Sunday, December 28, 2008

Put your hand quickly to hat and slowly to purse

This dates from the days when most men wore hats and lifted them politely to ladies to show respect. It encourages the importance of good manners and regard for the rights of others.

But it also cautions you to be wary about money matters. It is all very well to be kind and considerate but charity begins at home. Being too generous to misfortunate others could end up bankrupting yourself and it is always a lot better to be able to give, than have to receive, a handout.

So, the advice is: be a good, considerate person but don't be over generous or careless with your finances.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bad luck often brings good luck

We all suffer bad luck from time to time: financial, emotional or just a broken cup, but it is rarely the end of the world. The loss of a job can be devastating but many people have found new and more worthwhile careers as a result of a down spell. Take time to revaluate your life and find new and better direction. Losing a partner will hurt but can lead to meeting someone more suitable.

The important thing about a random chance event that knocks you back is to look for the silver lining. Most very successful people have had major setbacks in their lives but they didn't let it stop them. Where there's a will there's a way.

After you have licked your wounds, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You may give him good advice, but who can give him the wit to take it?

This is a saying that might have the ladies smiling a knowing smile, and brings to mind some lines by the Scottish poet Robert Burns:

"O gentle dames it gars me greet (makes me cry)
Tae see how many counsels sweet
How many lengthy, sage advices
The husband frae the wife despises."

How often in your life have you been given what you know to be good advice but failed to take it? Humans are not entirely rational beings and our emotional impulses often outweigh reasoned thought.

However, part of what a man loves in a woman is the irrational, exuberant disregard for reason when they allow their hearts to overrule their heads and fall in love with him.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Better a blush on the face than a spot on the heart

The day and age of the "nice girl" seems to have vanished, at least in those who fall under the media spotlight. Laddette culture seems to demand the very lowest taste and cheapest values. It used to be argued by feminists that men kept women in subjugation and used them for their own selfish desires. But what has happened to the modern woman with freedom? -- she often behaves like a slut and describes it as empowerment. It is a true saying that it takes two to tango.

There was a time when girls excised self control, self respect and decency. It didn't mean that they hadn't any feelings or natural desires just a wish to retain their dignity and postpone pleasure till the appropriate time. A blush shows that a person, whose natural feelings and instincts have been aroused, perhaps inappropriately, feels embarrassed; but this confirms the innate decency of the person as their civilised mind struggles to control their instinctive programming.

By exercising discipline and control we can avoid allowing our instinctive side to leads us into actions that our better half will regret later.

In the film "Gone with the Wind" the two girls are the two sides of the author's nature -- the good, sensible girl that she was, and the suppressed, wild one that could only be indulged in fiction. In the ideal person we need to have a balance -- you can't be too good and it is advisable not to be too bad. A blush will help to warn you that you might be about to do something that will come back to haunt you.

To lead a life of total goodness would be too boring for most people but you have to decide what kind of person you are. Humans come in a bewilderingly wide range of types -- different standards, values and attitudes apply to each.

You will experience most grief if you act out of character. For example, if you are a basically "nice girl next door" type, a wild, drunken orgy on holiday will probably be bitterly regretted especially when the self-respecting guy who is attracted to your natural self discovers this aberration. The best you can hope for is that he has a forgiving nature and you don't have any competition.

The magic of falling in love often enables us to forgive and forget past errors but when love is tested by time old wounds can open and bleed afresh.

It could take a whole lot of tears to wash away the spot that a blush might have prevented.

Women's Wisdom

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Respect yourself or no one else will

Charity begins at home and so does self respect. Treating yourself properly sets a standard that others can recognise. If you dress badly, eat foolishly, act promiscuously and drink to excess you are sending out a message that you don't hold yourself in high regard. The result is that others do the same they treat you by the same standards.

If you look after yourself and project the image of a valued, well-cared for person people will expect to deal with you on the same terms. Consider how public property is often vandalised and maltreated -- it lacks an owner's pride and attention so the public treat it with contempt. The same applies to people -- set your personal standards high and expect others to do the same.

Respect, yes, but remember that pride comes before a fall so reasonable humility will gain you more respect than arrogant assumptions of superiority.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Monday is the key of the week

This appears to be a musical analogy. If you hit the right note to begin with the melody of the week will flow harmoniously. Getting off to a good start sets the tone for what follows -- well begun is half done. Start off on the right foot.

Thinking of locks it might refer to opening or beginning when you prepare for what is to follow. A good plan or strategy for the week will ease the flow of work and increase productivity.

Thought of as a keystone it might be seen as the connection between one week and the next.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Purchase the next world with this; you will win both

If we assume that the next word is a place of perfection, and the entry standards are high, it makes sense to be getting into good shape to pass the exams.

This saying appears to be suggesting that by pursuing levels of excellence with a view to "celestial glory" we will do ourselves a great deal of good here on Earth. If you practise the traditional values of the major world religions they should make you a more dependable, trustworthy person. When others recognise this they will feel safe in your company and trust you in business matters.

So, by preparing for Heaven you gain the world.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, November 09, 2008

When the play is best it is best to leave

Now it is unlikely that this is meant to be taken literally -- how would we ever get our money's worth?

At the present time we have lived through financial turmoil with house prices crashing and stocks sinking but not so long ago everything seemed rosy. "If only we had sold when things were going so well," the cry goes up.

Those who left when the play was at its best knew a thing or two.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rest and success are fellows

We are often led to believe that success comes from excessive effort -- tales of high-powered executives working eighteen hour days abound but there must be a limit.

If your job is very exciting and you can regard it as your hobby as well as your work then the long hours might be less wearisome. However, a tired, stressed person is unlikely to make good judgements so it is necessary to get adequate rest to recharge your batteries. The establishment of Sunday as a day of rest probably boosted production in the long run.

Some high achieving people like Sir Winston Churchill strongly believed in the importance of an afternoon nap. Rested and invigorated the mind will function better. Success in difficult circumstances will sometimes require a long burst of sustained effort so it is important to be at your best and fittest when the supreme challenge arises and you have to keep going till you drop.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reckless youth makes rueful age

When we are young life stretches out for ever -- old is what somebody else is. We have strength and vigour; late nights and excesses can be coped with. Live for today -- the future will take care of itself.

We eventually learn the truth but by that time a lot of damage has been done. The cry goes up: "If only I had listened." But can the young learn from being told? Without some experience words are just words.

If you want to pass on your wealth of knowledge from "been there, done that" you need to find a way to give the young the equivalent of a flu jag. A limited experience sufficient to provide a stimulus to learn that wises up its recipient without permanent damage.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rest and success are fellows

Hard work over time generally brings advantage. So it is a good thing then? Well, like all good things, too much tips you into a bad place.

Wise people know the benefits of a well-rested body and mind. There might be times in your life when the pressures mount and it is extremely difficult to cope. You might end up sleep deprived and suffering physical deterioration. It goes without saying that this is something to avoid but if you find yourself in this situation it might be necessary to grit your teeth and summon every reserve you have to struggle through.

However, in normal circumstances you should plan to have proper rest and relaxation so that you are more able to head off a crisis before it fully strikes. Prevention is better than cure.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Prosperity destroys fools and endangers the wise

Success breeds complacency. If you are not very wise you will tend to assume that riches and happiness are your right and entitlement. You might even assume that your good fortune is part of the natural order of things.

The wise person might not be so naive and have some awareness that good times can vanish but when things have been good for a long time even the knowledgeable can be lulled into a false sense of security. They know things can go wrong but not always when. As a result they can be caught napping.

Just as Caesar employed someone to stand behind him, as he received the adulation of the crowds, to remind him he was not a god, you might be wise to put a note of this saying somewhere as an aide memoire.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Repentance is the May of the virtues

There are times in life when you get it wrong. "You screw up" in modern parlance. So how do you react? Most of us tend to retreat into denial: we look for excuses, justifications or escape clauses. But sometimes there aren't any so you must "fess up", take the rap, hold up your hands, take it on the chin.

Once you accept your wrongdoing and see no wriggle room what is the best way forwards? When you have achieved the state of mind of paying the price or accepting due punishment you are ready to repent: to show contrition and make amends.

This saying suggests penitence is a time of renewal just like May is the time of year when new growth recreates the glories of Nature. Having acknowledged your wrongdoing and accepted the consequences you can move on and renew your life.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

He that is worst may still hold the candle

Imagine a disaster scene where people are trapped in a collapsed building. Many are injured and the fit desperately try to dig their way out. It makes sense that one of the wounded holds the candle whilst the able work.

This saying tells us that we should contribute to life as much as we can even if we are disadvantaged. The old lady who makes the tea while the young and vigorous apply themselves to the task at hand makes a very useful contribution. The elderly gentleman who grows some organic vegetables to help feed his grandchildren because the parents are too busy contributes according to his ability and circumstances.

We all have something to give or contribute to the general well-being no matter how poorly or hard done by we are, and in return we share in the success.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who lives without folly is not so wise as he thinks

The 17th-century physicist-turned-theologian Blaise Pascal said, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." This appears to be warning us against the total reliance on logic or what might appear to be logic.

Life is immensely complex and the ability of the human mind to absorb information and process it is limited. This is perhaps why Nature has equipped us with intuition and instinct. Creative people are aware that there is often an "unseen hand" involved in their works; they might attribute this to the subconscious or God or some unknowable force.

The "folly" in this saying is not foolishness but that more playful, instinctive side that we all have but which tends to get suppressed in the need to conform and hold down a regular job. Those individuals whose lot in life is to follow their hearts will know highs and lows; the strict logician will shake his head, but we are meant to live in a harmonious balance between emotion and reason.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The tree falls not at the first stroke

The lumberjack sharpens his axe, rolls up his sleeves and lays into the tree with a will. If it has worthwhile timber it will take many skilful blows to bring it down before conversion to a useful purpose begins.

This saying uses a metaphor to make us aware that anything worthwhile takes time and effort. You must prepare, equip yourself with the right resources and take time to apply your skills to the task. Some trees are awkward to fell: their branches tangle with others or they lean at an troublesome angle. Other life tasks have equivalent problems.

Just as the good woodman will show preparation, patience and perseverance, you also must use these qualities as you tackle your own tasks.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The wife is the key of the house

In a day and age of gender equality does this saying still apply?

The traditional housewife might have been thought of as subservient to her husband but most men used to refer to their wives as "the boss". The lady of the house was the home manager controlling the budget and making most of the decisions. Would the average male still be living in a cave if it wasn't for his better half nagging for something grander?

This saying recognises the traditional arrangement where the man was the nominal head of the family but the real power lay with the demure little lady. The power of a sharp tongue has sent many a physically powerful man cringing to his lair. "Yes, dear. Of course, dear." Anything for a bit of peace!

But again old-fashioned true love might have had something to do with it.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Health is better than wealth

"You never miss the water till the well runs dry" is a very true saying where health is concerned.

Most of us are lucky and we grow up with adequate food, suffering only from the common childhood ailments like coughs colds, and measles. Our immune systems strengthen and we reach adulthood well equipped to cope and survive.

But it is easy to fall into lax ways, there are many temptations: we can overeat, choose the wrong diet, start smoking, drink to excess and experiment with drugs. All these take a toll on the healthy body that is our right and duty to maintain. You can reach a stage where all the money in the world will not save you from an early and unpleasant death.

It makes sense to develop moderate habits and enjoy the good things in life in a thoughtful manner. By staying healthy your chance of being fit and capable will greatly enhance your likelihood of earning a living and even ending up wealthy.

It has to be said that those who are lucky enough to have a good start in life from parents who have reasonable incomes do have an advantage. It is important to build on your strengths and use your available money to acquire health knowledge and good quality foods.

Health helps wealth and wealth helps health. Don't wait till the well runs dry; act now and harvest the benefits all your life.

Women's Wisdom

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Look after number one

Human beings are social animals: we are born into a family and usually exist in a community group; be it extended family, neighbourhood or tribe. We have duties and obligations to the other members. In some circumstances we might even be called upon to make the supreme sacrifice of our lives to save the others. Brave men and women give their lives in the defence of family and tribe.

So how does this fit with the saying: "Look after number one"? You have a duty to self: if you don't keep fit and well you will become a burden to others. You won't be able to pull your weight and do your bit when the need arises.

It follows that you must strike a balance between your own personal interests and needs, and those people to whom you have an obligation of support. By looking after number one you will be in a better position to care for and assist the numerous others who depend on you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Think of ease but work on

This is very straightforward: anyone who has to toil at a task that is difficult or boring has a small voice within saying, "Oh for goodness sake give this up and have a rest!"

If you were a carefree, wandering minstrel you might do just that but would you ever be able to pay your way? Sadly, for most of us, the daily grind is a necessity. When things get tough we have to find the inner resources to cope and keep going.

Yes, it is pleasant to think ahead to our leisure hours and perhaps even a golden retirement but in the short term you must "grin and bear it".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

He whose belly is full believes not him whose is empty

We are all prone to complacency: when things are going well we do not want to hear the complaints of the poor and unfortunate.

It gives us an uncomfortable feeling to listen to a view of life that disturbs our calm. We find it easier to believe that the poor are responsible for their own follies. If they would work harder or be more disciplined then they would do OK. Their reasons for poverty sound like excuses.

So we bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore unpleasant truths. But beware: He that is too secure is not. It might be that at leased a proportion of the suffering really do have grievances that need to be addressed.

Your complacency might lead to your undoing. Better to deal with trouble half way rather than let it creep up and confront you with terrifying suddenness.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

He who is weighty is willing to be weighed

A nice bit of alliteration here conveys an obvious truth - the genuine person doesn't mind being scrutinised on their claims.

Simple folks at market in days gone by would be conned out of their cash with tricks such as scamsters selling kittens in a bag whilst claiming them to be pigs - hence the expression to buy a pig in a poke (How these sayings love alliteration!) They did not do their due diligence in failing to examine the goods. No doubt if they had sunk a bucketful of beer beforehand they would have been in a happy trusting mood and ripe to be gulled.

This is all about testing the truth. If you are for real then you do not fear, but welcome, trials to prove it. It follows that those who are reluctant to be questioned and assessed must be suspected of potential dishonesty or incompetence.

Those who are talented and able are likely to be willing and eager to demonstrate their accomplishments. They talk the talk and can follow up by walking the walk.

An explanation of the use of alliteration and other poetic devices can be found in the paperback 700 Limericks & How To Write Them by clicking the link above.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A wise man gets learning from those who have none.

Learning from your mistakes is often painful but usually effective: no one wants to repeat a painful experience. The school of hard knocks tries and tests us and we graduate with honors in proportion to our bruises. But what if there was an easier way?

Instead of taking all the hard times yourself why not just observe others taking the blows of their follies and you can avoid what they have done. Learn to be observant and note what works for others and what does not.

Trial and error constitutes a wasteful method, try thinking first, says the proverb and you can add other people's trials and errors to that.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Look not for musk in a dog’s kennel

Most sensible people would probably rather not go sniffing in a dog’s kennel but if they did they would expect a horrible pong, not the pleasant scent of a musk rose.

This proverb is telling us to be realistic in our expectations. We have a tendency to want things to be as we wish them whereas reality can de disagreeable. Many people build a view of the world that is rose-tinted, ignoring facts that don’t suit them and tending to expect hope to triumph over experience.

You have to be strong, face reality and learn how to deal with it. Hiding your head in the sand is not an option.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The sting of a reproach is the truth of it

When someone tells you off you are likely to react with annoyance if not outright anger: who are they to be telling you? No one likes to be put in their place but what if we deserve it?

This saying is suggesting that we are most likely to be put out when the criticism is accurate and apt. Being confronted with a truth concerning your failings can be a shock especially if your error has never been made known to you before, and you realise that it is true.

Your first instinct is defensive and you are likely to hotly deny the accusation but on quiet reflection you might see that the reproach was justified, and it is a wake up call for you to mend you ways.

We all make mistakes, it is part of the learning process, the important thing is to take the lesson and progress. In a few years' time it will probably be you telling off some junior for the exact same fault!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

There is God's poor and the Devil's poor

God's poor are the deserving poor -- those who have worked as hard as they could, practised thrift and gone hungry rather that get into debt. Unfortunately, life tends to be nine parts cards one part skill, so, with good intent and effort it is still possible to find yourself in dire straits. Bad luck can affect anyone.

The Devil's poor are those who are feckless, careless with money, spendthrift and expect others to carry and keep them when they have lost the lot. If they have money they squander it on drink, drugs, gambling and any other vice that catches their attention. They lack discipline and character and will tend to end up poor no matter what they are given.

Who suffers the most when they have reached rock bottom -- the person who tried, suffered and struggled or the one who merrily indulged to excess? Sadly it would seem to be the person who has put in every effort but still failed. It must be quite difficult to avoid being bitter especially if your neighbour is recounting stories of the excesses that led to his plight.

One can but hope that God takes care of his own, eventually.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Little strokes fell great oaks

An insurmountable problem confronts you. But who said it was insurmountable? History is full of stories where people beat all the odds, overcome the impossible and go on to win the day.

When confronted by a seemingly impossible or overwhelming problem try to break it down into manageable chunks. The way to fell a large tree is not to give it one huge blow but one chip at a time. Then you can shout timber! before standing back to appreciate your success.

It is the accumulation of regular actions over a period of time that adds up and makes a difference. Impatient people want things now but their far-sighted cousins know the value of a little energy expended daily to achieve a lot. Patience is a virtue and everything comes to those who wait especially if they put in steady effort. The credit crunch came about because too many people wanted it all now and weren't prepared to save bit by bit towards their goal.

The drip of water will wear away the hardest stone. Learn to be patient and persevering and gradually you will see success. Rome wasn't built in a day. The longest journey starts with the first step. Sharpen your tools and get going.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Loans and debts make worry and frets

This is a fairly obvious statement; if you owe money there is always the fear that something will happen to reduce your income. If you fail to pay up on time there will be penalties and eventually you might lose your assets. When you awake in the "wee small hours" and what if scenarios start running unbidden in your mind the proverb: neither a borrower nor a lender be seems like solid advice.

The person who gives a loan has the corresponding worry: "What if I don't get the money back?" As they say: If you owe a hundred and you can't pay you are in trouble. If you owe a million and can't pay the lender is in trouble.

In the modern economy, credit is essential for most people as they need to buy things now not in twenty-years time when they have saved up the money. To borrow to invest in a business or buy an essential can make good sense if you have carefully worked out the risk. To borrow to finance a luxury you do not really need is not wise. Previous generations would probably have called it sinful.

If something can go wrong it will go wrong so it is prudent to assume some setbacks and give yourself a safety margin.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

They seldom live well who think they shall live long

Saving for your old age was once a common thing but the development of pensions contributed to by employers eased the need for this. People scrimped and scraped and went without for fear of a penurious old age. This meant going without many of the pleasures of the moment in order to put something by for the future.

Whilst thrift can be a praiseworthy virtue the warning here is that it can lead to meanness and extremes of self denial that make life less enjoyable. Many people in the western economies who had the habit of saving into a bank account, as their forefathers had encouraged them, lost out heavily in the 1970's when governments allowed monetary expansion to cause runaway inflation. Old fashioned values were turned upside down as those who had saved saw their money's value drop and those who had borrowed saw the amount of their debt decline as they paid it off with inflated currency.

Although saving is sensible it pays to be wary where you keep your savings in order to maintain their value. Traditionally gold has been a good, long term store of value but it pays no dividend.

You can, of course, opt for the "short life but a merry one" philosophy and, who knows, the government might bail you out at the finish especially if all the good times boosts your longevity. You might end up being subsidised by the poor, hardworking, hard-saving souls who die young with the effort. Such is life!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

There is no pot so bad but it finds its lid

This could refer to people finding their match in the field of matrimony. It is often surprising to see some relationships and to wonder what on earth did she see in him or vice versa.

There is a science to how people match up and we all tend to recognise when a couple are a good match and when they are not. Some unlikely pairings seem to work and this might be down to the easy going nature of the individuals or it is based on mutual need. The man wants a good looking girl, the woman wants a good provider, and they are willing to overlook other incompatibilities. They don’t belong together but they rattle along somehow.

Lucky indeed are the couple who naturally match, and whose circumstances are in perfect harmony -- where the pot and lid have been made for each other.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

One fair day in winter makes not birds merry

Nor does a single swallow make it summer. Here we are being cautioned not to jump to conclusions on the basis of flimsy evidence.

Birds start singing in spring as that is the time of pairing up and defending a territory; they do not sing to celebrate the weather becoming pleasanter. It is a form of false logic to think so:

Birds sing because the weather is pleasant.
This is a pleasant day
Therefore the birds will sing.

This is false because the premise "birds sing because the weather is pleasant" is incorrect; it is a mistaken assumption that the weather alone is the cause.

This type of muddled thinking is responsible for many human ills and miseries as people act in good faith on wrong ideas. Humans might sing on a pleasant day because it makes them happy but it does not follow that birds will be the same, though the pleasantness of the day might act as a stimulus.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

One head cannot hold all wisdom

In this day and age of information overload this probably seems very obvious; not even the mighty Google can manage it.

This proverb seems like a variant of: two heads are wiser than one. Humans are designed to work in groups with a leader who co-ordinates and directs. This makes the group stronger and more effective than a loose bunch of enthusiasts who pull in different directions and end up quarrelling.

We live in a time of increasing specialisation where individuals know a great deal about ever-narrowing fields of study. This is where proverbs can be particularly valuable as they attempt to condense much experience and knowledge into a short pithy statement.

As William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, put it: "The Wisdom of Nations lies in their Proverbs, which are brief and pithy. Collect and learn them… They are notable measures and directions for human life. You have Much in Little; they save time and speaking, and on occasion may be the fullest and safest answers."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

One hand is enough in a purse

This might seem especially true if you are a Scotsman (as I am) for more reasons than one!

This saying is a warning as to how arguments over money can be a major source of trouble. One of the main causes of matrimonial break up is arguments over income and expenditure. If you want a long and happy relationship it is essential to have clear agreement over finances and to honour them. Most men seem genetically programmed to save and scrimp whilst women have an urge to spend. In a well-matched relationship this should have a balancing effect but it often just leads to rows. This proverb is perhaps suggesting that one person should be the main decision taker, and commonsense would indicate that this should be the most prudent one.

A major source of business failure is a lack of respect for the keeping of good accounts. It is essential that money is spent wisely and accounted for. Too many cooks spoil the broth and too many people lavishing a company’s money on unproductive activities will soon result in ruin. Clear policies on handling cash flow and expenditure will help you sleep at night and ensure that when you come to retirement there won’t be a black hole where your savings should be.

This saying might also be warning of the folly of being overgenerous to others. Charity begins at home: if you are a soft touch and let your heart rule your head you could soon be poor. A fool and his money are soon parted.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Solitude is often the best society

Human beings are naturally social animals; we belong in a group and it is within the tribe, clan, workplace or family that we find our identity. We tend to define ourselves by our relationships with others -- our place in the pecking order, our friends, our enemies. We need others and they need us; but not all the time.

There comes a point in all lives when we need to be alone. Time to think and be free of distractions. Time to hurt and heal when we cannot cope with the daily stress. Thinkers and creative people often need to withdraw from everyday society in order to work without the demands of social obligations. To devote your entire mind to a problem or produce a creative work a time of withdrawal is often essential.

We have many examples from the days of monks and hermits who sought spiritual salvation in private contemplation and meditation. Eccentric scientists and inventors have lived recluse-like lives obsessed by the requirements of total concentration, and regarding the intruder as a threat.

Excesses of this can lead to mental breakdowns as the individual loses contact with reality, so it doesn't do to go to extremes.

One of the most delightful withdrawals is that of the poet who seeks solitude and inspiration from Nature but soon returns to delight all society with the beauty of words, images and form.

"For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."

Daffodils: William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What everyone says must be true

Or is it?

The Wisdom of Crowds (by James Surowiecki) has been a popular book in recent times where the author put forward the view that the cumulative opinions of a large group of people tends to get the right answer to problems. Perhaps in some circumstances they do. But anyone who has been around any time will know that what everyone is saying can sometimes be wrong.

Stock market manias tend to happen when the herd has become convinced that some item is a sure fire winner and you have to have it. Common-sense flies out the window and people suspend disbelief because they want the story to be true. Just as we made ourselves believe in fairy tales when we are young because we wanted to experience the thoughts and emotions of the story so, in adult life, we want to believe the impressive person who tells us we are all going to be rich.

If it is too good to be true it usually isn't. Always be wary of something you desperately want to be true; try to have it checked out in every rational way possible.

Remember, the folk who make the most money in stocks tend to be those who take a contrarian view at the right time.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The wound that bleedeth inwardly is most dangerous

This can be taken as straight forward medical advice but like all proverbs has several layers of meaning.

A sensitive individual suffering a slight can brood silently on the perceived insult and fall to plotting revenge. The sad cases of gunmen opening up on fellow students could be an example of this. To allow perceived slights and wrongs to fester and grow poisonous is not good for the balance of the mind.

People need to be able to express their sense of grievance and find a solution. Good, open, honest debate is a useful method of identifying problems and enables corrective action to be taken. The trouble is, most people leave things too late and by then it has become critical. The boil must be lanced. It is useful to remember: A trouble shared is a trouble halved.

The pain of lost love can "bleed inwardly" but what is done is done. It is OK to mope a bit whilst readjusting your thoughts and emotions but that can't go on for ever. Write a sad poem, share the sorrow with friends, they have probably been there, or play a sad song -- then get on with life. There will be better times ahead.

Humor is also a good way of diffusing tension: a timely joke, or helping the over serious to learn to laugh at themselves, is psychologically very healthy. As the say: Laughter is the best medicine.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Work won't kill but worry will

Stress, high blood pressure, ulcers, heart attacks, nervous breakdowns can all be linked to stress. The stressed individual has difficulty sleeping, leading to tiredness, making it difficult to cope, causing more stress -- the classic vicious circle. Where you have genuine problems then positive worrying, i.e. thinking out how to deal with them, is good. Stay constructive and seek advice. Proverbs such as: Where there's a will there's a way; Trial and error constitute a waste of time, try thinking first and It is always darkest before the dawn, can help you to get perspective.

The thing to avoid is worrying about stuff you can't do anything about. Letting little niggles prey on your mind and blowing the problem out of all proportion, should be avoided. Why worry, you'll die if you do and you'll die if you don't? a cheerful optimist once told me. Ask yourself: will what you are currently worrying about matter in a week's time or a month or two? Chances are you will have totally forgotten about it by then.

Work of the wrong sort probably can kill, so, if you are in a totally unsuitable job perhaps you should worry about it -- and then take remedial action.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The worth of a thing is best known by the want

This is a generalisation of the more specific and well known: You never miss the water till the well runs dry. We normally take a lot of things for granted: parental affection, partner's faithfulness, job, bus service, etc. and its true importance is only felt when something goes wrong. It is then that we realise just how relevant and important the missing factor is to our lives and well-being.

This idea also touches upon the basic economic law of supply and demand. Scarcity pushes up prices and increasing supply lowers them. Some of the strange and unexpected behaviour of the stock and commodity markets can be explained by this simple law.

The word "want" has two meanings: "a lack of" or "a desire for", and the originator of the saying is using a play on words plus alliteration to emphasise the point.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

They say so" is half a lie

This saying appears to be referring to the use of quotations where you might back up an argument by referring to the wit or wisdom of someone who is regarded as an authority. But it may more precisely be referring to the habit we have of remembering something heard or read and using it to excuse, qualify or back up a statement. "They" being the collective wisdom of everybody and anybody who has expressed an opinion.

When we are trying to persuade someone to a course of action we might say: "Well they say it is a good thing." We perhaps doubt our own wisdom and are relying on the authority of others. However, in our heart of hearts we might not agree with "They" but are willing to deploy their opinions as a means of convincing the other party or of winning an argument.

From a defensive point of view you should ask who exactly are "they" and why, when and where did they say what they said. Your antagonist will probably be left floundering trying to remember just where they came across the opinion, if they really did.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pride comes before a fall

What is pride? A feeling of self-importance? A sense of being a bit better than others? We all feel it at sometimes and it can be a healthy thing if we are separating ourselves from those whose ways really are appalling. But if it is just false pride we are empty fools puffed up with our own self importance.

Pride in a job well done is a rewarding state of mind when we know that something we did is to a high standard and our peers acknowledge it. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that, in its proper time and place. So where does the "fall" bit come in?

If you have become complacent and start to enjoy being superior to others you set yourself up for disappointment when someone bigger and better than you comes along, and your prestige takes a tumble. Suddenly you are yesterday's person, and all your greatness shrivels.

The poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, expressed it very well in his poem:

OZYMANDIAS I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
"Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He that buys what he does not want must often sell what he does want

This is a caution against being careless with money. The first "want" being used in the sense of "need" and the second "wish to have". If you squander your money on unnecessary purchases you will likely end up losing that which you would rather keep. Ask any bankrupt.

The world's economy at the present time is reeling as a result of too many people living beyond their means and using credit to subsidise an extravagant lifestyle. You need to learn to cut you coat according to your cloth and live within your means. Neither a borrower nor a lender be is a wise old saying that recognises the foolishness and potential danger of debt.

Whilst being debt free is an excellent goal there can be times when borrowing makes sense. The important thing is to look ahead and consider what might go wrong. What happens if you lose your job, if illness strikes or unexpected demands arise on your income? Life can never be risk free but you must be prepared to face the consequences of your actions.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

When things are at their worst they will mend

This might just be wishful thinking, after all this is based on retrospective judgements. Looking back after a traumatic time you might think that it was at the moment you thought it impossible to go on that salvation occurred. But what if it hadn't? Would you have found further reserves and managed to stumble along for longer? There is no way you can know that.

However, this saying is useful as a way of keeping your spirits up when all seems lost or unbearable. It is always darkest before the dawn is much the same idea. No matter what the difficulties and dangers we must always struggle on and hope that the crisis will come to a head and then right itself.

With the aid of other proverbs such as: Where there's a will there's a way and Never say die you must stay positive and have faith in a happy outcome. As they say: Cheer up, the worst seldom happens.
Defeat anxiety and panic attacks

Sunday, March 09, 2008

While flatterers pipe, devils dance

Even though we know we shouldn't we all prefer the praise of the silver-tongued charmer to the sober realities of constructive criticism. It is so much nicer to have your beliefs that you are really rather special and gifted confirmed than to hear that you really need to apply yourself and raise your game.

Flattery will get you anywhere they say and none of us are immune. The sad truth is that when you are hearing what you want to hear the chances are it is blather and you are being led up the garden path.

Don't let flatterers take advantage of your natural human wish for praise and approval. The devil looks after his own but that doesn't include you -- does it?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Old Age Seldom Comes Alone

This usually refers to the aches and pains that develop with the advancing years as people realise that the body that carried them since birth is wearing out, and no longer functions as smoothly.

The sheer joy of a young body in peak condition effortlessly surging through the daily tasks and trials of life is but a fond memory. The triumphs of the sporting field when every sinew, muscle and tendon pulled together in perfect harmony to propel this amazing living machine through the air live on in the imagination only, as the grim reality of arthritis and other degenerative diseases take their toll. It sometimes seems like the revenge of some evil entity that envied your youth and vigour and seeks now to punish you for the joys once experienced.

But you also have a soul that burns brighter with age as wisdom increases. Your delight in the new, young, life forces of your children and grandchildren compensates for your own decline. It is as if your vital energies are passing into them so that life may be carried on and on into the marvels of the future.

Man has often looked at the stars and wondered what lies beyond, and with age that wonder increases. The true immensity and complexity of existence has filled your mind for so many years, tantalising with thoughts of the possibility of everlasting life in a heavenly paradise -- something that you can never know for sure.

Are we alone, or does a new existence await where all our departed friends and relatives will gather, smiling and eager for our coming?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

All sorrows are less with bread

The Ancient Romans believed that all you needed to keep the masses happy was an ample quantity of bread and circuses. If people were well fed and entertained they would not cause problems. Trouble was they got too complacent and began to neglect the angry hordes outside Rome who did not have bread.

However, there is truth in the observation that a good meal makes all your worries and problems seem less pressing, but is this saying solely about the mundane matter of a regular meal? What about food for the mind and soul?

Human beings are not like animals that simply follow basic hungers: we quest for knowledge and enlightenment. We desire to know the unknowable, to reach out beyond the boundaries, beyond the stars to find the ultimate truths of life, the universe, and everything. And no, the answer is not '42' as the Monty Python humorists would have it.

The answer is still there -- awaiting the hero who will beat all the odds to take his prize and return home in triumph.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What good can it do an ass to be called a lion

We all have dreams of success and achievement, to stand out from the crowd and be the best in our chosen field, but let's face it -- some people are born with inbuilt advantages.

If your ambition is to be Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, and you are 5' 1'' and slim, no matter how many self-help books you read, seminars you attend, or webinairs you glue your ears to you will not succeed (unless you are a twelve-year-old boy with a 6' 4'' father, perhaps.) On the other hand, if you dream of being a champion jockey you are in with a chance. With hard work and enterprise it is an achievable goal.

The above illustrates the point simply and obviously, but in many life situations it is more subtle, and you should be brutally honest in assessing your ambitions. Ask yourself: are they really sensible, potentially achievable goals or just daydreams that make you feel good? Are you flogging dead horses or awakening your inner ass -- a stubborn beast that needs encouragement?

You might be able to teach an ass to roar like a lion, and if it tries to join a pride it will be very welcome -- as dead meat. So cut your coat according to your cloth, call a spade a spade and find your natural niche.

The Proverb Practitioner 4
Here is the link to the song challenge 2008 video:
Your comments, good or bad, welcome.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The first sigh of love is the last of wisdom

As this blog is dedicated to understanding the wisdom of proverbs and sayings, perhaps the subject of love should be left well alone, but at this time of year it is rather hard to ignore.

The custom of St. Valentine's Day is supposed to date to the time when it was believed that birds chose their mates for the breeding season, (the changes to the calendar have altered the season a bit) People coming alive again after the dark, cold, miserable days of winter could once again look to the joy and pleasure of being alive and finding true love.

Before the day and age of cinema, television and the like people found winters more dreary than we do today, and they therefore delighted in, and were more influenced by, the arrival of increased sunshine, wild flowers and bird song.

Perfectly sane, sensible people, cautious and wise in their ways, will often exhibit a form of behavior akin to madness when they fall in love. In the past it was often likened to falling under a spell, and, indeed, some ladies were accused of using witchcraft as a means of ensnaring their lovers. Well, it was a good excuse for the men to justify their behavior!

If you were asked to choose the ideal moment in a human's life would you agree that on a blissfully sunny, spring morning with the birds singing, and the scent of new flowers all around, being a teenager, head over heels in love, would get top marks; or would you prefer brilliantly solving a very difficult quadratic equation and getting a pat on the head from teacher? It shouldn't take long to answer.

The Proverb Practitioner 3
The promised video is still delayed but I sent the dog round hunting bones again and, at the risk of chasing two hares, I have another one ready. It is a tragic love tale involving that most romantic of birds -- the gracefully beautiful swan. If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again has been much used today and after upload the video has been distorted, so I will not post the link until I have had another go. Patience is a virtue and I will need a lot more before this is right.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Habits are at first cobwebs, at last cables

What is a habit? A pattern of behavior that is frequently repeated. Our characters are composed of a collection of habits that can be good or bad, so we seek to establish good ones and remove the bad.

Good habits include punctuality, honesty, reliability and financial prudence. We are encouraged to develop these from infancy, but it is human to fall into error, and it is necessary to be constantly vigilant in maintaining standards. Our friends, relatives and enemies are often very helpful here in pointing out our shortcomings! Good habits are developed from discipline and practice.

This saying reminds us that habits start off frail and grow stronger with the passing of time ensnaring us before we realize it. Good habits we tend to take for granted, and it is the bad ones that worry us. Most advice on habits tends to be about how to be free of the harmful kind.
Today we would probably think of habits as neural networks in the brain that strengthen with repeated us, and to break them we must overlay them with positive behavior -- substituting good for bad. Smoking is regarded as a major bad habit and one method of control is to substitute another sucking habit such as a sweet; but this can lead to the obesity that comes from bad eating habits.

The best method of overcoming unwanted habits is the exercise of self-control so that the habit gets its energy cut off and withers naturally. Then the cables that bind us in misery can be snapped.

A collection of articles on habits can be accessed here:

The Proverb Practitioner
We hate delay yet it makes us wise. Those of you following the progress of the song 2008 challenge might like to know that the web page for this is now available and the promotional video (always remembering, There's many's a slip twixt cup and lip) will be launched next week.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Best Laid Schemes o' Mice and Men Gang Aft Agley

This week saw the celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns' birthday and this famous quote from his poem proved apt. The farmer poet on turning a mouse's nest over in the field fell to contemplating the similarity between a humble mouse's strivings and preparations with those of man, and saw that they had much in common as they are often knocked off course by the unexpected. Many proverbs have their origins in the days when most people gained a living from the plough. The observations they made and the wisdom distilled from them still guide their descendants -- us -- today.

The 2008 project to take a song to success was to be launched this week but has been delayed. Always at it wins the day is good for keeping you going but it is prudent to remember: Make haste slowly.

The need to register the copyrights at The US Library of Congress meant the manuscripts had to be notated. This took longer than expected, with the haste and attention to detail resulting in a migraine. This raises the very important topic that when using proverbs as a guide they must be used with judgement. It is not wise to follow blindly: A danger foreseen is half avoided.

However, Rome wasn't built in a day and it is best to do things right as: Well begun is half done. Next week should see some action. No doubt I will be tempted to start another project once this is launched but it is important to remember that: He who runs after two hares catches neither.

Robert Burns - To a Mouse

...But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy !

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Proverb Practitioner 2

Last week the challenge to use the wisdom of proverbs to guide a project settled on taking a song to success using a video on YouTube to bring it to public attention.

So what is the next step? How can proverbs help? Having put my foot down where I mean to stand and remembering that Zeal is like fire, it needs feeding and watching it seems wise to proceed without delay. Strike whilst the iron is hot but Look before you leap.

A little forethought saves much afterthought. The idea has expanded to include a collection of demos in a software wrapper where users can choose songs they like or dislike and be their own Artists and Repertoire people. The job of an A&R rep is to listen to all the demos wannabes send in but, rather than send out CD's to many companies, this way lets the public be their own A & R guy.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. With a free copy (unfortunately the offer expired on Jan 7th) of Camtasia I put together a video of the first song: "More Generous with Love" and an explanation of how the software works.

The video invites viewers to visit a web page where they can download the software: Artists & Repertoire. It contains seven songs in different styles with male and female artists. Service without reward is punishment so a small charge has been made to ensure only seriously interested people will listen and, hopefully, provide a cash flow to fund other projects. Pleasing ware is half sold, so lets hope it meets with approval.

The video isn't brilliant but You must crawl before you can walk . This might seem like A bad workman blames his tools, however, Better a flawed diamond than a perfect pebble and anyway, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Better an ass that carries than a horse that throws.

All going well, the video will be released next week.

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.

I have looked this gift horse in the mouth and its seems a good opportunity to learn more about blogging for those of you who would like to start your own. It is a fifteen day course of short videos and if you are a beginner with limited time it could be very useful as it is simple and clearly presented. Being a glutton for info, and already knowing a good bit of it, I went through it in an hour or so and picked up a few good tips. Well worth a look.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Always at it Wins the Day

The road to success is usually long and winding but you will not get to the end without keeping going. Regular steady progress is often better than occasional bursts of effort when the mood takes you.

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Last week in the blog entry Small beginnings make great endings we discussed the idea of using proverbial wisdom to guide a project. Today it is time to consider: what, why, when, where and how?

The longest journey begins with the first step, but if you wanted to climb Mount Everest you wouldn't just take a deep breath and charge up. It takes long and careful planning, training, acclimatisation, setting up of base camps and proceeding in careful stages.

Where there's a will there's a way, but above all is the determination to get to the top and the confidence in your ability to do so. From little acorns great oaks grow helps to visualise the end result as it is important to have a clear goal. Millions of people over many centuries have used these sayings as a spur to achievement, and so can you.

What should the project be -- how to chose? The dog that runs around finds a bone. So, with growing confidence and determination the "Proverb Practitioner" must scout (or sniff) out the possible options.

The vast cavern of the Internet caters for just about any and every human interest -- lots of "bones" here. Many people are looking to make money, find friends, achieve personal goals, learn an instrument, language or skill. There is unlimited choice.

However, Don't flog a dead horse. It must be something that will enthuse, excite and prove beneficial. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. If it doesn't arouse some passion the result might be boredom and a temptation to give up. Stick with what you know sounds like good advice. Why reinvent the wheel?

Have fun searching out your own project, but this "Proverb Practitioner" is an enthusiastic poet and songwriter and sniffing around his own "bone yard" has found a collection of song demos made and forgotten.

One of the problems of being creative is the tendency to want to move on to the next new thing, to procrastinate over doing something with what you already have. Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Perhaps it is time to take action. The usual route is to send a song demo CD to the Artist and Repertoire people of record companies and hope they like you. But they are very busy and you are lucky to get a good hearing. Trial and error constitutes a wasteful method -- try thinking first.

BRIGHT IDEA: We are now in the age of mass participation so why not let the people decide?

But don't be dumb, you can't send the whole world a CD! So, what can be done?

Think! Fortune favors the bold. (Several hours later) How about a video on YouTube with a song embedded -- nothing fancy that requires techie know-how (this is on a shoestring budget) just enough to give people an idea if they think it is cool. After all: Nothing ventured nothing gained.

That then is the 2008 challenge, no more faffing about: take a song from zero to hero by years end. Mistakes, errors, blunders, frustration, procrastination, temptation and gremlins of all sorts will try to get in the way but with a cry of: If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again and Who Dares Wins it is onwards and upwards.

Have fun.
See you soon.


Definition: Proverb Practitioner, someone who guides their activities with the wisdom of proverbs.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Small beginnings make great endings

So, did you keep last year's resolutions? Can you even remember what they were? Perhaps they were too ambitious, too unrealistic -- more wishful thinking than practical reality. Perhaps you should have set a small, realisable goal and on accomplishing that moved on to bigger and better things.

A rolling stone might gather no moss but a rolling snowball grows bigger and bigger. You have to pay attention to specific detail -- the same effort in different circumstances will produce very different results.

We have all heard, with some incredulity, the oft quoted statement of weather forecasters that the fluttering of a butterfly's wings in one part of the hemisphere will produce a hurricane in another. Well... maybe, but we get the message -- something small can be the starting point that creates movement, and through growing momentum, leads to something great.

I hope you have better results from your New Years Resolutions this coming year and I would like to invite you to follow an experiment I will be conducting.

You have heard me talk the talk and now I want to walk the walk. I intend to pursue several projects on the Internet in 2008 to prove the practical value of ancient wisdom. All decisions will be taken with proverbial guidance and I will report each step in the blog for you to follow.

I would like to wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.
William Clark

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