20 October 2008

Outside in

As the media hunts desperately for some way of refuting the charge that they are stoking up the economic crisis, and the accompanying anxiety, alarm and despair, I thought I’d try something a bit more traditional.

On my desk at work is a Thorson’s pocket edition of some of the Dalai Lama’s writings, and I sometimes open it at random, in the way rural communities used to use their Bibles. The results are never less than interesting, and sometimes strikingly appropriate – unsurprisingly, as this is a form of dowsing “Please give me what I need”. Today I found myself reading a passage which contained the following

…No matter how forceful [suffering and anxiety] is, it cannot destroy the supreme source of my happiness, which is my calmness of mind. This is something an external enemy cannot destroy. Our country can be invaded, our possessions can be destroyed, our friends can be killed, but these are secondary for our mental happiness….

He goes on to say that the ultimate source of mental happiness is a person’s peace of mind, and the only thing which can destroy that is their anger – very Buddhist, yes, and it takes a lot more detachment than many of us have (me included) to achieve that level of serenity. The Christian approach is God-centred – external but not of this world: my Bible similarly opened at random came up with “I will mention the loving kindnesses of the Lord…in all their affliction he was afflicted…and he bare them and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah chapter 63). Or if u knowz Lolcat , hooz God is Ceilin(g) Cat:
Im gonna tell ov teh kindnesez ov the lord…In all their distres he 2 wuz distresd…He liftd them up an carrid them All the dais ov old…”

But whatever you feed it with, my instincts are that the mechanism for happiness is internal, which is by no means confined to Buddhism. My personal anthology also contains a Wiccan tenet that I wrote there many years ago:

If ye find it not within, so ye shall find it not without.

06 October 2008

In the first year at Grammar School in 1963

So many new things to learn: parsing, theorems, contours, declensions, hockey, javelin-throwing, threading a sewing machine…and later on, magnetic poles, precipitation, dinghy sailing, paper sculpture, soused herrings, and Rumanian dancing, among other things.

Recently I managed to decipher our first year timetable from a sheet in my geometry set*, and it looks pretty hefting stuff for a bunch of eleven-year-olds. Day 1 was the real killer: Maths, Geography, French, History, Latin, English, and more French, all in the same room. The other days did at least have a small amount of moving about, and some less academic subjects (double Art on Day 2, Singing and PE on 3, Art and Music on 4, double Games on 5, and double Needlework on 6, although it’s debatable how much light relief some of that was). This was a rotating timetable, which I can't believe was unique to my school, but I've never heard of anyone else using it: first week days 1-5, second week days 61234, and so on).

*The geometry set was, needless to state, a proper one, with a pair of compasses which had a good long sharp metal point, and a pair of dividers which had two good long sharp metal points (all the better to prod things with, my dear). I recently bought the current version by the same maker (Helix) – the compasses have a pathetically tiny point, to the extent that I’m surprised it holds position on the paper at all, and the dividers are conspicuous by their absence. It does at least still come in a metal box, not a plastic one, which was a pleasant surprise, although you don’t get the nice stencil with the retorts and flasks and things any more (presumably because nobody in their right minds is going to let the little dears loose with real scientific experiments and equipment these days).

Months and Days

Oh dear – time running away again. I’d intended to post these weeks ago…

There is a whole clutch of rhymes, sayings and beliefs relating to months and days, apart from the well-known ‘Thirty days hath September’ and Monday’s child is fair of face’:

A man had better ne’er been born
Than to have his nails on a Sunday shorn;
Cut them on Monday, cut them for health;
Cut them on Tuesday, cut them for wealth;
Cut them on Wednesday, cut them for news;
Cut them on Thursday for a new pair of shoes;
Cut them on Friday, cut them for Sorrow;
Cut them on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow

Some, but not all of which are similar to a rhyme about days for marrying:

Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all.
Thursday for crosses,
Friday for losses,
Saturday no luck at all.

While we’re heading for the church (or equivalent):

A January bride will be a prudent housewife and sweet of temper
A February bride will be a gentle and affectionate wife and a loving mother
A March bride will be a frivolous chattermag, given to quarrelling
An April bride is inconstant, not overwise, and only fairly good looking
A May bride is fair of face, sweet-tempered, and contented
A June bride is impetuous and open-handed
A July bride is handsome but quick of temper
An August bride is sweet-tempered and active
A September bride is discreet and forthcoming, beloved of all
An October bride is fair of face, affectionate but jealous
A November bride is open-handed and kind-hearted but inclined to be lawless
A December bride is graceful in person, fond of novelty, fascinating but a spendthrift

And if you want to wash your best clothes for the occasion:

They that wash on Monday have all the week to dry;
They that wash on Tuesday, they have pretty nigh;
They that wash on Wednesady have half the week past;
They that wash on Thursday are pretty near the last;
They that wash on Friday wash for need;
And they that wash on Saturday are sluts indeed.

Whatever would Mrs Beeton have said?