All through childhood I heard these little aphorisms from the grownups. I don’t mean the kind still shiny with steel-bladed wit such as you see in Poor Richard’s Almanac, all penned by Ben Franklin in his idler days at the print shop before nation-building and the delicious women of Paris captured all his interest.
“Fish and visitors smell in three days.” That’s one of his, about the burden of harboring house guests. “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.” That’s another with its suggestion to steer clear of companions ‘with a past’ as they used to say. Poor Richard is also the one who said “All cats are gray in the dark,” his tart little observation about sexual act, which, it seems to be suggesting, is never as much about your partner’s relative beauty as it is about you and your own gratification.
Anyway, these quips aren’t the kind I’m thinking of here. I’m thinking of the high-minded “thought gems” people once so cherished, the kind schoolgirls once embroidered onto samplers. Everyone born in the first two-thirds of the last century had these maxims spooned into them like cod liver oil.
“Hitch your wagon to a star. Hang on tight and there you are!” That was one, by sweet old Ralph Waldo Emerson. Then there’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s oft-quoted “Lives of great men all remind us we should make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time. But the one I’m thinking of today, anonymous as far as I know?
“As a rule man’s a fool, when it’s hot he wants it cool. When it’s cool he wants it hot, always wanting what is not.”
I think of it because just yesterday in this space I was saying, Hey where’s winter?” And also, “What about snow and skiing and those bracing mornings when you see the arms of the rhododendron branches clasped tight to their sides so they look like so many Irish step dancers? Where is all THAT in this balmy post-autumn spring we’ve been having here in Grovers Corners? I wrote this just yesterday. Yesterday! And today the temperature outside my window?
As a rule I’m a fool is my personal aphorism. I have occasion to cite it every single day.