Gossiping & Apple Pie
“I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of everybody.” –– Benjamin Franklin
Do you really believe that Franklin didn’t get into a little gossiping now and then? Well, he actually only resolved to stick to the high road. He didn’t promise to do it. That’s just as well, since he didn’t have much trust in anyone. For example, he said, “If you would keep your secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend;” and “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” It’s little wonder that he liked to play it close to the vest when it came to other people. Speaking ill of no man, excusing faults, and speaking all the good he knew was a very clever way to avoid becoming the focus of others’ gossip. Franklin may have picked up the strategy from Virgil who said, “Fama, malum quo non aliud velocius ullum, mobilitate viget, viresque acquirit eundo.” If you are a tad rusty with your Latin, that means, “Report, that which no evil thing of any kind is more swift, increases with travel and gains strength by its progress.”
With authorities the like of Virgil and Franklin admonishing you not to gossip, it’s in your interest to know as much as you can about gossiping and gossips. For instance, Walter Winchell clarified one of the gossip’s core strategies when he said, “Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing unsaid.” The super stars pursue their art through inference and innuendo, not facts or plain talk. Bertrand Russell added his two cents worth with, “No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.” When it comes to gossiping, if you don’t have something good to say, it’s your turn.
Of course, Virgil and Franklin aren’t the only high road folks who advised against gossiping. Edward Wallis Hoch said, “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us.” If that weren’t the final word on it, a Jewish proverb says, “What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.” No, that’s still not the end of the unsolicited advice. A Chinese proverb says, “What is told in the ear of a man is often heard 100 miles away;” and a Spanish proverb says, “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” All of the high road wisdom not withstanding, don’t forget what Wendell Phillips knew to be true, “The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.”
An Apple Pie From Scratch
“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” –– Carl Sagan
Now there is a humbling thought. It does tend to put a damper on one’s ego quotient, doesn’t it? Invention and creation are far less original than they are typically represented as being. Alexander Graham Bell certainly understood this, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.” Henry Ford got it too, “I invented nothing new. I simply combined the inventions of others into a car.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson explained how invention and creation actually work, “Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor.” The essence of the principle was captured by Auguste Rodin, “I invent nothing. I rediscover;” and what may rank as the first corollary was suggested by Jonathan Swift, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.” The converse of Swift’s corollary was offered by the famous Anon., “Don’t expect anything original from an echo.”
The take home point is that inventions, creations, and discoveries aren’t themselves unique or original. They are merely the objects or outcomes. Creation is in thinking what nobody else has thought.
Robertson Davies said, “Although there may be nothing new under the sun, what is old is new to us and so rich and astonishing that we never tire of it. If we do tire of it, if we lose our curiosity, we have lost something of infinite value, because to a high degree it is curiosity that gives meaning and savor to life.” Curiosity ignites imagination; and imagination in turn fuels the fire of creation. What then is this fire, this imagination? Peter Nivio Zarlenga’s words hold the answer, “I am imagination. I can see what the eyes cannot see. I can hear what the ears cannot hear. I can feel what the heart cannot feel.” Dr. Seuss’ advice is a fitting, concluding message for all who create, from universes to apple pies. “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
You may now be asking what Gossiping & Apple Pie have to do with each other. Actually, I doubt that they have anything to do with each other; but perhaps you will see a connection, if only you Think left and think right and think low and think high. It’s merely your opportunity to pursue.
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Benjamin Franklin said, “I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth…;” and Carl Sagan said, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” You may reasonably ask what Gossiping & Apple Pie have to do with each other. Whether this article answers that pressing question is your call. However, it does raise some interesting points, even if the connection is less than obvious.