Theories Can Crash and Burn

What Is Truth?

The two neatly dressed young men stood on my doorstep, ready to discuss various problems of society and offer their solution. They were well versed on issues of eternal consequence as well. Had I been open to instruction they’d have no doubt produced their Book of Mormon, ready to enlighten me.

Over the years I’ve observed a few things about human nature and beliefs, right and wrong. We talked a bit and I told them, “I believe if we really love the Truth above all — if we love it so much we’re willing to let truth delete all our pet theories and reasoning — God will show us what is true and we’ll make it to Heaven someday.”

One of my young listeners spoke up and quite sincerely agreed with me.

So there we stood, the Mennonite and the Mormons, totally disagreed on doctrine yet agreed on something vital. The power of God. The ability and willingness of God to enlighten seeking humans. Our ability to grasp it — if we let go of our own formulations.

Having just come through Easter season, we’ve been reminded of Jesus standing in Pilate’s Judgement Hall. Again we hear Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

He didn’t ask this because he really wanted to know. If you read the account you realize that Pilate knew full well what the facts were in this case. His question was really a sigh of frustration. a wish that truth would be more convenient for the situation he was facing.

This question has replayed through all ages, all issues, all human minds. Where in all this muddle of logic, feelings, rhetoric, and examples, do I find the truth?

Logic, Passion, Rhetoric, Reality

I’ve been pondering a variety of issues in the past few days, choosing certain avenues and exploring the adjoining side streets. What started this process was seeing a recently-published book on the Prohibition years in North America. In fact I bought it and am eager to read this writer’s take on the great experiment. A theory that should have worked — but instead crashed and burned.

Twenty-odd years back I did a study of the Women’s Movement both here and in Britain, mainly because of a friend who was really enthused about the subject. What we call the Women’s Movement today built up momentum in the late 1800s with a demand that the right to vote be extended to women. One arm of this movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTM), threw their weight behind this demand and gave the movement a lot of its rhetoric. They did not give the movement its ultimate direction.

Once women gained the right to vote, the WCTM focussed on pushing through Prohibition laws. As my friend explained, “Their hearts were in the right place.” They saw how many women and children were victims of poverty and abuse because the father, the family breadwinner, was at the mercy of his “thirst.” The WCTU wanted to rescue destitute families and relieve suffering caused by alcoholism. Yes, their hearts were in the right place. And they used some powerful, logical rhetoric.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
Etc.
From “The Ambulance Down in the Valley”
by Joseph Malins (1895)

Pondering the obvious failure of Prohibition started me thinking about the difference between Theory, Rhetoric, and Fact. Why so some things work so well in theory and not in fact? Skillful use of rhetoric fires people up, seemingly everyone gets on board, this is going to work — then what goes wrong?

To be continued.

Monday Morning Inspiration

Until I was thirteen I celebrated today as my birthday. My aunt said they took Mom into the hospital on March 26th and I was born that night. It wasn’t until I sent for my birth certificate that we learned I was actually born after midnight and my date of birth was registered as March 27th. In any case I’m thankful to have survived all these years. 🙂

MY MORNING MUSINGS

I went to bed early last night, so woke up at 5:30 am. Nice to get an early start to the day — I plan to get some sewing projects finished. And I read an inspiring article, perfect for a Monday morning.

When I first turn on my computer, the browser comes up with a list of suggested items for me to read. This morning Brianna Wiest’s article in Forbes Magazine caught my eye:
18 things You Need To Give Up To Become a High-Achieving Person.

Her list is a good one and she gives brief, practical explanations for each point. You can read the article here. Her advice isn’t new or surprising; I just hope young people going into their most productive years will take advantage of this wisdom. Trouble is, sometimes it takes a lifetime of living — and wasting precious time — before we really grasp these truths and their practical applications in our own lives.

One day I tried to persuade one of my teen co-workers to deal with her anger in a better way, she told me, “I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do. I want to make my own mistakes.” She went on to make some spectacular mistakes that broke her own heart as well as the hearts of those who cared about her. I’ve learned myself that falls can be painful and humiliating when life has to teach you the lessons you thought you didn’t need to learn.

One phrase in the opening paragraphs of this article caught my attention and I’m going to post it beside my desk as a great reminder for my years as a Senior. My energy is definitely limited these days. Oh, for the wisdom to spend it wisely!

Because our energy is limited each day, what we spend it on will define us in the future.
Brianna Wiest
WOMEN@FORBES

And we all know this one, which gives us the courage to change and hope for better days ahead:

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Time to Write

Time Management Woes

As you may realize, this past winter I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my lack of order and productivity. This isn’t new; all my life I’ve refused to be a slave to schedules and To-Do lists — but this has left me with a case of chronic indecision. Bogged down with “Where to start?”

Also, I’ve been a hoarder. Part of my effort to make improvements I’ve already written about: decrease the paper clutter; finish small writing projects. But the bigger projects still await my attention — and zeal. Too many “Started, not finished” projects are like a stone holding your head under water.

This week a book title popped up in BookBub:
10 time management choices that can change your life.

I checked it out and decided to take a chance. I’ve have been working my way through it in the past few days and it’s been nailing me right and left. Addressing issues like why you never get done the big things because of wasting time, indecision, procrastination. Creative people who hop from one project to another. Never finishing — or starting— a project because you’re too much of a perfectionist. Examples of others who sound so much like me. Ouch!

From what I’ve read so far, I can heartily endorse the book. How much benefit I get from it depends on how many changes I’m willing to make in my day-to-day activities. One quote really hit home, citing my prime nemesis:

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Goethe

Now I’m thinking specifically of my writing projects sitting on the back burner. The books I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, for example. I can see how lack of accountability and lack of a deadline have stalled me. You could say, “Filling my days with the things which matter least.”

I was once a part of a writing group that met once a week and was a real inspiration to keep working at my writing. I miss that. So I’d like to ask you readers for your suggestions. I’m looking for online writing partners or a group that will add some pressure, some deadlines.

Last night I googled and checked out online writing groups, hoping to find one where members exchange chapters for critiquing. Some beta readers or an editor who will reply in reasonable time and won’t cost this penniless writer a lot of dough. Not a given weekly writing assignment, but feed-back on my WIPs. (By e-mail; no Facebook, Yahoo groups or Skype.)

I’m hoping to find a few critique partners somewhat on my own wavelength. I’m happy to give feedback on others’ writing but don’t want to have to read ten zombi and/or horror chapters a week just to get feedback for my own mild tales. (Been there, done that once.)

Any suggestions? Anyone interested in reading and critiquing, sharing WIP projects? If so, please leave a comment, or email me at christinevanceg @ gmail.com

Pathway of the Living

by Edgar Guest

The pathway of the living is our ever-present care,
let us do our best to smooth it and to make it bright and fair.
Let us travel it with kindness, let’s be careful as we tread,
and give until the living what we’d offer to the dead.

The pathway of the living we can beautify and grace;
we can line it deep with roses and make earth a happier place.
But we’ve done all mortals can do, when our prayers are softly said
for the souls of those that travel o’er the pathway of the dead.

The pathway of the living all our strength and courage needs;
there we ought to sprinkle favors, there we ought to sow our deeds.
There our smiles should be the brightest, there our kindest words be said,
for the angels have the keeping of the pathway of the dead.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Writers & Clichés

An Exercise For Your Muse

Writers nowadays are urged to avoid overworked clichés. I’ve seen some writers come up with interesting metaphors and similes to replace the standard ones, but one must be careful that the new phrases don’t seem contrived.

You can say, “She was as angry as a picknicker when ants carried off the peach pie,” for “She was as mad as a wet hen,” but are you gaining? Instead of, “He was chomping at the bit,” you could say “He was like the guy with an appointment, waiting for a never-ending train,” but it’ll shoot up your word count.

At a writer’s group meeting one day we received sheets with old clichés or idioms. We were to pass them around and substitute something original to replace the old and overworked. In the course of sorting old papers I came across one of these this morning, so I’ll post it for you readers to ponder:

How would you modernize ‘He can’t see the forest for the trees’?

Some suggestions offered by our group:
The literal approach:
— He’s so close to the problem he can’t see the answer.
— Missing the broad point of view, he’s distracted by unimportant things.
— He needs to take a step back and get a better perspective.

The figurative approach:
— The fog is hiding the water.
— He couldn’t see the moon for the flock of geese.

Which would you choose — any other suggestions — or would you been inclined, in your own writing, to stick with the original since it’s so well know?

What I’ve Learned

Yesterday I went through a lot of old papers I’d squirreled away — and did a lot of shredding in the evening. 🙂 Also keyed in a number of items, including the following. I’ve no idea who wrote it, but it sounds like simple, yet profound, wisdom for life.

I’ve learned that…

— you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

— it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

— you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

— you can keep going long after you can’t.

— we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

— either you control your attitude or it controls you.

— heroes are the ones who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

— money is a lousy way of keeping score.

—my best friend and I can do anything, or nothing, and have the best time.

— sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down will be the ones to help you get back up.

— sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

— true friendship continues to grow even over the longest distance. Some goes for true love.

— just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

— maturity has more to do with what sort of life’s experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them, and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

— your family won’t always be there for you. It may seem funny, but people you aren’t related to can take care of you and love you and teach you to trust people again. Families aren’t always biological.

— no matter how good a friends is, they’re going to hurt you every once in awhile and you must forgive them for that.

— it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

— no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

— our background and experiences may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

— just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean that they do.

— we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

— you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.

— two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

— your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

— even when you think you have no more to give when a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength to help.

— credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

— the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.

Mr Google has helped me out yet again, directing me to a slightly longer version at this site: Roger Knapp.com