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Archive for the ‘anecdotes’ Category

For those who have read the news of Boris Johnson and winced to be informed of the ridiculous levels British politics have descended along with him, I offer a rehash of anecdotes posted in 2010. There were those who spoke their mind and said it in such inimitable manner.

Henry Cust (1861-1917)

He was irreverent and he also dabbled in poetry. But journalism is what made him famous. His brilliance made the rich and famous take note of him and during one night in 1892 William Waldorf Astor walked over and offered the editorship of his latest acquisition The Pall Mall Gazette to him. True to form his editorials sparkled and irreverence also was very much in evidence. A leading article on the Eastern Question was entitled,’The Voice of Turkey.’

When the fate of the Chinese statesman Li Hung Chung was in the news the headlines carried-‘Li Chung- Hung? A school board controversy concerning a Mr. Dingle was presented to the public as follows:’To Dingle I am not able, to Beggle I am ashamed.’

 

 

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During the first week in office the military aides of the President brought a folder of transcripts to him. They asked President Truman if he were interested. It was an extensive practice during the Roosevelt years. Truman glanced at the two pages of the doings of the wife of one member of the White House staff. Truman told the officials, “I haven’t time for any such foolishness as that. Tell them I don’t authorize any such thing.”

2.

After eighteen years in Washington, more than seven of them in the White House, he left for Independence, MO in Jan.23. A neighbor back home observed it was as if the Trumans had never been away; they were natural and as unspoilt by high office as if Truman had risen no further than alderman of Independence.

The day after he got back home he took his usual morning walk and one television reporter asked him what was the first thing he did when he walked in the house of 219 North Delaware the night before. “I carried the grips up the attic,” was the simple answer.

benny

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Samuel Foote(1720-1777) wit
Dear Son,
I am in prison for debt; come and assist your loving mother.-E. Foote

Dear Mother,
So am I; which prevents his loving duty being paid to his loving mother.-Your affectionate son.
Samuel Foote
P.S_ I have sent my attorney to assist you; in the mean time let us hope for better days.

Living too well on oysters wine and roses is as bad as having to gnaw at the bones since dog of my Lord Hi-n-Mighty has got marrow.

But at what cost is to bay at the moon of one percenters while worms are frisky and waiting to be had, and the apple is within reach?
ii
John Ruskin (1819-1900)

John Ruskin once received a request for donation to pay off the mortgage of the Duke Street Chapel and I have given here below an excerpt of his reply. It would seem he was addressing our present world; and for those who want buy now and pay later it may even be an eye opener!
Brentwood, 19 May,1886,
Sir,
I am scornfully amused at your appeal to me, of all people in the world the precisely least like to give you a farthing! My first word to all men and boys to hear me is”Don’t get into debt. Starve and go to heaven-but don’t borrow. Try first begging_ I don’t mind if it’s really needful_stealing!. But don’t buy things you can’t pay for!”….
Isn’t it surprising how what we hold up as a virtue and a proof of a solid character is chipped away so slowly that none notices the enervation of personal values? In his essay ‘Unto This Last’ Ruskin wrote ‘There is no wealth but life.’
Dulled senses of a person who has chased a mirage at the cost of his or her personal values,-character, take the place as a slave driver. No pity or no worthwhile example but the constant goading the person to acquire branded items that he or she doesn’t really need. The victim scarcely notices what is branded right through the flesh to the spirit.

Moral: Virtues of one Age are the vices of another. Capitalism invented mass consumerism and made the bible for the lost and the damned. One only needs to see the mess we are all in.

benny

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Harry S Truman (1887-1972)

33rd US President

After WWI Captain Truman was for sometime engaged in the haberdashery business. It was a failure. Later in the White House he could recall an irritating customer who could not make up his mind. Truman showed his most impressive line-up and the customer merely dithered. Truman said pointing to a couple of shirts, ‘they wear like iron. They laugh at the laundry.’

‘Yes, I know,’ grumbled the customer, ‘I bought half a dozen just like these. They came back with their sides split.’

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Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Printer, inventor, diplomat, founding father

Benjamin Franklin

 

Once early in his newspaper career he had to deal with the rival paper Mercury, which had the patronage of William Penn’s sons and Franklin as with many other patriots disliked their policies. One day a delegation of well meaning friends, Quakers, called on him at his house. They were there to warn him to moderate his political views. Anticipating what they were there for he invited them to stay for dinner, which consisted of some kind of mush and water. Franklin spooned the mush onto his dish and began to eat. His guests also tried to follow his example but they could not speak their point of view without getting the mush sticky in their throat. Franklin quietly tackled his food as he was well used to it. Finally the Quakers could not suffer the fare any longer and asked what it was.

‘You see what humble food I can live on,’ snapped Franklin, ‘He who can subsist upon saw-dust pudding and water doesn’t need the patronage of anyone.’

Note: There is a parallel to this in the life of Cato the elder. Plutarch writes about Marius Curius, a neighbour of Cato who had in his day scored a great victory over the Samnites. This War had lasted 298-90 BC. His simple living and hard work were well known. He continued to live in his humble cottage, working over the little patch of his land with his own hands even after he had celebrated his three triumphs. It was here that the ambassadors of the Samnites had found him sitting in front of his hearth boiling turnips. They offered him large sums of gold, but he sent them away, telling them that a man who could be satisfied with such a meal did not need gold.

 

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I n t r o d u c t i o n

 

What is an anecdote? It was the redoubtable Dr. Johnson who in his Dictionary (1755) defined the word as ‘something yet unpublished; a secret history.’ On the anvil of usage a word gets beaten till it comes to mean quite something else. The doctor as concession to vagaries of time, in a later edition amended the definition as follows: ‘A biographical incident; a minute passage of private life.’

 This second book of the Representational Man contains more anecdotes and the intent is same as the first.

Man as a key and symbol. Since we come with a physical and inner life should we not be represented both visible and in inner life as well? The representational men ought to serve as a key to our inner life or our lives in the spirit.

No action of man can be understood without asking what his motives were. Why did VI Lenin resort to a violent overthrow of the Tsars while MK Gandhi adopted non-violence as his weapon? This can only be understood by the role ethos shaped their thinking. Ethos is defined as the disposition, character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specific person, people, culture, or movement. (AH dictionary)

Alexander of Macedon is a representative man for the ilks of Julius Caesar and Napoleon whose fame and fortune are all hitched to the physical world. Their actions also prove where their emphasis lay. For the Great Soul as MK Gandhi is called, ahimsa was an article of faith and for this he owed to the teachings of Gautama Buddha and to the epics. Prince Siddhartha Gautama forsook his kingdom and the worldly advantages and yet became a representational man. He turned his loss to advantage. He became the Buddha after he put his finger on the pulse of our existence to show us a way forward. For all those who value a life in the spirit he is a representational man.

Conquerors of world empires or of our hearts and minds, prophets or saints, fools or sages have all made their mark using the same arena, the earth. Only they placed their emphases differently.

Spirit of the times is the oxygen we breathe even as they and yet we see our world through their eyes.

Diogenes of Cinope could tell Alexander to keep out of his sun because he saw his circumstances under the sun applicable to the great man as well. How come they are representational men and we are not? We are connected to representational men because we breathe the same air and create the spirit of our times in the manner we contribute however small, for the common fund. And yet we often forget what spirit we are made of; neither we cash in on the wisdom which the representational man has well made use of. Representational man in a manner of speaking is our admission we fell back in the race of life.

If we are not true to our own thoughts we are reduced to deal in second hand goods passed on by others. If we have failed to think noble thoughts or act upon them we may be forced to settle for the second best which another has thought for us. It is in this context we look up to the representational man who has succeeded where we never even tried.

I shall end this by quoting two authors who more or less approached study of history from focusing on men who made history. Scholars of present day history may not fully endorse their approach but the following quotes suit my purpose well.

My intent is not to write histories but only lives. For the noblest deeds do not always show mean virtues and vices but sometimes a light occasion, a word or some sport makes man’s natural dispositions and manners appear than the famous battles won…”

(Plutarch-The Life of Alexander)

“No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of the great men”.

(Carlyle)

(This is selected from my book: Representational Man in two volumes-self published through http://www.lulu.com)

Benny


 

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The life of Dr. Albert Schweitzer bears out the surge of power by which consciousness and memory can make a sea-change in life of one and serve as a key to many others.
The young Albert once got into a fight and knocked down his opponent. The boy told Albert that it would have ended differently had he been as well nourished as he was. It evidently affected him. During supper that evening, he left his soup untouched.
It marked a definite break with his past and so did his sense of values. He became a caring person.
Even where he excelled in his intellectual achievements they were to be used in service of others. At 26 he had a triple Ph.D.
Whenever Dr. Schweitzer needed money during his stint in Africa he went on tour and gave concerts and talks. But what connects the son of a Lutheran pastor in upper Alsace to Congo?
As a child Albert had often wondered at a statue of a Negro, strong in body but head bowed and in chains. It made an impact on him. Of course the fight was the catalyst. It brought memory and impressions that he merely had guessed but not digested.

Of course one cannot discount the role of chance. What made Albert decide to become a medical Missionary was due to a Paris Missionary society report, which he came across as if by chance. Thereupon he settled for Lambarene, in the heart of Africa. Where mind of man is colored by collective memory, and his own experience, chance must, so it seems to me, lose some of its mystery.
In the italics I have referred to the impact of experience that keeps repeating or recycled each to his own time and place.
Quatrain #198
From first lump of the earth what was formed,
Man to his last in his kind did intend.

Angels that of the creation did sing
With the end of it in harmony bring.( Selected-The Illustrated Omar Khayyam)
benny

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