Jun 26, 2009


For today's photo, how about the title, "Size Matters."

Moving on . . .

Out my window, a little girl on a plastic Three-Wheeler just pedaled by on the sidewalk, her too-thin mom strolling behind her. The child was wearing a helmet. I cannot logically argue against such caution, yet it saddens me to see it.

Ditto for helmets on adult bicyclers and skateboarders. Double ditto when I see my reflection in the window, my helmet perched like a runt black turtle atop my buffalo-sized head. So much for dignity (which has always been overrated anyway).

To me, all this protection looks silly, unnatural, and wrong, even as I’ve become aware in recent years of the label, “closed-head injury.” It’s brain versus gut, and my gut is bigger.

Conversely, I silently rail at motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets. I expect to see their brains strewn across the pavement, and I resent having to live out my days with that image recurring in my brain.

Also, I expect that I’ll have to deal with the mess in some way. As a former smoker who was often reprimanded for the cost of my habit to other people’s insurance premiums and to taxpayers, I could also raise the issue of what Easy Riders do to my insurance rates and the portion of my taxes dedicated to medical care for the uninsured.

But it’s a pretty morning, and I won’t go there. We all do things that others will have to pay for. Shame on all of us.

Moving on >

According to Webster, an aphorism is a “concise statement of a principle; a terse formulation of a truth or sentiment.” Among the synonyms are: adage, axiom, rule, moral, truism.

Until I read the scholar-poet James Richardson’s book, Vectors a few years ago, I thought of aphorisms as the zippy, phony wisdom on most bumper stickers and fortune cookies. Instead, I’ve learned that there is an ancient tradition of aphorisms as legitimate forms of thought and expression, and Richardson’s own modern formulations are anything but simple (I highly recommend the book).

So in trying to emulate a writer I admire, I’ve come up with a few (dozen) aphorisms of my own. Sometimes I have a hard time staying serious about them. I’ll offer one or two per post for a very short while.

Re: “Daughters and Finches” on June 17:
My beagle can beat up your beagle.
Or, Wisdom is a house of mirrors.

Moving On again >

I’m opening a contest here, a competition for the best caption from any of you for any photograph on this blog (I’m the “photographer” for all the pics).

First Prize is the letter A, for Enormous Satisfaction. Ditto for Second and Third Prizes.

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Jeff M said...

Yes, I love aphorisms. One of my favorite ancient men is Heraclitis, who wrote:

"You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you."

Good old Nietzsche is good, too.

NB said...

WHY aren't these people wearing HELMETS!?

Banjo52 said...

They probably think they're too BIG for helmets, NB. But that's a great caption for the photo. So far you're in first place all alone. Thanks for the good wit.

Banjo52 said...

Jeff--I couldn't have told you Heraclitis; but I've heard at least the first half of his line about rivers, and it's very deep indeed. (Sorry. That kind of remarks belongs in some Science or Computer Department Office. I must be feeling the Friday-ness of the day).

I like the line a lot. Would you call it paradoxical? Or just mysterious. It also feels Zen to me, but the chronology is all wrong.

And yes, Neitszche left us a few, didn't he. I hope someone will pick up on your comment and send along a few of N's--or good ones by anybody.

Is it fair to say that a good aphorism might seem an oversimplification, when in fact it offers a lot of meaningful ambiguity?

I'm no expert, but I find that James Richardson's Vectors often drops these little or major paradoxes and mysteries upon the reader. Also, I think he's a writer who should get more attention that he probably does.

In Thomas Lux's Selected Poems (around 1999), he has a line I love: "If a river could look over its shoulder . . . ." As Lux often does, he tosses that into the mix almost offhandedly, but I remember it ten years later. I'll look up the poem's title if anyone asks.

Finally, and then I'll quit the podium, I remember liking Hopkins's "That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire . . . ." even though it's one of his more demanding poems. Maybe I'll go look at it again, thanks to your comment, Jeff.
- Show quoted text -

Unknown said...

NB asks why these people aren't wearing helmets. I shutter to think about it....

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Banjo52 said...

Berol, I think that the host alone should be entitled to swamp-awful puns. But I try to be open-minded, and if there's any defense for your word play, you might have a point about birders needing head protection, prophylactic skull shields, or whatnot . . .

Thanks for the visit. And I do intend to get back to your more sober comment on parenting, about a week ago--it requires more thought.

Unknown said...

Heraclitus (note spelling, please) had a student, Cratylus, who did his teacher one better, pointing out that one cannot step into the same river even once! No aphorism available, however, because Cratylus came to the view that language was impossible, given the ever-flowing nature of things, including words. He became well-known, then, for just wiggling his finger (oops, there's an opening for our beloved host)!

Banjo52 said...

Can this be true about Cratylus? What a fun, yet sad story--another warning about . . . what? -- philosophy?
as a . . . what? -- a discipline?

Or is it even more about some students' fixation on one-upping a teacher, and, in the process, whacking off that young nose to spite that young face? What price glory.

By the way, sorry I confused "shudder" with "shutter."

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