Monday, 31 March 2014


When I was about nine, autograph books were all the rage at school. All the girls had one. Can’t remember if boys had them; I don’t think boys were on my radar at that age.  These small, hard covered books had timeless literary gems inscribed on their pastel coloured pages – mostly beginning with ‘roses are red, violets are blue…’ and ending with some variation of ‘…sugar is sweet and so are you', but I suppose we weren’t looking for originality, only acceptance.
            These immortal words were usually signed by a best friend or a doting aunt. I didn’t have either at the time, so I asked my Dad. I knew it was unlikely he’d pen anything of the ‘roses are red’ variety, but my expectations – actually, I don’t remember what my expectations were – all I know is Dad met none of them. He wrote:  It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.
            Neither I nor my class mates had any idea what it meant.  I was embarrassed. I really wanted to fit in with everyone and have Roses are Red all through my autograph book, but even then I must have had an appreciation for the pithy phrase and the road less traveled because I found myself reading it again and again. At some point it made sense and it became a landmark for growing up and the getting of wisdom.
            I’m usually more interested in the written word, but recently, I have been reminded of the wisdom, or otherwise, of the words that come out of our mouths. Spoken words are powerful – for good or for bad – to bring things into being in our lives. Even the heavens and the earth were brought into being by the “Let it be!” spoken by the Creator.  We, too, get what we talk about.  If we talk negatively about ourselves and others we create a negativity of hopelessness around us. Conversely, when encouraging words come out of our mouths we influence the whole atmosphere for good. The effect, either way, is palpable.

            I’m sure my Dad would relate to the ‘silence is preferable to bullshit’ poster doing the rounds on Face Book at the moment.  I remember he was prone to use the milder expression, ‘bulldust’, on those occasions when his patience was tried. In the manner of many Australian old timers he did not suffer fools gladly. We are fools to think we will get away with constant negative talk. Better to keep silent.  Self-bashing talk will influence our lives adversely. The choice is ours. 

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