What is the most important thing anyone said to you? I would find that hard to identify but certainly I can remember remarks which have stayed with me, and have undoubtedly affected my life and the way I think. How about you?
For example, I remember Trevor – who was a colleague of mine in a job I held briefly over 50 years ago. Something must have been upsetting me. Maybe I had just had a wigging from the boss, or perhaps I was worried that my money would run out before the month did. Trevor noticed that I was upset or concerned, and he said to me: “You can think about disasters in two ways: either you can be happy about them or you can be unhappy about them.”
I had to agree, although I couldn’t see his point. He went on: “Does how you feel about it make the slightest difference to the disaster?” It had never occurred to me, but I had to agree that it made no difference.
“Right.” he said “You might just as well feel happy about it.”
It all sounded a bit too easy. But in fact I have found over the years that Trevor’s advice has often helped me to avoid being unhappy or over-anxious. For example, every news bulletin we hear at the moment contains portents of disaster. My feelings about this won’t mend the financial situation – or damage it for that matter. Why let myself feel cast down about it all?
In fact, feeling happy about it actually helps me to look at it objectively, and to bring my practical wisdom (prudence) to bear. Are there actions I can take to make sure that my affairs are in the best order to deal with the future? Should I reduce my charitable contributions or increase them because my neighbour may be suffering more?These are not decisions which benefit from emotion; they require the cool head of a happy man.
Come and share with us any advice you have received, or insight you have achieved, which you have found especially valuable over the years. Give us a chance to benefit too.
Perhaps an obvious follow-on from Trevor’s – it’s just as easy to smile as to scowl at a stranger, and much likelier to make him happy.
I remember this from an older friend, many years ago: “Take what you want from life, – and pay for it”.
Before any meeting or encounter, to pray to the Holy Spirit for the right words to use. I can’t remember where this came from – apart from the scriptures themselves of course – but can I say, it really works. Prayers for healing? – ask somebody else! Most of the people I have prayed for have died. Lost something? That prayer doesn’t always work either (although the hit rate is I think better than chance). But prayer to the Holy Spirit for wisdom – I don’t know I have ever had it refused! Solomon got an awful lot wrong. But this bit he got spot on.
I re-call reading an incident involving the late President Reagan. It involved an official photographer who told of how he was given just a few minutes to get his family pictures of the President in the White House before he went to his next meeting. The photographer was getting all upset because his allotted time was slipping away and everything was going wrong and he was getting more and more harassed and upset with himself, especially as everyone else in the room was trying to hurry him along. The President saw his discomfort and simply said to him: ‘Take your time . Everyone has to make a dollar.’
It is not a very profound statement but it has taught me a lot about patience and other people’s problems and difficulties and of the ability for me to say in a similar situatiion; “Take your time everyone has to make a dollar.” (If the most powerful of men can hold this view it also teaches a lot about status and how to use it.)
The other one liner I like , and which pays off is : “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Incidentally, for those unaware of the fact, President Reagan was a great supporter of the unborn in the womb and their right to life. One of his speeches on this topic brings tears to the eyes.It is on a par with ‘I have a dream’ but has not enjoyed the same ‘air time.’
One of the favourite saying of my mothers was ‘Stop complaining there is always someone worse off than yourself.!, And when we complained about the food she would say ‘Think of all the poor starving children who have nothing to eat!
A remark from Wittgenstein: “A cloud of philosophy condensed into a drop of grammar”
Mine is a bit like Clarets but with a less starry cast. Nearly 20 years ago I was working at a large college in Surrey running the gauntlet of the M25 in Kent to get there. One evening my car broke down at work, one of the fitters who worked there on the maintenance crew came by to help me with it. I remember vividly being in a frustrated sort of a mood and bashing away trying to unscrew a spark plug or something and the fitter, who was an Italian, said to me
“You’ll never fix it working at that speed. calm down a bit..”
Just a moment but I’ve never forgotten that man or his calm unhurried nature, he was so helpful to me; his words stayed with me as a kind of gentle reproach to the inner frustrations which so often build up steam and lead to harshness with ourselves and then with others. I’ve always been grateful for that encounter and for a man who had the simple kindness to stop and help coupled with the courage to speak gently yet directly into anothers situation….He never needed a second chance to make that first impression.
A confession has to be part of your new life.
…Between the thought and the deed lies the shadow…TS Elliot, or something like that.
The word spoken in ‘lies woe to man who causes scandal to his neighbour’. I cant remember who said that.
I would have to say that I agree with Trevor. If for nothing else, I base my support on common-sense grounds. As much as it must be painful at times, taking a Buddhist position makes obvious sense. Perception is all; however stress and difficulty can be catalysts for change and progress, both in personal and political terms.
There is a caveat to all this. In the header post Quentin notes how Trevors wisdom became apparent ‘over time’
I have a deep personal revulsion regarding what might be termed ‘best of all possible worlds’ cliches. Trevor with his bright spark comment, had it been ventured at a time when I was not equipped to receive such a tricky little pearl, would have received very short thrift. I do think that much of the “smile even if its hurting” kind of stuff is costly learning which only comes with maturity unless one is possessed of a sunny disposition in which case most of the advice you ever give will be essentially worthless….
“Labour is sweet, for Thou hast toiled;
And care is light, for Thou hast cared … ” (Fr Faber)
Always helps me get things into perspective.
Yes, thats nice.
Mike’s Italian car mechanic reminded me of something my driving instructor said, all those years ago when I was learning. Driving along a busyish road in a shopping area, up ahead we saw a car trying to pull out, or to park, blocking the road. “If you see a snarl-up ahead”, my instructor advised, “Just slow down; chances are, by the time you get there it will have sorted itself out”. That advice could be extended beyond driving to a lot of things.
I very much enjoyed the contributions on this. I felt most at home with the ideas that people had actually used over a period and experienced as helpful. Although it’s always very personal.
Mike H. I think your Eliot quote is ““Between the idea /And the reality /Between the motion /And the act /Falls the Shadow” (Hollow Men)
Delightful to see Rahner and st.joseph both quoting Wittgenstein. (But helpful here to know whether these are from the early or late Wittgenstein, since he repudiated his early, but much better known, work.)
I have come across John Bunting’s thought before. But as I knew it, it was prefaced with “God says:”