Sunday, September 05, 2010

He that keeps malice harbors a viper in his breast

Most religions and many schools of psychology teach the importance of forgiveness. The problem with bearing grudges is that they can distort the personality and over time make a person prone to depression and ill health.

Now, it seems to be counter intuitive to be totally forgiving, and commonnsense does seem to bear out that if you are weak you are more likely to be attacked. It follows that the knowledge that you have the capacity to retaliate and are prepared to do so if neccessary will often deter an enemy from attacking you. Speak softly and carry a big stick.

But sometimes you have to be wise for two. If you can rise above knee-jerk retaliation, and have an inside understanding of a situation, and the reasons for the attack, you might be able to see that by understanding and forgiving your enemy you could turn them into a friend. It might just pay you to take a loss and prevent a tit-for-tat escalation.

This requires judgement and insight and is a mark of true wisdom.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

He that is silent, gathers stones

At first reading this might seem nonsensical. Further thought builds a picture of an angry person suppressing their rage while gathering stones to throw at his enemy. In days gone by, people without weapons found that freely available stones were a pretty effective way of attacking a group of opponents.

The "stones" in the modern world will probably refer metaphorically to verbal weapons of attack. This brings the old saying "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me" to mind. Schoolchildren often chant this when they suffer verbal bullying but the truth is that slanders and evil gossip can cause trouble and harm.

So, if you have enemies who are sullen and silent, it might be wise to remain alert for possible attacks.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

He that swells in prosperity will shrink in adversity

When things go well for you, you begin to think you must be clever. People look up to you and you get a thrill from their envious stares. They obviously recognise how important and successful you are. They try to imitate you but you can leave them standing.

Sometimes success is false. You imagine it is your own effort and ability that has brought it about. But what if circumstances change? And they often do. Can you adapt or is the new situation beyond you. The masters of sailing ships who could win any race were confronted by steam. All their skills and experience were suddenly valueless.

Suddenly you are no longer cock o' the walk but an old has been. A source of amusement to the eager young men with their newfangled machinery. It is a big comedown.

We are being told here not to get too conceited "pride comes before a fall" so make sure your success is firmly based and take nothing for granted.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Every hill has its valley

It is hardly news that ups tend to be followed by downs but perhaps it is wise to pause and think about it occasionally.

When everything in your life goes smoothly does that mean you are heading for a fall? Not necessarily but a sudden rise is likely to have a correction after it and in the long term things tend to revert to the mean.

The path through hilly country is often more enjoyable than that through a plain, so life is more interesting if it doesn't run too smoothly. We often don't understand or appreciate things unless we have experienced the opposite. So bad times are not necessarily all bad.

We enjoy the changing seasons and look forward to the various pains and pleasures they bring. Summer is delightful but an excessively hot day is oppressive. Winter snow can be fun with sleigh rides skiing and snowball fights but cold frozen feet and hands have us longing for spring.

Variety is the spice of life so take it as it comes and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Every inch of joy has an ell of annoy

No, this is not a misprint; an "ell" is a measurement based on the length of a man's arm. An inch was based on the thickness of a thumb.

A lot of life is boring and tedious but it is the moments of joy that reward us and they are usually fleeting. The donkey trots along its stony path with great reluctance but is tempted to continue by the joyful anticipation of the momentary joy of eating a dangling carrot.

We will suffer and sacrifice and put up with all sorts of annoyances for that long dreamed about moment of satisfaction. Anticipation is nine tenths the pleasure.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Desires are nourished by delays

Any beautiful lady knows that arriving a little late for an occasion heightens anticipation. Comic timing depends on a delay to raise expectations before the punch line. There is also a saying: anticipation is nine tenths the pleasure.

When something you expect does not arrive on time it can be annoying but it does give you time to reflect, examine and evaluate the expected. A child not arriving on time can cause anxiety and when they finally do arrive there is great joy in the relief that they are OK.

Delays can annoy and upset people so being punctual is usually a good idea. The more important you are the more likely you will get away with a delay, deliberate or accidental.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The morning sun never lasts a day

This would appear to be a variation of "Make hay while the sun shines". The sun might last for a day but the morning sun is different from the midday sun or the evening sun. For a start, the range of temperatures varies considerably. We might also be more enthusiastic and energetic in the morning. "Well begun is half done" so it pays to get off on the right foot.

"The early bird catches the worm" so it knows the advantage of an early start. There are many sayings that stress the importance of the beginning. The rising of the sun heralds the start of a new day, the cock crows and a new round of activity commences. Be part of it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Every horse thinks its pack the heaviest

Everyone Carries a burden of some sort: emotional, financial or relationship related. We feel the stress and strain and it hurts. When we're children we learn to keep many of our worries to ourselves. Nobody likes a whiner.

Our friends might be putting on a brave face and so we do not know that they also are suffering. We think it is only ourselves. Sometimes it is only when we reach breaking point and have a row that we learn of other people's difficulties. They might be having a more difficult time than we are.

A burden shared is a burden halved so learn to get on with others.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Elbow grease is the best polish

You can sit about for ages making great plans and forming great schemes but unless you take action nothing will happen. Having a clear idea of what you're going to do before you start is a good policy. Well begun is half done, but without steady effort there will not be a good outcome.

In order to motivate your self it sometimes helps to visualize the end result, to continue the metaphor, the effort of polishing results in the smart appearance of your shoes which might just tip someone's opinion of you to favorable. It is the carrot on a stick that keeps the donkey going.

So whatever it is you are planning to do roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Deep waters run still

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We have all delighted at the sight and sound of a babbling brook. The foamy, silvery, bubbly water chuckles merrily over the pebbles. A deep pool is dark and mysterious. Perhaps fat trout lurk in its depth.

This is a simple, long used metaphor illustrating the different types of human mind. Some people chatter away and say very little. Other say little but convey a lot.

The chatterbox broadcasts every simple thought that occurs to them. The deeper person weighs ideas carefully and selects only the best. It is from them that we get "the fattest trout".

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Debt is the worst poverty

If you are poor you are poor and you have to cut your coat according to your cloth, how ever poor that cloth might be. If you are in debt you have entered negative territory and someone else owns your coat. Any effort you put in to struggle free is absorbed by your debts. You cannot save a little to see you through. You cannot invest a little surplus to improve your lot.

Avoiding unnecessary debt is one of the first things a wise person should learn. The trouble is that governments have created a system of money based on paper that can be manipulated. It is possible for people to run up debt and then have it considerably reduced by inflation.

The common sense saver who prudently avoided borrowing feels cheated, as their savings lose value. In this unnatural situation the wise loose out to the witless. Is it a form of cheating or redistribution of wealth? How many times can you con people into working hard and saving if their spendthrift neighbor is the one who ends up with a big grin?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Second thoughts are best

We all tend to react to a difficult situation with emotion. Because of this our first response can be inappropriate. The expression " to sleep on it" tells us of the importance of taking time to consider our reaction.

Taking time to reply gives us the opportunity to reflect and use our powers of reasoning to decide the best ways to deal with the problem. Writing an E mail and firing it off in haste can get you into trouble.

The old saying " count to 10" makes a lot of sense. Without emotions we would not be human but discipline is necessary. So remember: first love and second thoughts are best.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

To promise and gives nothing is comfort for a fool

The first thought that comes to mind when reading that is: politician. People in government usually know that by the time they leave office the promises they made will not have come to pass. But it will be someone else's problem.

Beware the Greeks bearing gifts is a very old saying that seems to apply to those whose business is government. The gifts handed out by politicians have been paid for by the people who get them. In return for this generous kindness they give themselves a pay rise.

To vote for a politician because of his promises is not a good idea. You have to judge their character from their track record. Perhaps those people who judge a politician by his suit are just as wise those who study their every word.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

May you're shadow never grow less.

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Don't let your written English let you down.

The length of your shadow depends on your height. The shorter you are the shorter your shadow. This is of course referring to the height of your reputation.

Our standing in the eyes of others depends on how they assess us. This metaphor is a simple way of praising someone but at the same time warning of the dangers of diminishing themselves by the wrong actions.

People are often encouraged to walk tall in the metaphorical sense and this leads to the idea of a long shadow.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Crumbs are also bread

Everyone wants a decent amount of the things they desire. But you don’t always get what you want. The Scots, renowned for their thrifty ways, have a saying: Manys a mickle maks a muckle: Many small things make a great thing. The Americans talk of nickel and dime operations with disdain and like to identify with the big and bold.

Reality for many people means small pickings are the only ones going so they have to make the best of them. Some of the largest fortunes have been built by those with low priced products with small margins but selling regularly.

The advice here seems to be to have a little humility and be grateful for what you can get.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

He that will thrive must rise at five

There are only so many hours in a day. If you want to get on there is no point in wasting your time luxuriating in bed. If you buzz with energy and activity while your dozy competitors reach for the toast you have a head start. The early bird catches the worm.

If your work goes well because you started early and you see good progress you go to bed with a clear conscience and a sense of entitlement to a good nights rest. You sleep better and awake early, refreshed and ready for the next days challenges.

In the countryside the cock acted as a natural alarm clock and awoke the people early. Now we have alarms of all types so there is no excuse - rise and shine!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On a good bargain think twice

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Don't let your written English let you down.

It might be impolite to look a gift horse in the mouth but when offered something at a bargain price there is a need for wariness. If it is too good to be true then it probably is.

It is not in the nature of acquisitive humans to give things away - we seem to have a built in instinct to grab and hold. Altruism is to some extent usually self serving, even if it is only to gain the feeling of pleasure in doing someone a good turn.

It follows that when being offered a bargain it is prudent to consider the flaws and pitfalls of acceptance. It might be that someone has an urgent need to dispose and will accept a lower price for the ready money or the object has a flaw or drawback that will soon prove to be the reason for the low price. The classic false bargain is buying a pig in a poke that turns out to be an unwanted kitten.

Caveat emptor - buyer beware
is a good and ancient motto.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Good clothes open all doors

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This saying will be music to the ears of tailors - and who knows - perhaps one of that ancient trade began it.

Do not judge a book by its cover is another old saying that seems to contradict the first.

What we are learning here seems to be that good presentation will catch the eye and start you off on the right foot. Having impressed someone with your appearance or with a book, drawn a potential reader to take a glance, the inner quality stands a chance of being recognized.

The thing to take away from this is: look smart to get a start then be smart and follow through.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ready money is soon away

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You will have heard people saying: money burns a hole in his pocket, so you are familiar with the idea that it is always a temptation to have ready money available. There are so many tempting opportunities to spend that it is easy to find an excuse to indulge if the cash is easily to hand.

This proneness to temptation means that it is prudent to save for a rainy day by putting your surplus funds to work for you in a savings account or other investment so that you have to put in a bit of time and effort to retrieve them.

Ultimately, money is for spending but there is nothing worse than an urgent, unexpected bill you can't pay, and the tormenting thought that last week you were throwing it away on fripperies.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

He who has nothing can do nothing

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A farmer with land can grow food; a carpenter with tools and wood can make something to sell; a person with education can teach and earn money.

This saying opines on the importance of what we have, material or intellectual. No doubt this originated in the days before social welfare when the poor were left to starve, but the lesson that can be taken from it is the importance of giving your children a good start. If you see to their education, training and possibly some savings to buy tools or start a business you help them to succeed.

It could be argued that anyone who possesses the will can succeed by hook or by crook. Even if you only have the gift of the gab by refusing to be beat you will find a way.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

God defend me from still water and I'll keep myself from the rough.

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Still water runs deep, and is generally regarded as dangerous, whereas the shallower ripples are safe to ford.

The big dangers of life are often such that we can do little about them, and we pray to God, if religious, or trust in fate if we are not, that they can be avoided.

Those problems that are within our individual and group strengths we should tackle in a prompt and wise manner. To expect God to attend to our every problem when we have been equipped to cope with them ourselves is obviously wrong. God helps those who help themselves.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

He is idle that might be better employed

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Do you ever get the feeling that you are wasting your time no matter how busy you are? We have a built in mechanism for checking the worthwhileness of what we do. Without it we would spend our time on trivia and irrelevant pursuits.

It is necessary from time to time to take stock of your activities and decide if your time is being used in a way that is likely to fulfill your goals.

Lost time is never found again so make the best use of your allotted span.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Spilt wine is worse than water

Spilt wine is worse than water

Spill some water on your clothes and it will soon dry with no harm done. Wine will most probably leave an unpleasant mark and a smell. You might also say that the wine cost money and the water was free.

The originators of proverbs and sayings worth remembering rarely content themselves with the obvious and this example requires further study.

Shakespeare has a line "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds" taken to mean that the wrong acts of notable people are far worse than those of the ordinary classes. So here we are probably being told that persons of quality "the wine" when misbehaving cause more offense than the misdeeds of the ordinary person "the water". A specific example of this might be that if a lady of refinement and quality becomes dissolute it is more shocking than if a simple, uneducated girl does exactly the same thing.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

God who sends the wound sends the medicine

In days gone by people believed in something called "the doctrine of signatures". This stated that a plant had some relationship to its use, and that could be determined from its shape or the location in which it grew.

The 17th-century herbalist, William Coles, believed walnuts were good for head ailments because, "they Have the perfect Signatures of the Head".

The modern scientist might be sceptical of this approach, preferring tests and experiment, but is there any wisdom we can gain from a contemplation of this general principle? If a problem exists does this mean that there must automatically be a solution that, if we seek, we will find?

Solutions to many of mankind's ills have been found, and we cling to a hope that whatever we suffer from someday someone somewhere will find a cure -- be they inspired by God or Mammon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It is hope alone that makes us willing to live

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There are times in everyone's life when all the negatives crowd in - the extreme example being depression, when life seems devoid of all meaning and purpose.

Experiencing the downside of life is part of the springboard to the upside so has to be understood as a natural phenomenon and not feared too much. We all know that nothing is constant, everything evolves and changes. There are trend lines and seasons that give a framework to our existence but within that, as individuals we are subject to the whims and caprices of chance - or so it seems.

The one thing that is our lifeline in the sea of doubts is hope. We can always hope that things will change for the better, and they usually do. We can be pulled back to the dry land and sunny climes of a happy existence. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Gold is the sovereign of all sovereigns

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An amusing play on the difference in meaning of sovereign as a monarch or sovereign as a gold piece incorporates a truth: cash is the king of kings.

Without money to pay their supporters, rulers, be they ancient kings or modern democratic governments, all fail.

Another meaning might refer to gold as a store of wealth that governments can not debase by printing money. Over time, gold tends to hold its value and adjust for inflation, whilst fiat money withers away and eventually becomes worthless.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

He is a fool that is not melancholy once a day

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Gurus abound with good advice on staying positive, banishing negative thoughts and promising everlasting happiness.

So why did the sage who coined this saying think being sad was a good thing?

It raises the question what is sadness, and what is it for?

A spell of melancholy is a time for reflection on the bad things in your life. You could simply try to ignore them, suppressing all thoughts. You could pretend they don't exist. At worst you could be taking pills in an attempt to blot them out.

This sage is encouraging us to face up to our difficulties and attempt to deal with them. After the thunder and rain we get the sunshine and it is them we can enjoy the benefits of a positive attitude.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Prettiness dies first

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"Beauty is but skin deep" is also said but anyone who has known true love is aware that a meeting of minds, if not souls, is the greatest part. We tend to recognise our natural matching type by sight but it is in exploring the deeper self that we fathom the depths of one of life's greatest mysteries: love.

As a lady ages, her prettiness begins to fade but the beauty of her soul and spirit continues to mature and grow. To see an aged couple, grey of hair and feeble of limb, who profess to love each other as much as when they were sweet sixteen is an inspiring sight.

To marry on the basis of looks alone is a short term outlook.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Virtue, if she could be seen, would move great love

Here we have a philosopher, Plato, visualizing Virtue as a beautiful lady.

What is virtue and why should we love her personification? Moral excellence, goodness, conformity with morality or duty especially chastity in women is the nature of virtue. It appears to involve the discipline of the mind over the basic passions of the body.

This was something that through the ages had strong appeal as the consequence of unbridled lust was disease, pregnancy and bloody quarrels. A man valued a woman who would bear only his children and not lower him in the eyes of his fellows and force him into unnecessary conflicts. The invention of modern medicines and contraceptives removed many of these fears but humans are more than body and sensation-seeking minds.

Is it possible that the disregard for the former values of virtue leaves us not more satisfied but less?

A proper balance in all things is the usual conclusion of philosophers - a time to reap and a time to sow. Love has many aspects, and joy is to those who find her in due proportions and harmonies.
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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Game is cheaper in the market than in the fields and woods

Unless you are a professional hunter with a good territory you will likely spend so much of your time trying to hunt down your dinner that it would be better to buy it with the returns of your everyday job. This saying might also have been coined at a time when poaching was a serious offense with hapless Brits sent to Botany Bay.

Applied to today's conditions the underlying truth is telling us that using professionals can be cheaper in the long run. If you are not too good at home decorating you might be better getting an experienced person rather than ending up with a botched job.

When you need to save money you should weigh up the options carefully and don't be mislead by false economies.

For anyone interested in limericks you can vote on the Hallmark Cards UK Twitter competition here http://twtpoll/74v6v

I have added a page of Global limerick competitions

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The coat makes the man

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What others think of us is important. Only the very wealthy and the hermit can afford to ignore public opinion.

In the hurly burly of life it is often not possible to get to know someone in the time available so we make snap judgments. This is often influenced by their way of dressing.

The most obvious case of this is a person in uniform: we regard a man in a sailor's suit to be a sailor; a lady in a police uniform to be an officer of the law, etc.. Business people who wish to convey to others their serious intent usually dress in a sober suited manner whereas a show business host might be more flamboyant.

Not only does the dress convey a message it also helps the wearer to "get into the role" and adopt a mindset appropriate to the occasion.

This saying can be used contemptuous, implying the individual is not worthy of their office and only command respect because of their uniform or position.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A cheerful look makes a dish a feast

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Hard times means economy with the victuals, parsimony in the plate and pared down portions.

A plain meal can be a wholesome dish and saving the pennies need not mean your food won't be doing you good. In fact, the need to tighten your belt might be the best thing ever for your health. The quality of food can be high even if it costs little. A good vegetable broth is filling and full of vitamins and minerals and cheap to make. The cheaper cuts of meant can be rich in valuable proteins.

But what we are being reminded of here is that however meagre your fare if it is served by a pleasant person and eaten in good company you are the equal of a king.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

If a first you don't succeed with a limerick

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have an interest in Limerick writing. Currently, I am acting as a judge in a Valentine Day verse competition run by Hallmark Cards UK.

This is great fun as people send in their entries by Twitter. The 140 character limit makes it pretty difficult to write a traditionally structured limerick, and it is necessary to use textspeak. Here is an example

Now wanted for A lonely heart
An actress who can play the part.
A starlet with style
And wonderful smile,
But you'll do, my love, for a start!

As you must include @hallmarkcards it is an exercise in ingenuity to make it fit.

@hallmarkcards Wanted for A lonely heart Actress who cn play the part Starlet w/ style Wonderful smile But U'll do, my love, for a start

Hints and tips are available from my web site on How to twitter Limericks

It is free to have a go so join in and you might win a luxury holiday for two as a prize.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A snow year, a rich year

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Or as the French say, "neige qui tombe, engraisse". This saying probably grew from observation by experienced peasants who saw a connection between years of high snow fall and subsequent good crop yields. Modern scientists tell us that the snow contains nitrogen from the air, and as we all know, this is an important fertilizer. Cold also helps to kill off harmful pests.

Proverbs often have layers of meaning, and perhaps there is a general concept here of tough times leading to better ones. Recessions have the positive effect of removing weak and badly run businesses so that the better ones prosper. At the time of writing, much of the Northern part of the world shivers under snow and frost, and also has a deep recession, but the future will be sunny and prosperous for those who come through it.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

He that is full of himself is very empty

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The person who thinks only of themselves and wants everyone else to know how great they are have provoked sayings like: empty vessels make the most noise.

The truly great person is too busy doing things to be singing their own praises. Another apt saying is: by their fruits shall ye know them. A person is best judged by their deeds and accomplishments rather than their boasts.

In the modern world there is a tendency to use spin and deceit to con people into valuing the valueless and voting for the witless; but as Winston Churchill said: "you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time".

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year Limericks

Here are a couple of limericks to mark the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010

The Old Year has come to an end
Solutions to next we have penned.
But try as we may
Most soon go astray
And it's back to the boring old trend.

A really good New Year to all
I'm hoping your troubles are small.
The year that's to be
Surprises will see,
But wherever you are have a ball!

Proverbs are often rhythmical and poetic as this adds to their aura of wisdom and makes them easier to remember.

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