Monday, May 14, 2018

The Governor and the Chicken Lady

A True Story Retold...

Christian Archibald Herter, who lived from 1898 to 1967, was Governor of the state of Massachusetts from 1953 to 1957.  This is a story he told on himself.
 I heard a version of it in a sermon in the 1980’s from a dear Anglican priest, Fr. David Schofield, who used it to illustrate how important it is for us to know who we are.   Although I remembered the story vividly, I wanted to be sure I had the Governor's name right.  When I checked it out on the internet I found the tale has been repeatedly used  to make many points, but I think it hardly needs any amplification to be of great value.  Here it is as I remember it.
Christian Herter, a graduate of Harvard and the governor of Massachusetts mid 1950’s was seeking re-election.  He was having one of those really hard days on the campaign trail.  He had spoken at a morning breakfast meeting where he had no more than a cup of coffee while his listeners ate.   He had then skipped lunch altogether to meet other duties,  consoling himself that his last scheduled event on the trail was at a church barbecue.  He arrived a bit late and was relieved to see food was still being served.  The Governor  was really hungry. The queue was quite long but he resisted the temptation to be recognized for special treatment and stood at the end of the line.  The day was coming to a close, he was tired, he was hungry and everything smelled so good.  As he moved down the serving line he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken.  She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said. “Do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”
“But I’m so hungry, I haven’t had a bite all day.” 
“I’m sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one piece to a customer.”
Governor Herter thought of himself as a modest and unassuming man but he suddenly decided to throw his weight around just a little bit. He pulled himself up to his full height and asked the woman behind the platter of barbecued chicken, “Excuse me, but do you know who I am?” 
“Why, yes, Governor, sir, I do.  Do you know who I am?”  she replied. 
Governor Herter had to confess that he didn’t have any idea who the lady was.
“Well, I’m the chicken lady, and it's one piece per person. Now please, sir, kindly move along.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A thought or two on "Charles Dickens A Critical Study" by G. K. Chesterton

I did , in January, read this

1929 Dodd Mead & Co printing
of the 1906 copyright of
Charles Dickens 
 A Critical Study
 by G. K. Chesterton.

Thumbing through my notebook I see that while I fell short of writing a proper review of it I did jot down a few thoughts.

I was given this book a number of years ago and it has languished on my shelf primarily because I have not read much of  Charles Dickens.

Mr. Chesterton's writing often references
the luminaries of his day and the political social and literary climate of the time. In addition to not knowing much about Dickens, there is all that  I have never learned about England's history, as well as that which I may have once encountered and have now forgotten and yet, I was amazed at how much there was to glean, how much was still available to me in Chesterton's narrative, even when ensconced in specifics for which I had little reference. Though I often couldn't place or affirm many of  Chesterton's allusions and references,  I was, like a bird at picnic, well fed on crumbs.

Take for example this little gem found on page 161:
He could not help falling into that besetting sin or weakness of the modern progressive, the habit of regarding the contemporary questions as the eternal questions and the latest word  as the last....He could not help seeing the remotest peaks lit up by the raging bonfire of his own passionate political crisis." 

~the contemporary questions as the eternal questions and the latest word as the last~  

There is just a big lovely breath in that little phrase, isn't there?  

Here is a link on google's free Ebook site to some pages where Mr. GKC discusses "this thing we call fiction." Peek in around page 83.  The whole book is available there. 

Well I must away...and make some serious preparations for some very special visitors! 
Until next time....

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

You are happy! To Paraphrase G.K. Chesterton

 I came across a quote this morning that has piqued my interest in reading The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton  (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2006.)

 In his Autobiography, Chesterton writes that
“At the back of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence.  The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy” (99).

"...submerged sunrise of wonder..."  yes...

Friday, March 2, 2018

May Thoughtful Honest Public Dialogue Prevail

     It's generally considered a good thing to be an assertive person; I don't mean aggressive, that's different.   If being assertive looks like standing up straight, aggressive would be a forward lunge and passive might be leaning backward.

   And me, I must admit that I find myself leaning back in the public conversations of the day.  I find myself wondering about the scope of my vantage point, the validity of circumstances as presented and the possibility of hidden implications and unforeseen consequences of the proposals and platforms of the day.  It is a lot to sort through.

    I find myself listening carefully to others' assertions and though I believe that well-honed common sense is often enough, I recently ran across some notes from a class my husband took years ago with a more formal review of how assertions can be sorted out. I decided to flesh the notes out with some examples and found it helpful to put names on what I tend to do intuitively.  Perhaps you might find it helpful too.

To begin I started thinking about the word "assertion" and made a list of synonyms:  
 a declaration
 a contention
 a claim
 an opinion
 a pronouncement
 an avowal
 a protestation
 or simply a statement.  

Judging the acceptability of assertions begins with recognizing what type of statement it is; what's the assertion based on? Is it a  description, an interpretation or an evaluation? 

 Three general types of Assertion  with an example in italics

1. Description  (based on the senses, or experience)
    a. 1st hand     This is what happened to me...
    b. 2nd hand   This is what he told me...
2. Interpretation (based on various derivations of meaning)
    a. internal states  I know what he was thinking.
    b. causal relationships  Causality is, by definition, interpretive and looking at false causes a lesson in itself.
    c. comparisons and contrasts  Scales of 1-10, less or more
    d. categories or alternatives    qualities or chain of events
       according to type 
3. Evaluation  (based on approval or disapproval - emotive
Of course one assertion could and often does involve all three types of assertions. 

And then there is the matter of whether a statement is:

1. Presumably true ( in favor
2. Questionable (creating a burden of proof
3. False

Vouching sources for determining validity include:

A. Our own sense experience/ reason
B. Personal Testimony  
     (While sources A & B can receive
     presumption, that is, be assumed true unless further information      proves otherwise,  neither A nor B sources can speak for  assertions of interpretation or evaluation.
C. Common Knowledge
D. Expert Opinion ( sources C & D can ameliorate the burden of  proof)

The likelihood is, even without formally thinking about such distinctions, they are operating in your daily listening and responding, but if you'll allow me an assertion of opinion, it's worth the effort to renew and increase our communication skills consciously for no matter the issue, our public dialogue needs thoughtful and honest tending. 


Monday, February 26, 2018

Nicolás Gómez Dávila...writing to fix one's thoughts

 Colombian philosopher, Nicolás Gómez Dávila ( 1913-1994) whose works consists almost entirely of aphorisms had this to say about  writing: 
" The pleasure of writing, when we lack all talent and ambition, is the pleasure of  knowing clearly our ideas.
Drafting our thinking is, perhaps, creating it; in any case, it is to acquire a full consciousness. The vague and confusing idea is a mere promise; a promise that is not fulfilled and that is soon forgotten if words do not detain and fix it.
It is true that almost all of our ideas seem to be diminished by being written and that, in the light of that changing, rich and fruitful context of thought, they lose the life that stirs them in the warm shadows of consciousness; but it is only when they are of verbal pulp that we can know them and like, reject, or welcome them according to their excellence."
 (*This  is translated from Spanish, which original version is included below. )

 I  know that experience, where the glow that appears warm and steady within  flickers in me as I attempt to drag my  thoughts word by word into daylight.  Is this all there was?  What was I thinking?   It is a pleasure, those glimpses I sometimes have, thoughts which seem in the moment most excellent while in a hot shower  or on my knees and my  hands muddied in the garden, or in those first waking moments  when the door to dreams is still open. It can be a bittersweet process, but clarity is worth struggling for.

Original  from Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Notas, (p. 106) (Villegas, 2003) (1a ed. 1954) 
"El placer de escribir, cuando carecemos de todo talento y de ambición, es el placer de conocer claramente nuestras ideas.
Redactar nuestro pensamiento es, quizá, crearlo; en todo caso, es adquirir de él una plena conciencia. La idea vaga y confusa es una mera promesa; promesa que no se cumple y que pronto se olvida si las palabras no la detie nen y la fijan.
Es cierto que casi todas nuestras ideas parecen disminuidas al ser escritas y que, al extraerlas de ese contexto cambiante, rico y fecundo del pensamiento, pierden la vida que las agita en las cálidas penumbras de la conciencia; pero es sólo cuando se revisten de pulpa verbal que las podernos conocer y, así, o rechazar, o acoger según su excelencia."

If you would like to read of Nicolás Gómez Dávila  there is a very organized page of English translations of his aphorisms here:<>


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dictation for a second draft!

I'm wondering if the music in the background, it's live guitar music,  will affect the ability of this program to work? I'm using the dictation program and it makes some interesting decisions as to what it is I've actually said. We are learning to get along with each other.  That is to say, I am learning to enunciate more carefully than I might otherwise.

As regards the last question I posted here, I decided to simply keep writing; cull a little and not burn it all.  Of course first drafts do need and get a rough chaffing up that could cause  enough friction to almost set them on fire.

Reading hand written pages into the microphone provides an initial smoothing out. If it doesn't read well out loud, it's likely needing clarification at the least.   I also find words missing that I thought but did not write down.

Pen on ink still seems to be the way feeling and less obvious elements are conceived and I need to be careful, while editing, to not squeeze the life out of any of that protoplasmic ooze.

I felt silly not having found the dictation on my iMac sooner, it was hidden in plain sight. All I needed to do was go to the keyboard preferences.  Once I chose whether I wanted to dictate offline on via the cloud, I chose offline and downloaded what was necessary, it is a simple matter of putting ones cursor in any text box and hitting the function key two times.  Of course  I also need to remember not to say anything I don't want typed into the box in question.  Ahem, clearing her throat, she wondered whether this tool would make new paragraphs on command?

Yes, it does.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Journaling: to cull or to burn?

From My Journal: December 29, 2017

"I'll end this year's journal with a joke...I'd like to sort through and organize my years of scribbles and redact as might be indicated.  In other words, I would like to do something with them. "

 A fire at the beach is one possibility as organization doesn't seem to be my strong suit lately and yet they are collected chronologically at this point; a full step away from simple chaos.  I also think of typing up ( is that even a verb anymore?) excerpts.  So to cull or to burn, that is the question.   It frightened me enough that I went right out and bought three blank books yesterday and wrote 2018 on the cover of one of them.

And now....I have typed up and edited an excerpt, haven't I?  If I am  sensitive about conditions changing, even this small change I have made may be a big enough perturbation in my original trajectory to lead to something other than a bonfire.  I am not, however, predicting anything.