Introduction: "A Book of Sayings"
“A Book of Sayings – An Old Man’s Reflections and Lessons Learned for his Children’s Children”
This book can truly be described as a life-long labour of love. The Sayings are from a trove of quotes I’ve been collecting since my teenage years. Now, in my seventh decade on earth, I thought it would be an appropriate time to write down why I thought those Sayings were worth collecting. Initially they were kept because I thought many represented, for me at least, eternal truths. Maybe they were a youngster's idealistic quest for eternity itself. I don't know. Anyway, after all these years, I'm finally attempting to elucidate the relevance of each Saying. These musings and reflections are mainly targeted towards young people - and, with a touch of hubris, I dare say my thoughts can often be construed as advice for them in their quest for peace and contentment. In particular, I dedicate this book to my children’s children.
The form of these essays is largely inspired by the writings of the ancient Greek philosophers (Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.), the Romans Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus (born a Roman slave until banished to Nicopolis), and the Frenchman Michel de Montaigne. I do not pretend to suggest that my scribblings and contributions compare to those wise people but they are my concerted attempt to interpret some famous, and not so famous, Sayings and quotations of the past. There is some great profundity in many of the Sayings I’ve included in the book. Of that, there is no doubt. As for my commentary, readers can make their own judgment.
The tone of the book is designed as a sort of exercise in extemporizing. My first drafts are always done fast and furiously; a stream of consciousness on paper (I write with a pencil, eraser in hand). My subsequent edits give it some order which is enhanced by my wife Sue's initial reactions, as chief bullshit detector, and the professional editing by my good friends Carolyn Pletsch and Michelle Gregory. Overall, I would describe my topics and style as writings on things that matter, in a manner of speaking. The heading in each essay is an interesting quote that is often provocative, packed with wisdom or just plain amusing. These opening Sayings are like a melody that a jazz musician first hears and then improvises upon…at its best, the jazz version throws new light on the original song. That is my goal in explaining and embellishing the original thought. My research, and memory, often leads me to other similar and/or complementary Sayings. As a result, some of the essays are filled with other people’s quotations - often enriching and, sometimes, challenging the original Saying.
I feel compelled to warn readers that there are times I go off on a tangent that may seem unrelated to the Saying in question. I believe this is my subconscious at work - although it may seem illogical and unconnected these digressions may be more relevant than they first appear. After all, human beings, being human, are not rational animals as many of our actions, intuitions, emotions - and our many beliefs - often operate outside the realm of rationality. So please read these short essays, be patient with my explorations, and let some of them sink in and work on your mind like a Zen koan. Some of my pieces end in paradoxes – a characteristic I find in many truths.
Ultimately, my thoughts may say more than the original quote, going deeper and finding insights not apparent, or intended, in the original. That is my wish. In the end, I hope that some of the essays teach and inspire young people to know themselves better, and then have the courage to follow their bliss.