The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Words

Words are magical things. They are soothing, inviting, seductive, infuriating, insulting, and more. They can wound or heal; entice or repel; confuse or clarify; amuse or sadden. I love words. I do not obsess over them but I enjoy them. I like learning new words but I try to avoid using them to impress. Some others do not, they think it makes them appear sophisticated and educated. In other words, appear to be something they fear they aren't.

But words do not stand alone. Someone must speak or write them to bring their power to bear. They must be joined in such a way as to make them memorable or, I feel, they are wasted. And they must be used with the listener/reader in mind. Talking over someone's head will not endear you to that person. Not to mention that words, uttered at the wrong time or in he wrong place, can get you into trouble.

Oral communication is only partly dependent upon words, the majority of context is in body language, gesture, facial expression, and voice (tone and emphasis). These non-verbal communication factors are not available in the printed word. That makes communication very difficult for people who write for a living, or even for pleasure (as we bloggers do). Yet, throughout the ages the written word has sustained and advanced civilization. We study the writings of ancient civilizations intently; we immortalize the utterings of great men; we revere books and plays written hundreds of years ago. All of this without the physical manifestations needed in face to face communications. I think we are able to do this because these writings transcend that need. These men (and women) are wordsmiths.

Shakespeare is, to me, the greatest of wordsmiths. He transcends the ages with his wit and perception of the human condition. Aristotle and Plato are the great teachers, while Aesop the best in the art of expressing common sense and moral virtue. But there are so many worthy rivals to these that it would be impossible to be fair and list them all. I have no favorite style, genre, or discipline in writers. I have found joy in a vast array of works from the past and present.

One of the questions in the profile we make up as we create our blogs, is "Favorite books". I listed no one book, just various genres. That's because I am fickle; the book I am reading at the moment is likely to be my favorite, whatever it is. I rarely reread a book. When I do, the book is undoubtedly special. At least for me. It is usually one in which I strongly identify with a main character. Perhaps that's why the question is important to a profile; it reveals something important about the person.

Though I cannot list it as my favorite, I want to recommend a book that I have read more than once. It has been many years since I read it and my memories of it are vague. It was introduced to me by a man I met while in the Navy. This man, no more than 6 months older than I, mentored me. In his struggles with authority and the burden of his great intelligence, Herb Jahnke reached out to me as a friend and taught me much about how to view the world around me. He gave me this book not long after we met and we discussed it more than a few times in the year that we were shipmates.

It came back to me because of a blog post I read this morning, a blog post that triggered many thoughts as the blogger often does for me. The blog site is
"THE VIEW FROM OUTSIDE MY TINY WINDOW" and the post Number 66b

The book Herb gave me is "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy KosiƄski. It's a story about a young boy lost and alone in Poland and Eastern Europe while World War II ravages the countryside.

13 comments:

Michael said...

Someone wise once told me that being fickle is a good thing. I like a lot of books in particular. For me, I think it's not so much a special connection with the characters as it is a simple, fantasized story that shows us something about people and situations in reality. I like learning about people and the way in which authors can educate me through prose, poems and plays is quite amazing.

And insomnia is very popular in Hong Kong. As I type this, it is 3 in the morning, so you can imagine. Your teenage sleeping plan is not so different from mine.

Michael.

P.S. Started a more personal, general kind of blog. Check it out. :)

Michael said...

Incorrect grammar in my first paragraph, but you get it.

redchair said...

Hi Douglas,
Great Blog and very eloquently said. I agree on every point.

I also remember the book, The Painted Bird, and the reading about the controversy the writer went through after the publication.
Pretty amazing by comparison to today's standards, huh?
Vikki

Douglas said...

Yes, Vikki, it is pretty amazing when one considers today's standards. And more especially when you consider the various things human beings were up to in 1965.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1965

And thank you for the kind words.

Douglas said...

Michael, do not worry about grammatical errors. My grammar is atrocious and I often use the right word in the wrong place. A good english teacher could tear my little essays to pieces, ripping my ego to shreds. And they often did when I was in school.
Whenever I begin to worry about the technical aspects of my writing, I think of e.e. cummings. I also think of the Greeks whose language was once written without breaks between words. Imagine trying to read that!

Barry said...

Valid points, well said.

I am always astounded when reading list of favourite books. I read so many books, likely in the thousands by now, that the task would be daunting. I have no idea where I would begin.

Or where I would stop.

Michael said...

Hah! E.E.Cummings!
"anyone lived in a pretty how town"
I loved studying his poetry while all my classmates loathed it.

Ooo. And I had to study the Odyssey for a massive essay, and by 'study', I mean I had to learn Greek. Okay, maybe not so much learn it, but I had to learn the Greek Alphabet and know how to pronounce a Book or two in shaky, quivering, unsure Greek. I feel awesome now though. To employ the awfully old phrase, Latin, Hebrew and Greek for the win!

Michael.

P.S. Is my new blog actually visible to people?

Sal said...

An eloquent post today Douglas, I really enjoyed it,thank you and well done!

Douglas said...

It would be if you publicized it more. I is good, I have added to my list and I hope others will.

"If you're going through Hell, keep going."


Interesting title... I would have loved to spend more than the few days I did in Hong Kong. Of course, it is much different today than when I passed through back in 1967 and 1969.

Douglas said...

Yes, Vikki, it is pretty amazing when one considers today's standards. And more especially when you consider the various things human beings were up to in 1965.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1965

And thank you for the kind words.

Barry said...

Valid points, well said.

I am always astounded when reading list of favourite books. I read so many books, likely in the thousands by now, that the task would be daunting. I have no idea where I would begin.

Or where I would stop.

redchair said...

Hi Douglas,
Great Blog and very eloquently said. I agree on every point.

I also remember the book, The Painted Bird, and the reading about the controversy the writer went through after the publication.
Pretty amazing by comparison to today's standards, huh?
Vikki

Michael said...

Incorrect grammar in my first paragraph, but you get it.