Dan Corkery: Mom delivered pearls of wisdom ... now let's hear yours
Andrew Wilk, a onetime Urbana High School teacher and a frequent contributor to our Commentary pages, recently sent me his revised articles — all substantially shorter. Cutting your text ("killing your darlings," as a mystery writer once told me) is something I encourage all writers to do.
In his email, Wilk quoted from Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century French mathematician and philosopher: "I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short."
It's a witty line that has been adopted by other quotable people, such as Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther.
That reminded me of what a former copy desk colleague said years ago when we were criticizing ourselves for various mistakes:
"We could produce the perfect daily newspaper if we had a week."
Every occupation produces its own philosophers.
My late mother, Ruth Corkery, was one of the philosophers of my youth. She dispensed many pearls of wisdom while raising five smart-alecky sons. If one of us was especially critical of another person, she'd say:
"O the gift to God to ghee us to see ourselves as others see us."
It was a saying — really an adaptation of a Robert Burns quote — she had learned from her parents, Henry Dingman and Ellen Hellman Dingman.
If we marveled at how two seemingly incompatible people could make a successful marriage, she'd respond:
"Never was a pot so crooked that a lid wouldn't fit it." Appropriately, Mom learned this too from her parents, whose household had its share of irregular pans and odd-shaped lids.
In the late afternoon that is middle age, some of us reflect on our regrets of rushed decisions and missed opportunities. Mom had a proverb for those times:
"Too soon old, too late smart."
That line echoes in my head often.
Even as her health declined, she maintained her Depression-era attitude to soldier on.
"We all carry our own pack to market."
We all face death on our own. It took me awhile to understand that one, Mom, but I got it.
Readers, what are the folksy sayings you've learned? I'd love to hear from you and share your nuggets of wisdom.
Dan Corkery, managing editor for administration, is a member of The News-Gazette's editorial board. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.