Principiis Obsta, or, Poor Richard’s Proverbs
It would be hypocritical of me to write a book about Comenius, whose thought is so wrapped up in reform of the family -- or indeed to claim to be a Baha'i, a faith that similarly establishes family as the foundation of political, religious and social unity -- if I did not devote my entire energy (to the extent of blogging little if at all lately) to helping improve our own little nuclear family. Until lately we were in many important ways a dysfunctional family, but we are working hard to make it better.
One improvement we are working on is meal planning. Our visit to Louhelen Baha'i School demonstrated (Marie deserves credit for this observation) how impressive it is in the eyes of our two kids at the start of every day to have a written announcement of what the main course at dinner will be. With that to look forward to during the day, fewer noses get turned up at laboriously prepared dishes in the evening. So we got a whiteboard and each morning Marie writes in large letters the menu for the day.
I too had to participate in this successful activity. So I decided to write a new proverb every few days on the same whiteboard that Marie uses to announce the meal.
Lately, I have been going over and "absorbing" into my quote system the sayings written by Benjamin Franklin in his "Poor Richard's Almanac." Poor Richard's was an extremely influential book in history, mixing as it does many essential elements of personal success, such as goal setting, virtue, etc., by combining proverbial admonitions to duty, the first self-help book for ambitious citizens in a democracy, along with a calendar and a daily planner. So far, therefore, the only quotes I have included on the Meal Whiteboard are proverbs taken from Poor Richard. Here are the two most recent examples:
If you were own master…
"Would you live with ease,
Do what you ought, and not what you please."
"Principiis obsta." [Latin: Resist the first advances]
I especially admire the latter advice. There have been so many studies announced in the science press lately on how to resist temptation. The current consensus of expert opinion is that the only way is to really succeed is just what Franklin advises, break the urge at its very first onset. My brother, who quit smoking last year after some fifty years of heavy smoking, says that he feels the onset of this first desire every day, all day long. How often he must undeviatingly heed this advice!
I think this is why advertising has become such a huge industry: a commercial breaks into our consciousness before it is prepared, when its guard is down. It inserts a suggestion, a desire, an idea, that we did not know we had. We do not know that it leads to an altered decision later on. So we enter into decisions that are prejudiced by bits of information introduced long before we were conscious that it mattered. Mind control injected before we know, before a resistance can be built up. An enlightened society that truly loved its citizens would, I believe, ban all mass advertising from the get-go, following just that precept: Principiis Obsta!
Our daily children's class lately features two books by Hands of the Cause, one "All Flags Flying!", by Bill Sears, and two, "Abdu'l-Baha," by Balyuzi. The first Hand early on reached out and grabbed my eleven-year-old, Thomas, and has never let him go. One feature of his writing that struck me as strange early on is that he places his love for his wife, Marguerite, front and center throughout his writing.
For a long time this trait of Sears struck me as sappy and uxorious, however after much pondering upon the wisdom of this Hand, I have come to the conclusion that he is correct in, as it were, singing Dan Hill's song, "Sometimes when we touch" in his autobiographical writing. If a Baha'i really believes in "chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards," then it is absolutely the right thing to express to the fullest extent that fidelity in his or her writing. Similarly, chastity to some extent requires downplaying relationships outside marriage, be they innocent or not. I would therefore like for the first time, tomorrow, to write a tribute to Marie, my beloved wife, the light of my life.