Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In the words of Twain....

New Years is here, and 2015 is laid out before us, with all of the bright, new, fresh promise that a year yet to be lived has to offer. Before we go to making resolutions for the coming year, let me share a quote.

“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath.
To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.” - Mark Twain, printed in the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, January 1, 1863.

I have longed dreamed of writing editorial columns with the smooth prose of Mark Twain, who has long been one of my literary heroes. I’ve never been able to capture my thoughts in such an eloquent manner. Perhaps I have a too much cynicism and too much sarcasm in my nature. I usually start to write something entertaining but end up charging head on into the subject like a bull charging through a china shop.
Take the subject of minimum wage increases and the idea of the ‘evil corporation’. Here is a Twain quote that I think sums up my opinion.

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

I often find myself in situations where people are discussing a subject that I know something about. It’s hard for me not to charge right in with the facts that I know when people who know nothing are already discussing the matter. I try to remind myself to remain calm and stay out of it.
As Twain said,

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

One common subject of my weekly column is the decay or morals in our society. I struggle to put my feelings into words, often leading me to writing long drawn out paragraphs. I could easily have summed it up as”

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”

Through the years Twain wrote many things that are worth quoting - he was, after all, one of the greatest writers of his time - but sometimes it is his strange, off-color comments that are the greatest. Out of context they might not make a lot of sense, but they sure are a lot of fun. Try these on for size:

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

“George Washington, as a boy, was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie.”

“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

See, we need more writers like that!  Every comment is smooth and well thought out. Twain could very well have become a lawyer or a televangelist if things in his life had been different (and television had been invented).
I hope you all have a wonderful new year, and I look forward to sharing this few moments with you every week.

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