was an ardent woodsman and naturalist. He would take us on hikes, not saying a word, and then challenge us to describe what we had observed: trees, plants, birds, wildlife, everything. Invariably we hadn't seen a quarter as much as he had, nor half enough to satisfy him. "Creation is all around you," he would cry, waving his arms in vast inclusive circles, "but you're keeping it out. Don't be a buttoned-up person! Stop wearing your raincoat in the shower!"
I've never forgotten the ludicrous image of a person standing in the shower with a raincoat buttoned up to his chin.
The best way to discard that raincoat, I've found, is to expose yourself to new experiences in your life all your life.
All these phrases that I have been recalling really urge one to the same goal: a stronger participation, a deeper involvement in life. This doesn't come naturally, by any means. And yet, with marvelous impartiality, each of us is given exactly the same number of minutes and hours in every day. Time is the raw material. What we do with it is up to us.
A wise man once said that tragedy is not what we suffer, but what we miss. Keep that in mind, Sandy.
Your affectionate godfather.
Please help me not to Miss anything.
You ALL are Within the Infinitely Loving Embrace of our Universal
The Creator's Eternal Love, through me, to all of You,
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