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Vertrees: Aphorisms have a way with words

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: December 18, 2013 6:14AM



A very smart fellow named Plato could not tweet, twitter or text, but he is remembered for this gem: “Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something.”

So maybe I should stop now, but that would be no fun. I do, though, rate Plato high in the aphorism field.

It does have a more intellectual ring than my favorites from back home. Like “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Or “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.”

I don’t spend much of my valuable time thinking about aphorisms, so I was surprised when one of my brightest friends offered one of his favorites. It was a good one, but I forgot exactly how it went, suggesting that “You can lead an old guy to a conversation, but you cannot make him listen good.”

That, I think, describes many of us. We listen but don’t really hear. Some of us, I fear, talk when we don’t enrich conversations, but just have to say something.

This friend named Greg plays the piano for our church choir, and on the keyboard, he always has plenty to say.

Sometimes I stop singing for a few seconds, just to hear him play.

The world would be a better place if we gave serious thought to this aphorism from P.J. O’Rourke: “Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.”

I have read some of Tom Clancy’s novels and I respect his great story telling. He says “The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.” He might have been talking about our Congress people — it would fit.

This one from “The Devil’s Dictionary” by Ambrose Pierce says: “Egoists — Persons of low taste, more interested in themselves than in me.”

“Hell, there are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.” That from Thomas Edison, who really accomplished something.

John F. Kennedy advised: “Always forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”

Some wise sayings that make me proud to be an Amurrican may not be aphorisms, but they are worth bringing up at church potlucks.

Like this timely one from Hoosier Herb Shriner: “I was helping my mom stuff the Thanksgiving turkey and I got so mad I could have killed that bird.”

A college basketball coach inspired his team with this: “Boys, the most important play is putting the ball into the basket.”

And there was Miss Grace who tried to teach me this in geometry class: “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Or something like that.

Memorable, but a bit scary, the biblical admonition about sins of the father being passed on to offspring. I am afraid to look back on that one.

This from the late Satchel Paige, a pitcher who was big league, but lived too early to make it in the majors: “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”

From the depths of my meditations, I remember Kennedy, and I say “I always forgive those who try to feed me broccoli, but I never forget their names.”



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