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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reaching for the Stars

"A man's reach must always exceed his grasp, else what's a Heaven for?"

This is one of the quotations we memorized in Miss Skillen's English class years ago.  Remember that I went to school before the days of gender correctness, and "man" was a generic term for any human.

"Reaching for the stars" used to be poetic or symbolic, but today our space explorations have actually reached for stars and are sending back messages.

And we see that "stardom" has given another meaning to the phrase.

My take on the quotation is simply this:
  • Set your goals high.  Aim for whatever you desire the most.
  • Realize that you are not likely to win the Lottery, or receive the President's Award, or play in the Olympics.
  • Don't let that realization keep you from doing your best.

  • Else what't a Heaven for? 
What are you reaching for? 

         I wish you success in your reach.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Never say never

I find it interesting that so many Axims for Good Living begin with the word NEVER.
  • Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never spend money before you have it.
  • Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap,
  • Never complain and never explain  (Your friends don't need it and your enemies will not belive you anyway.)
  • Never trouble trouble, 'til trouble troubles you.
You get the idea.  The first four above were part of the advice that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a younger man as canons for a "practical life."

          The one lesson I can recall from my own student teaching days was this:

Never promise or threaten a punishment or reward
that you can't deliver!

So what do you think of these ideas? 
  •  Is it better to put off some things until tomorrow? 
  • Does the judicious use of a credit card make spending money you don't have a good idea?

You get the idea.  Maybe Thomas Jefferson was sometimes wrong.
It may be better to leave a bit of wiggle room as you pass along advice.
I try to do that.  Do you?

Oh, yes, one final thought--never say ALWAYS, either.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moral Psychology

I do not expect to blog every day, but a discussion at lunch today led me to post this comment about  Jonathon Haidt , the social psychologist who spoke with Bill Moyers on Sunday.

Haidt noted that in deciding whether something (an act or an idea) is right or wrong, there are many dimensions one might consider.  He listed:
  • care/harm done
  • fairness/reciprocity
  • loyalty/ingroup
  • authority/respect
  • purity/sanctity
Studies have shown that conservatives tend to give equal weight to all these dimensions.  Liberals, on the other hand, tend to give most of the weight to care/harm done and fairness/reciprocity.

If we are able to understand that "the other side" is coming from a different point-of-view, maybe we can quit thinking of them as EVIL and try to listen to what they are trying to say.

Let us all be honest and kind.  We deserve it and so do our opponents.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Second post

So here is a public diary, set up for all the world to see.

What do I want to accomplish here? Share ideas about language and about civil discourse, about how we might improve both of these.

Watching Moyers and Company yesterday with Jonathon Haidt as the guest.  I was fascinated by Haidt's comments about "The Righteous Mind" and his plea that political discussion be more civil.  If we could agree that someone who disagrees with us is NOT a demon out to destroy us, but someone whose culture and belief system lead them to think differently from us.  We can learn from each other.

I expect I will have more to say about this in future posts.  Check out Bill Moyers at and look for his conversation with Jonathon Haidt.

Instead of "drafting our press release" let us try to listen to one another.  I welcome your comments.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fun with the sounds of words

This is my first post on my new blog: I used to think.

 I am not sure yet, what will be on this blog, but perhaps you and I will discover it together.  I used to think that it mattered what I thought, but now I am not so sure.  Trying this out to see whether my thinking makes sense even to me, and then perhaps look for your comments to find out what sense it makes to you.

     I have always enjoyed words in both their sound and sense.  I enjoy the very sound of such words as “windowsill,” “Cinderella,” “sassafras,” and, my recent favorite “hydrochlorothiazide”.  Anyone out there who likes words just for their sounds?

     When I was a 7th grade English teacher I taught the rules of grammar, but admitted that only English teachers cared very much whether one said who or whom or used the nominative case after a preposition.  How much does it matter that we use words "correctly"?

My mind does a double take on clich├ęs and phrases that have become a part of everyday speech but must have meant something different or special when first uttered.  What youngster understands “dialing” a phone or “coming on like gangbusters”?  Do you remember?  If so, you are OLD.