Penultimate Ponderings

Trent Ernst, Editor

So much to say, so little time.

With the Tumbler Ridge News coming to a close next week, I’m left trying to fit a lifetime’s worth of good editorial advice into only two remaining editorials.

Not, you know, that you paid attention to my advice before, but hope springs, as they say. So, without further adieu, some words of wisdom for you.

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.” Isaac Asimov said that. You should probably read something he wrote. He’s one of my favourites. Might I suggest Foundation, or one of his short stories?

“Life is pain; anyone who says differently is selling something.” That’s the Man in Black (no, not Johnny Cash) from The Princess Bride. Watch the movie. Read the book. Read Carey Elwes’ memoirs of the making of the movie.

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” Sirius Black said that in Harry Potter.

“Never argue with a stupid person, they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” Mark Twain, who is infinitely quotable, but drags on in the reading.

“Don’t eat the yellow snow.” I don’t know who first offered me this advice, but it has held fast all my life. As a general matter of principle, don’t eat snow that isn’t as white as, well, snow.

Hippocrates says “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgment difficult,” which is the sort of thing that he tended to say, and then people would stand around and stroke their beards, because that was the whole reason for growing a beard. That and they didn’t have safety razors back then.

Speaking of razors: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity,” which is not just a pithy quote, it’s also known as Hanlon’s Razor, though he was probably just quoting Goethe.

The much-missed Terry Pratchett offers us this bit of advice: “It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”

While we’re on the topic, he also said: “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom,” and “the entire universe has been neatly divided into things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks”. Unlike Twain, Pratchett is (usually) just as good long form as he is in quotes and, like Asimov, deserves to be read. He, too, is one of my literary heroes.

Speaking of Literary heroes, my heart still belongs to the Inklings, most notably to Lewis and Tolkien.

Lewis says that “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become,” which is why, if you take anything from this, it is this: you should read good books.

Just yesterday, I read a line by Lewis. He says: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

One of things he wrote that had the profoundest influence on me was this: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

But I leave the last to Tolkien, whose writings have shaped my life most profoundly. The most obvious quote is “Not all who wander are lost,” but I will end with this: ““All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Because sometimes, you don’t have as much time as you thought you did.