31 January 2012

A Thoughts from the Antipodes weekly institution

I was recently inspired by my sisters installation of a themed weekly blog post (check out her Tuesdays Treasures over at Picklebug Designs), and decided to instigate my own attempt over here.
At first I wasn’t sure what I could hope to achieve on a weekly basis given that my blog platform isn’t really specialised in any one direction, nor do I consider myself having any form of expertise which might be called upon for weekly retrospection. So whatever I decided to post about, it had to be based on some quotidian thing from my life, and something I wasn’t likely to run out of material for.
In the end the answer was right in front of me, or to be specific, slightly to the right of me; my work calendar.
I have hinted in a couple of previous posts about the daily work calendar on my desk that endows my morning with a new quote, or thought for the day. Sometimes they are interesting, and prompt some (hopefully) entertaining ruminations, others are a bit less inspiring, and make me question whoever is in control of these things. Nevertheless, they help furnish my day with something to think about. The number of dull mornings where I have looked to my calendar for some form of motivation or inspiration, and gingerly lifted the previous day’s page in trepidation of what lies beneath, cannot be counted.
So with a theme decided upon, I then faced the formidable question of what to call my weekly musings.
Notable Quotables?
Wordsworthy Wednesdays?
Thoughtful Thoughts Thursdays?
Friday QuoteDay?
These were the first attempts that I came up with, and I wasn’t really happy with any of them. Rhyming failed me, alliteration offered little improvement, and my last attempt with the clunky ‘Friday Quote Day’ was just plain awful. Clearly I needed help.
I finally settled on the simpler ‘Wednesdays Words’. I was going to add ‘...of Wisdom’, but thought it might be more prudent of me to leave of this little descriptive, lest I don’t live up to the label.
As it is not yet the right day of the week to get the ball rolling on this endeavour, I would like to spend the rest of this post sharing with you some previous quotes that gave me enough pause, for various reasons, to actually write down some thoughts on the matter.
The outcome of these daily quotes are generally pretty foreseeable. It can be uplifting, at other times annoying, and every now and then it is just plain bland. I got a nice surprise the other day though when I noticed what I would like to think is a semi-hidden joke on the part of the calendars designer. I had previously lamented the lack of thought by the person compiling these quotes when they included a quote from a Christian Scientist nutjob; but this next pair of quotes gave me hope.
The first quote was an old classic:
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?” – Tibetan saying
We have all heard it before, and some of us have pondered the rhetorical question at some philosophical length (even though Bart Simpson clearly answered it years ago). So it wasn’t anything new and after reading it I thought nothing further of it.
And then I found this cute Tibetan Terrier picture
However the following day when I peeled the previous entry away and revealed the current days quote, I was taken aback at what I am pretty sure was a deliberate topical reference.
Here is what I found:
“There is no sound of one hand clapping” – Chinese proverb
Is it what I think it is? Is it a cheeky juxtaposition of a Chinese authoritarian quote after a Tibetan one, in order to show the oppressive nature of these two cultures relationship? I mean I might be mistaken here, but it seems pretty to the point. Though yes, I get the validity of the Chinese saying on its own, and how it is worth noting that cooperation has virtues worth extolling as a national maxim. However, given it was put right after the Tibetan quote dealing with the same exact topic, I would be willing to wager it was an intentional gag.
Perhaps gag wasn't the right word...
The second quote I will bring to your attention is this:
“A hedge between keeps friendships keen.” – German Proverb
You will often find sayings, adages or proverbs scattered throughout such ‘thought of the day’ lists which are attributed not to individuals, but rather larger groups of humanity be it nations, civilisations, religions or ethnicities. When this is the case it always makes me wonder whether the quote is at all reflective of the group identity from which it sprung, or whether it was merely a nifty saying that was happened upon by someone of arbitrary descent, but nevertheless latched onto by the group.
So in the above example, I question if the saying is representative of German people (though from what era it originated, I do not know), or just something that was first propagated in Germany (though its handy rhyming when translated into English makes me wonder...).
Growing up as we do in a society saturated with a multitude of media influences, sometimes one can’t help but link the nation of Germany, or indeed simply the word German, with the Second World War; in particular with the Nazi’s.
The scale of these past crimes mean that such mental connections aren’t surprising, though considering that the nation of Germany has a very diverse history, as well as an impressive contemporary culture, it is still rather unfortunate. Nevertheless due to Germany’s central role in both the major conflicts of the modern era, the Germans exemplify the ‘bad guys’ of the 20th century.
We can see this re-enforced in many facets of our lives, whether it be their lingering presence in war movies, the endless documentaries on the History channel detailing those horrible days, or finding them sitting squarely in the crosshairs of a plethora of video game titles.
So when the quote of the day came up, and it was labelled as a German proverb, I couldn't help it if my conditioned mind finds some kind of ironic link between an ostensibly innocent quote, and the darker hours of the German civilisation (though I admit, it is a stretch).
“A hedge between keeps friendships keen. A panzer division causes a friendship schism.”

Then there are quotes that make me think, and then think a bit further. Perhaps a bit further than a quote of the day calendar warrants, but those of you who know me know I am wont to exactly that form of overanalyses. Like my previous post about Samuel Johnson's ‘Language is the dress of thought’ quote, I often follow one train of thought, only to quickly turn around and see it from a completely different perspective. And I hope this second perspective is all the more astute because of this.
Take this last quote for instance:
“I can do something else besides stuff a ball through a hoop. My biggest resource is my mind” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
At first glance I thought it a good quote. It is nice to see an athlete praising the gifts of the mind, above those of their athletic prowess. After all one is more likely to be beneficial and attainable to the everyman than the other. By which I mean we can’t all earn a living as athletes no matter how hard we practise, but the fruits of the mind are available to all, and generally bring with them an increase in one’s personal standard of living.
Plus the man fought Bruce Lee!
But then (and perhaps this isn’t really a rethink, as it is a sign of my own innate cynicism) I can’t help but note that it is handy when one of your other resources, like stuffing a ball through a hoop, is able to placate you with millions of dollars while your precious brain can remain roughly underutilised.

But I must end this before I get too carried away. Tomorrow is Wednesday, and I shall hopefully have my first weekly post ready for you to read over.
Until then dear reader, have a good night!

1 comment:

  1. Also, I don't want to hear any comments about how that is a Sherman tank, and not a German Panzer. I did my best!