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.