Friday, February 28, 2014

QOTD - this makes everything groovy

"I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself." DH Lawrence, English author
And so, if you're being devoured by a lion, just keep calm and let the lion carry on??

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, February 27, 2014

QOTD - it has to be juuuuuust right

"As much is lost by a card too many as by a card too few." Miguel de Cervantes, 16th century Spanish writer

A card. An hour. A mile.

Yes, this is so. And, once again, has squat-all to do with either Keeping Calm or Carrying On! Can anyone explain this calendar to me??

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

QOTD - Managing Expectations

"I don't expect to be happy, but it's gotten beyond that, somehow." Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American aviator
"it's gotten beyond that, somehow." Somehow how? 

As in: a terrible thing happened to her (which we know did). After which, merely not being happy would be an improvement? 

As in: she'd thought she knew what happiness was. And didn't necessarily expect it. But now she knows of something so beyond happiness (something spiritual, perhaps?) that wanting to be happy seems minor? 

As in: with so much warring against happiness, she never expected it. But, in the end, she became happy beyond her wildest imaginings?

Maybe if I knew "somehow,"  I could decide how to feel about this quote.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

QOTD - blame the victim

"Nothing is easy to the unwilling." Thomas Fuller, 17th century British historian

Oh, dear! How very "shame on you!" this sounds. Like an admonishment given by a teacher to a student who, the teacher is convinced, is only failing because of laziness.

This is not to say that the statement itself doesn't hold a grain of truth. However, it does not follow that everything comes easily to the willing. For example, how many people in the USA are currently unemployed, not because of willingness to work but because of a shortage of jobs? 

Rather than encouragement, this quote resounds with judgement. I find its presence on an "uplifting" calendar quite objectionable.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Monday, February 24, 2014

QOTD - Call the Darkness Light

"The dark is light enough." Christopher Fry, English playwright
I was glad to see something by Christopher Fry. His isn't a name you hear very much these days. 

I used to use a speech from The Lady's Not for Burning, for which I have a special fondness, as an audition speech. 

Today's quote is the title of a different play. My mind's ear hears it spoken brusquely, with a grim satisfaction that proves the speaker to have a Stiff Upper Lip. For some reason, it reminds me of Stevie Smith's casual allusion to the alternative to carrying on: "Things may easily become more than I choose to bear."

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Sunday, February 23, 2014

QOTD - And You're Not

"Break as few bones as possible and make as much noise as you can." Chevy Chase, American actor
I have a hunch that this was Chevy Chase giving a glib tip for succeeding in physical comedy. I fail to see it's application as an "affirmation" in any other context. It sure doesn't do much as a general philosophy of life. Even if it worked for him, he's Chevy Chase. And I'm not.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Saturday, February 22, 2014

QOTD - Traa-laa-laahh!

"Steady as a clock, busy as a bee, and cheerful as a cricket." Martha Washington, US First Lady

OMG! The first First Lady was a Disney Princess!!

Not much of a dose of Keep Calm, but sure was good for a giggle!

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Friday, February 21, 2014

QOTD - and then there's the one about the sparrow

"By perserverance the snail reached the ark." CH Spurgeon, 19th century British preacher
Spurgeon's snail isn't about pererverance. Aesop's tortise is about perserverance. 

Spurgeon's snail is about faith.For this quote to mean anything to you, you have to believe in Noah and the Ark. Otherwise, where is the snail going? And why is it so important and/or wonderful that it got there?

Faith can't be forced, and you don't catch it off a calendar. You either have it or you don't. Me, I don't. And exhorting me to it only pushes all my contrary buttons.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Thursday, February 20, 2014

QOTD - or 42

"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." Nelson Henderson, Irish rugby player
Even as someone who will have no descendants to enjoy the shade, I honor this sentiment. It is a hallmark of civilized cultures, and I mourn its disappearance from my own.

It's not that my country is lacking in individuals who continue to plant trees for future generations. It's that our shared culture dismisses or even mocks such actions, because they lead to neither money nor power. 

Somewhere in the mid 20th century, the USA stopped considering future generations. The reasons are no doubt complex. My own thinking attributes the change to McCarthy/Nixon/Hoover Communist witch hunts, which cast a cloud over any secular act that smacked of altruism, followed by Regan/Trump/celebrity-bling glorification of greed and excess. The result is a ruling class who would not plant a tree for its unachieved shade unless they could make an immediate profit selling futures -- and then they'd want an award for humanitariansim. We are led by people who think taxes that build bridges and maintain roads are a form of theft, because people other than the,selves will use those bridges and roads. We are led by people for whom the meaning of life is to take everything the world has to offer and, as even they apparently have to eventually die, dying with the most toys.

Such unabashed narcissism is poisonous for a culture. History has proven it, time and again. On some deep level, even our own ruling class senses this, a fact made manifest by the virulence with which they attack any proposition that other nations are thriving beyond their own. But acknowledging this would mean conquering the very character traits that have brought them the power they cherish. 

When rulers decide to steer their barges down denial, what is the eventual result? Shipwreck. The excavation of which ruins will, no doubt, provide a bounty of fodder for future scholars from lands rich in old and well-tended shade trees.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

QOTD - Happiness is...

"The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so." Robert G. Ingersoll, 19th Century American politician

If this quote came from Mother Theresa...or from Walt Disney or Milton Hershey, I might be more likely to consider the formula. But from a politician?? 

Certain the "others" who modern politicians flock to make happy are the ones with deep pockets. I assume it has ever been thus -- at least since the model shifted from pandering to those with the sharpest swords. So, from a politician's perspective, this formula states that the way to be happy is to seize the day and kiss up to those who will make your life easy. Kind of devalues happiness.

Quotes-of-the day from the 2014 Keep Calm & Carry On desk calendar

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

QOTD - Getting it Backwards

"The only substitute for shouting is substance." Juanita Krebs, US Secretary of Commerce
Did Krebs live in Bizarro World? Because in this world substance is always blotted out by shouting. How could someone become a member of a Presidential Cabinet without and not noticing that loud and frequently-repeated "talking points" trump scholarship, analysis and conscience every time. Mobs rule the internet by bombarding social media, smothering reasoned arguments with oceans of passionate sound bytes. Squeaky wheels get not only the grease, but a pack of other things they don't need but figured they might as well ask for while they had the power.

In the face of all this, it's not so easy to Keep Calm and Carry On. I'm boiling mad much of the time. But unless I can figure out how to shout louder, my pleas for substance will never be heard. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

QOTD - Dear John

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." John Adams, US President
As Adam's old frenemy Thomas Jefferson might have said, I hold that truth to be self-evident. To pin it down and stare it squarely in the face seems typical of Adams. 

From a calendar perspective, I'm failing to get the pep talk. So Keep Calm and Carry On because things are what they are and you can't do anything about them? Oh, goody!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

QOTD - Finally! A Philosophy to Live By!

"Give up the quest for perfection and shoot for five good minutes in a row." Cathy Guisewite, American cartoonist
This is the first quote in this calendar that might actually help me Keep Calm and Carry On. Just reading it triggers my lungs to take a deep and cleansing breath, and I can already feel the knots dissolving in my shoulders. 

Five good minutes. I can do that!

Thank you, Cathy Guisewite! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

QOTD - and then what?

"Do a common thing in an uncommon way." Booker T. Washington, American writer and educator
If you interpret this as "build a better mousetrap," it's a happy sentiment and a rule of thumb for adding a pleasurable measure of creativity to your life. However, rather than helping me Keep Calm and Carry On, it describes a really good reason why it's so hard to do just that! 

Doing things in an uncommon way is bound to ruffle more than a few feathers and throw up a lot of roadblocks. It's difficult to Keep Calm while fighting endless turbulence. The best you can do is try and block it out, which isn't so much Keep Calm and Carry On as Fuck Them and Carry On. If you're incredibly successful at whatever it is, I suppose of some sort of calm eventually comes with success. But for the rest of us, not so much. 

If you truly want to Keep Calm and Carry On, I'd recommend doing a common thing in a common way. Being ordinary is very calming! Or, if you really need a challenge, stay hidden in plain sight: find an uncommon thing that you can do in the commonest possible way. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

QOTD - Yoo-hoo!

"What you seek is seeking you." Rumi, 13th Century Persian poet

And..."Every move you make, I'll be watching you." Sting.  

Sorry. Something about the juxtaposition of the Rumi quote with Valentine's Day made me think of that.

All snark aside, this QOTD makes me sad. Once I believed that somehow someway  the things I sought were seeking me. And to me that meant that someday we were bound to come together. That helped me to stoutly Carry On throughout my childhood and for much of my adult life. But I kept seeking and seeking, and I never was found. And I reached a point when I decided I must accept that I never would be. 

Some will say that I've missed the subtle point, that one's purpose is in the seeking and that finding is irrelvant. Others might determine that my mistake was in seeking what I was never meant to have, and that some entirely unsuspected goal would have brought me happiness or, at least, completeness. People with such perceptions are nobler than I. I am not made of such admirable stuff and freely admit that I find it exhausting to Carry On to no purpose. And so, this quote from Rumi makes me nothing but sad.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

QOTD - goodness greatness

"Goodness is not tied to greatness, but greatness to goodness." Greek proverb
If I'm understanding this proverb, possessing goodness does not necessarily lead to greatness; but one cannot attain the stature of "greatness" unless one is also good. If we no longer hold this to be true, then our definition of "greatness" has eroded. 

I don't find it Calming to contemplate this; it's sad. As for the Carrying On part, well, I learned long ago that the only reward for goodness (or integrity or whatever you want to call it) is whatever inner peace comes from having done what feels right. That's Carrying On by default. Not much joy in it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

QOTD - Happy Birthday, Mr. President

"I walk slowly, but I never walk backward." Abraham Lincoln, US President
A very Lincoln-esque take on Carry On. I don't know that would inspire anyone to keep going. But, when obstacles are many and progress itself seems infinitesimal, there is Calming consolation in remembering that there is value in any effort made to progress.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

QOTD - the opposite of Keep Calm

"Before Man made us citizens, great Nature made us men." James Russell Lowell, 19th century American poet
Context is everything with this one. Being unfamiliar with this quote, my first thought was that JRL was describing a social evolution, from natural animal state to the more refined sensibilities of responsible citizenry. But that didn't seem Important enough to make a calendar (even though, as I've previously illustrated, this particular calendar sets the venerability bar pretty low). 

After reading the quote a few times, and reminding myself of the political atmosphere of 19th century Cambridge, I realized it was more likely to be a call for equality. That JRL was implying that, before the law of Man started breaking humanity into "citizens" and non-citizens (at the most extreme, slaves; but also, in the context of 19th century laws, men without land and all women), Nature made us all, equally, human.

Which is truth nobly observed. But surely JRL means to inspire the reader take risks and shake up the unjust status quo, NOT Keep Calm and Carry On

Monday, February 10, 2014

QOTD - tick tick tick

"Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." Benjamin Franklin, American diplomat
I'm not surprised to find the exceptionally quotable Franklin on this calendar. But, since assigning him some wrong-side-of-blanket descendants in my alternative history novel I take an extra delight in his ubiquity.

Today's sentiment was certainly one Franklin applied to his own life. He doesn't seem to have squandered a minute!

Of course, contemplating this doesn't provide much Keep Calm. But it's a brisk reminder that Carry On is an active compound verb. It takes a great deal of energy, and often much creativity, to not squander time. And it's salutary to bear in mind that, for good or bad, one's tenure on this earth is finite. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

QOTD - blame the victim

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." Jon Kabat-Zinn, American doctor and mindfulness expert

Typical assumption of the successful, —that if it worked for me, it will work for everyone. What if you can't learn to surf?

No, I'm not being too literal. Let me translate this to my own life. I keep learning to surf, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to stay afloat. Despite talent and lots of hard work to perfect my crafts, I spend years floundering in the waters of acting and writing careers and never managed to catch a wave. Eventually I went back to shore and sought out more tameable waves. I gradually built a career in User Assistance documentation for SaaS technologies. Just when it seemed I was surfing, the waters began to rapidly dry up. I was beached again. Now I'm clinging to my board, learning new strokes as quickly as I can, but the waves keep crashing over me and wiping me out.  There's nothing here to Keep Calm with, only a reminder that life is an endless cycle of Carrying On.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

QOTD - Don't Be It, Seem It

"Chin up! Chest out! Back Straight!" American military slogan, circa WWII
Aha! So POSTURE is the key to success and happiness! I suppose this falls into the same category as "dress for the life you wish you had" and the research that shows that smiling actually changes one's mood. My own experience in all these areas shows that, while they rarely lead to the desired successful outcome, they do make the daily seem a little less grim. So, okay. I will Carry On with my back straight. If nothing else, it'll make it easier to reach the overhead bar when I can't get a seat on the subway.

Friday, February 7, 2014

QOTD - Excellence does not factor

"Excellence is doing your best at what you do best." Cathleen Black, American businesswoman
Okay. I can accept that. But, in considering this from the Keep Calm and Carry On perspective, I think this quote must be annotated with the observation that excellence is neither a guarantee nor even a condition of success.

Also, it should be noted that "excellence" applied to a negative context is not laudable. For example, I give you the slice of history recently dramatized as The Wolf of Wall Street. The people whose lives are the subject of that film were surely "excellent" at sales, at understanding the financial market and at taking the emotional temperature of their time and place. The hundreds of others whose money they stole and whose lives were damaged or even ruined by this can hardly be expected to applaud that excellence. 

Interesting. This has just made me notice how often Scorcese and DiCaprio use their own artistic excellence to shed some light on historic characters whose excellence was negatively diverted. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

QOTD - true but not consoling

"You must be prepared for good luck." Edward Kennedy, US Senator

I can remember hearing variations of this from several acting teachers. Their point was always that there is no such thing as overnight success. Behind every apparent "instant" change of luck are years of preparation. Yes, there is almost always a trigger moment: the leading lady breaking her leg; the chance meeting of eyes across a crowded room; the conductor telling you to move to the back of the bus. But those moments of opportunity won't count for anything unless you're equipped to take advantage of them. So one must absolutely Carry On, just in case!

On the other hand, being prepared will never guarantee you the good luck. It's as important to remember this as to remember that it is the pursuit of happiness that the Declaration of Independence considers to be an unalienable right, not the achievement thereof.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

QOTD - sigh

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalms 30:5

Indeed. And lasts at least until you brush your teeth.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

QOTD - caesura

No quote today, because I found myself on the horns of a dilemma and decided abstaining was my most comfortable option. 

Pity, because I found today's calendar page to be food for positive thought. However, I don't want to put up a quote without proper attribution and hence the dilemma. 

Google has made a bragging point out of the organic flagging capabilities of Blogger and G+, that it's unnecessary for a writer to add tags to a post in order for proper keywords to be picked up by the search engine. In the case of this particular QOTD, the keywords certain to be picked up would be the name of the author and would result in providing additional media to someone who is heavily trending just now. 

I refuse to give even minor additional support to someone who is making great twisted capital of social media for an agenda that I do not support. 

BTW, this decision is nicely emblematic of my customary tendency to prioritize integrity. If only I were different in that way, I'd probably have far less need to Keep Calm and Carry On.

Monday, February 3, 2014

QOTD - Cheer Up, It Will Only Get Worse!

"Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem." Henry Kissinger, American diplomat
In other words: Keep Calm and Carry On, bearing in mind that, should you push through the current difficulties and conquer them, you are only going to be earning your way to worse. 

Is this a rueful comment on his own career? If it is, instead, an example of diplomacy, it must have been in aid of something rather grim.

Rather than bolstering me, I find it discouraging to think that someone as successful as Kissinger should have lacked a degree of satisfaction in accomplishment and seen only bigger mountains demanding to be climbed.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

QOTD - Wrong day?

"Labor is life! 'Tis the still water faileth." Frances S. Osgood, 19th century American poet.

Is it just me, or is this a rather contrary choice for a Sunday meditation?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

QOTD goes "Huh?"

"If you're going to be a bridge, you've got to be prepared to be walked upon." Roy A. West, American writer
I read today's calendar page and thought "huh?!"

So you're saying that if I choose to be a bridge—a role I envision as being rather positive, with its intimations of peace and cooperation—I will essentially be trampled? 

Not really inspiring me to Keep Calm and Carry On, calendar people.

I looked at the author's name, hoping for a clue to context that might change this reaction. I wasn't familiar with Roy A. West. Naturally, I was abashed at my ignorance. Surely, in order to be quoted on a page-a-day calendar, one must be a person of some note. I went to Amazon to look for his books, but nothing turned up. Perhaps, I thought, Roy A. West is a journalist; or perhaps he was a well-known professor whose writings are distributed more in academia than commercially. So I googled him. It took several tries, and I had to include the word "writer" in order to turn up a result. It was only one result, leading to a Goodreads page with a single 5 syar review of a 1976 book (no description, but the title made me think it might be Christian philosophy). I suppose this was temporarily inspiring, because my new book already has two reviews on Goodreads. I also bring up a much healthier search engine result. But my moment of uplift was fleeting. Roy A. West, with his one result and one review, had impressed someone to the extent that this rather awkward proclamation had made it onto a mainstream commercial calendar. So then I felt like crap again.

I hold to the faint hope that perhaps Roy—or a family member—might have been involved in compiling this calendar. Which would explain his QOTD entry in such a way that QOTDI might be able to Keep Calm and Carry On after all.