This year marks the 400-year anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote, so I seized the opportunity to spend some hours in the study of 1605. (Arooo! Aroo-Aroooo!) And as all such beagle runs will do, this one led to a delightful surprise in the form of one ‘Baltasar Gracian,' a Spaniard who was 4 years old when Don Quixote was published and 15 when Cervantes died.
As an adult, Gracian was rival to Niccolo Machiavelli, author of The Prince, and his writings are the rich, sweet antidote to the bitter sting of Machiavellian code. Gracian's interpreter, Christopher Mauer, describes him this way; "In Gracian's world, no rules, no instructions, no set of [7?] habits lead directly to success. Rules are inflexible; no book of instructions will ever compete with the randomness of human activity; and any habit or pattern of behavior makes us predictable and therefore vulnerable to others: it is easy to shoot the bird that flies in a straight line, or defeat the person who always plays his cards in the same manner… For Gracian it is a melancholy fact of life that fools outnumber the intelligent and a large part of their foolishness lies in an inability to move beyond appearances to what lies within. Funny, subtle, loyal to his friends and a lover of natural beauty, Gracian is far more delightful company than his Jesuit records suggest." Yes, Gracian was a Jesuit priest who stayed in trouble with his uptight superiors.
Here are a few examples of his anti-Machiavellian wisdom:
"The eyes of the soul are drawn to inner beauty, as those of the body are to outer."
"The French have always been gallant, and this was the path that led Louis XII to immortality. Those who had insulted him when he was Duke of Orleans feared his succession to the throne. But he turned vengeance into gallantry with these inestimable words: ‘You have nothing to fear. The King of France does not avenge the injuries done to the Duke of Orleans…'"
"It takes subtlety to turn a defect into a distinction. Be first to confess your faults and you'll have the last word: this is not self-scorn but heroic boldness. Unlike what happens when we praise ourselves, self-criticism can make us seem nobler."
"Some come home from their travels as uncouth as they departed. Those of little depth make little use of worldly observation. Ambrosia was not made for the taste of fools, and no such knowledge is found in redneck bastards, who never stir from the here and now."
Okay, I'll admit I substituted "redneck bastards" for Gracian's original invective, but only because I thought it fit the paragraph. By the way, I have nothing but deep respect for the agrarian lifestyle and I revel in the earthy wisdom of farmers. Singer-songwriter Willie Nelson is not a redneck bastard. Eric's father, (the fictional TV character from That 70's Show) Red Forman, is. The Redneck Bastard is every man of closed-minded platitudes and belligerent, self-righteous certainty who has neither the will to understand his adversary's heart nor a hunger to learn the truth. The Ku Klux Klan exists because of Redneck Bastards.
This was written in the Daily Record (Ellensburg's paper) on Wed.Oct.
6, 2004. It was written by Mathew (only one t) Manweller who is a Central Washington University political science professor.
The title of the article was "Election determines fate of nation."
"In that this will be my last column before the presidential election there will be no sarcasm, no attempts at witty repartee. The topic is too serious, and the stakes are too high. This November we will vote in the only election during our lifetime that will truly matter. Because America is at a once-in-a-generation crossroads, more than an electio! n hangs in the balance. Down one path lies retreat, abdication and a reign of ambivalence. Down the other lies a nation that is aware of its past and accepts the daunting obligation its future demands. If we choose poorly, the consequences will echo through the next 50 years of history.
If we, in a spasm of frustration, turn out the current occupant of the White House, the message to the world and ourselves will be twofold. First, we will reject the notion that America can do big things. Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big of a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal to future presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle difficult challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity that has characterized other
The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to future presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular decisions. America has always been a nation that rises to the demands of history regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away from that legacy,we turn away from who we are.
Second,we inform every terrorist organization on the globe that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In Somalia we showed terrorists that you don't need to defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded America can become a defeated America. Twenty-four-hour news stations and daily tracing polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut into a fatal blow. Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10. The election of John Kerry will serve notice to every terrorist in every cave that the soft underbelly of American power is the timidity of American voters.
Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grizzly photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the American people. Our own self-doubt will take it from there. Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any American administration without setting foot on the homeland. It is said that America's W.W.II generation is its 'greatest generation.'
But my greatest fear is that it will become known as America's 'last generation.' Born in the bleakness of the Great Depression and hardened in the fire of WW II, they may be the last American generation that understands the meaning of duty, honor and sacrifice. It is difficult to admit, but I know these terms are spoken with only hollow detachment by many (but not all) in my generation. Too many citizens today mistake 'living in America' as 'being an American.' But America has always been more of an idea t han a place. When you sign on, you do more than buy real estate. You accept a set of values and responsibilities.
This November, my generation, which has been absent too long, must grasp the obligation that comes with being an American, or fade into the oblivion they may deserve. I believe that 100 years from now historians will look back at the election of 2004 and see it as the decisive election of our century. Depending on the outcome, they will describe it as the moment America joined the ranks of ordinary nations; or they will describe it as the moment the prodigal sons and daughters of the greatest generation accepted their burden as caretakers of the City on the Hill."
A story tells that two friends were walking through the desert.
During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one
in the face.
The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:
TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.
They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath.
The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved her.
After she recovered from the near drowning, she wrote on a stone:
TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.
The friend who had slapped and saved her best friend asked her, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?" The other friend replied "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."
LEARN TO WRITE YOUR HURTS IN THE SAND AND TO CARVE YOUR BENEFITS IN STONE.
They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day
to love them, but then an entire life to forget them.
Take the time to live!
Do not value the THINGS you have in your life. But value WHO you have in your life!
Her emails to her her family give an intimate portrayal of life in Gaza. Though I support Bush, her insights are compelling.
"This is in the area where Sunday about 150 men were rounded up and contained outside the settlement with gunfire over their heads and around them, while tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses - the livelihoods for 300 people. ......If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment and destroy all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held captive with 149 other people for several hours - do you think we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect whatever fragments remained? I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and fruit trees destroyed - just years of care and cultivation. I think about you and how long it takes to make things grow and what a labour of love it is. I really think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best they could. I think Uncle Craig would. I think probably Grandma would. I think I would."