ST. PATRICK’S DAY? BAH! HUMBUG!

Here it is two days before March 17, and I’m resigning myself to be the Grinch who stole St. Patrick’s Day. Being a writer of (part) Irish heritage — and thus feeling obliged to beget my readers a post to celebrate the occasion — I’ve been roiling me brain to come up with something about Ireland’s fifth-century snake-chaser that isn’t the same old blarney, but I’ve hit a stone wall stouter than those that subdivide the Irish countryside:

The Stone Walls of Ireland

Enough already. If St. Patrick thinks I’m going to waste another second of my busy day refraining from raining on his parade, he’s got another think coming. There are plenty of other dead fish in the Irish Sea who merit time in the sun, and though it may raise a stink, I am going to turn this post over to them and say “Bah! Humbug!” to St. Patrick.

I showed my appreciation of my native land in the usual Irish way by getting out of it as soon as I possibly could. –George Bernard Shaw

I am allergic to all Irish wit, charm and humor not provided by myself. –Denis Brogan

Good Lord, what a sight/After all their good Cheer/For people to fight/In the midst of their Beer. –Jonathan Swift (from THE DESCRIPTION OF AN IRISH-FEAST)

The lanky hank of a she in the inn over there
Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer:
May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair,
And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.
If I asked her master he’d give me a cask a day;
But she, with the beer at hand, not a gill would arrange!
May she marry a ghost and bear him a kitten, and may
The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange.
–James Stephens (from RIGHTEOUS ANGER)

For the Great Gaels of Ireland/Are the men that God made mad,/For all their wars are merry/And all their songs are sad. –G. K. Chesterton

Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis. –Oscar Wilde

The actual Irish weather report is really a recording made in 1922, which no one has had occasion to change. –Wilfred Sheed

I saw a fleet of fishing boats…I flew down, almost touching the craft, and yelled at them, asking if I was on the right [course] to Ireland. They just stared. Maybe they didn’t hear me. Maybe I didn’t hear them. Or maybe they thought I was just a crazy fool. An hour later I saw land. –Charles Lindbergh (2nd day of first solo transatlantic flight, 5/21/1927)

 

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MARRIAGE TO A-MUSE

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution? –Groucho Marx

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My wife and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary yesterday. You may think that, unlike the 50th, a 48th wedding anniversary is no big deal — and I wouldn’t disagree. But, being in need of an idea for this post, I wasn’t about to look a gift source in the mouth; thus, yesterday’s anniversary became my inspiration to write about….divorce.

Ha ha — just kidding (my wife might kill me if I were serious). This post will, of course, be about MARRIAGE….a fate which, as fates go, beats being killed (almost) any day. Ha ha ha. Just kidding again! Lest there be any doubt concerning my true feelings about marriage:

Yes, just as in the song, ask the local gentry, and they will say it’s elementary. But why stop with the local gentry? I believe my readers are nothing if not broad minded:

Marriage is the most licentious of human institutions — that is the secret of its popularity. –George Bernard Shaw

Getting married, like getting hanged, is a great deal less dreadful than it has been made out. –H. L. Mencken

It’s no disgrace for a woman to make a mistake in marrying — every woman does it. –Ed Howe

A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband. –Michel de Montaigne

Marriage is like paying an endless visit in your worst clothes. –J. B. Priestley

When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife. –Prince Philip

Marriage is a feminine plot to add to a man’s responsibilities and subtract from his rights. –Evan Esar

Before marriage, a man declares he would lay down his life to serve you; after marriage, he won’t even lay down his paper to talk to you. –Helen Rowland

The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin. –Honore de Balzac

I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her. –Rodney Dangerfield

Ha ha ha ha….I mean, Yes, dear — I’m listening. Seriously.

 

IT IS BETTER TO AMUSE A FOOL THAN FOOL A MUSE

I’ll bet you don’t know what the above title is an example of….I mean, besides an example of a title.  And far be it from me to intend it as an example of an insult, or an insult of an example. It’s called chiasmus, which is defined as a rhetorical inversion of two parallel phrases. Friends, is this blog an education, or is this education a blog, or what?

Truth be told, I likewise had never heard of the word until I bought a book with the fascinating title NEVER LET A FOOL KISS YOU OR A KISS FOOL YOU, by Dr. Mardi Gras (my “made-in” name for Dr. Mardy Grothe — sorry about that). Of course, I’d read chiasmus for years not knowing what they’re called. As Dr. Grothe points out, profound thinkers and great wits have long been masters of the form: Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker and Anonymous, to name more than a few.

No doubt you too are familiar with some of the following chiasmus, but with the likes of these, if familiarity breeds contempt, you may have contempt for the familiar….or, more likely, I’m guilty of stretching a chiasmus / making much ado about nothing. Or something.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. -Shakespeare (King Richard II)

The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man. –Germaine de Stael

I find Peale appalling and Paul appealing. –Democratic Governor/Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson (comparing conservative Minister/author Norman Vincent Peale and the Apostle Paul)

In the bluegrass region / A paradox was born: / The corn was full of kernels / And the colonels were full of corn. -John Marshall

I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy. -Randy Hanzlick

When you have nothing to say, say nothing. -Charles Caleb Colton

Don’t worry that other people don’t know you; worry that you don’t know other people. -Confucius

A fool often fails because he thinks what is difficult is easy, and a wise man because he thinks what is easy is difficult. -John Churton Collins

Friendship is love minus sex plus reason. Love is friendship plus sex minus reason. -Mason Cooley

No woman has ever so comforted the distressed — or so distressed the comfortable. -Clare Booth Luce, on Eleanor Roosevelt

Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. -Dr. Samuel Johnson, to an aspiring writer

Boy meets girl; girl gets boy into pickle; boy gets pickle into girl. -Jack Woodford, on typical plot of Hollywood movies 

That’s all for the present. I thank all present, and recommend the book as a present to all.

 

DO CYNICS CARE?

The unexamined life is not worth living.  –Socrates

I readily admit to being somewhat cynical — to what degree, I can’t be absolute — and I readily submit to being a realist. Really, is it possible to be a realist without being more or less cynical? Perhaps more significantly, is it possible to be a cynic without caring? Let other cynics  speak for themselves; I wouldn’t be cynical if I didn’t care.

Of course, I wasn’t born cynical. One only gets that way out of an abundance of living in the real world, which usually happens — or begins to happen — soon enough. We were all believing children once. I doubt if children are even capable of being cynical, although God knows, shamefully, that many have reason enough to be.  But what of adult true believers — those who have stopped growing, stopped wanting to know why, even if the answer begs the question?

Do a search for quotes about cynicism, and you will find many by cynics, as well as many by scoffers of cynics — and if you really think about it, doesn’t that make scoffers cynics too? Here is the mix; you be the judge:

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.  –George Bernard Shaw

A cynic is just a man who found out when he was about ten that there wasn’t any Santa Claus, and he’s still upset.  –J. G. Cozzens

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.  –George Carlin

A cynic sees little to admire in the world, while the world sees even less to admire in him.  –Evan Esar

Show me somebody who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic, and I will show you somebody who hasn’t the faintest idea what is really going on.  –Mike Royko

I’m not ready to let the youthful part of myself go yet. If maturity means becoming a cynic, if you have to kill the part of yourself that is naive and romantic and idealistic to claim maturity, is it not better to die young but with your humanity intact?  –Kenneth Cain

Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.  –Glen Cook

 

 

 

 

SCOFFER, BUT WISER

I tend to be drawn more to the wisdom of those who question everything than to “accepted” wisdom, since no one knows everything — no one I know and trust, that is. But what of God, who (I was taught) does know everything. As an American, how could I not trust God? The proclamation IN GOD WE TRUST is all-inclusively bannered on our country’s legal tender –which, if you stop to think, seems an odd bearer for it, given the admonishment that money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Be that as it may, the thing about God is like the thing about truth — exactly whose God, whose truth are we talking about? To paraphrase the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, you’re entitled to your own God, your own truth — but not your own facts. If you take the discrepant God of divergent religions for a fact, how can a fact divided against itself stand?  Aren’t we left with the logic that no deity conceived by humans has a basis in fact? But you knew that …. right?

I don’t believe in any religion’s God (which isn’t the same as not believing in a Creator), but if I did, why would I want to take the life of, or coerce, a man of a different faith — both of our faiths are, after all, only fallible beliefs. Better to take the measure of human folly, as observed and recorded by those who have questioned everything:

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunk man is happier than a sober one.  –George Bernard Shaw

If absolute power corrupts absolutely, where does that leave God?  –George Deacon

I don’t pray because I don’t want to bore God.  –Orson Welles

When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way, so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.  —Emo Phillips

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.  –Ambrose Bierce (THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY)

Many a long dispute among divines may be thus abridged: It is so. It is not so. It is so. It is not so.  –Ben Franklin 

Well, you could become a Southern Baptist. I mean, instead of having to obey the Pope, you could just obey your husband.  –Arianna Huffington

The only thing that stops God from sending a second flood is that the first one was useless.  –Nicolas Chamfort

When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, “Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”  –Quentin Crisp

I too much respect the idea of God to make it responsible for such an absurd world.  –Georges Duhamel

Amen.

 

DON’T BLAME ME — I’M IRISH (PART FOUR)

I contemplated concluding this four-part series with thoughts and reminisences on my tour of the Emerald Isle some thirty years ago, but I have so many fond memories that I lack the time, and perhaps the words, to do them justice. Besides, recounting personal vacation trips is a dubious proposition of boring potential at best, so I’ll spare you (and me) the task, and go instead with a few swigs of St. Patrick’s Day trivia and a wee bit of Irish Lit, writ and wit.

Let’s start with St. Patrick himself. One might assume that St. Patricks Day is celebrated on March 17 because that’s his birthday, but in fact, his exact birth date is unknown. March 17 is the day he died (in the year 461).

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in NYC on March 17, 1762. For more on this and other things Irish, click on these short video clips:

http://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/history-of-st-patricks-day/videos/nyc

As for Irish Lit, one of the earliest surviving manuscripts is the painstakingly crafted and astonishingly beautiful Book of Kells (circa 800), which I had the pleasure of viewing at Dublin’s Trinity College Library. See for yourself at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells

Ireland, of course, has produced some of the greatest satirists and masterpieces of wit in history, including Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest), George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion, on which My Fair Lady is based), and John Millington Synge (The Playboy of the Western World). Excellent movies (and some not-so-excellent re-makes) have been made of all, and I close with a quote or a clip from each:

The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver’s watch may be his God, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.  –Gulliver’s Travels (1939)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eymdx4xomM  –The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=EADz07k_wXU  –Pygmalion (1938)

…if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth.  –The Playboy of the Western World (1962)

May this St. Patrick’s Day find you neither lonesome nor with the fools of earth.

DON’T PANIC

According to holidayinsights.com, March 9th is PANIC DAY! I’m not quite sure why we’re supposed to panic tomorrow — for many poor souls, it would be nothing more than business as usual — and for the rest of us, isn’t such a day just looking for trouble? Or should we view it as an opportunity to squeeze all our panic into one day so we can live the rest of the year as carefree as a carbuncle (which may not live carefree, but it sounds funny).

Frankly, I’m not buying it — I think a DON’T PANIC DAY would not only be more productive, but would encourage more courage in the face of discourage(ment).  Allow me to demonstrate: I refuse to panic at the thought of writer’s block or over-working my brain, by bravely turning the rest of this post over to the thoughts of others on such matters.

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself.  –Coco Chanel

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.  –Mark Twain

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.  –Erich Fromm

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.  —Maya Angelou

I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.
–Maya Angelou

We’ve begun to raise our daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.  —Gloria Steinem

A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone admires the courage of the lion tamer in a cage with half-a-dozen lions — everyone but a school bus driver.  –Evan Esar

I never thought much of the courage of the lion tamer. Inside the cage he is at least safe from people.  –George Bernard Shaw

Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.
General George Patton