Some expressions worth saving

Even at my age, I appreciate and accumulate insightful expressions.

Some, I incorporate, later to expound upon as I move around from place to place day to day.

Recently, a new expression came to my attention. I came across it while reading the current issue of The New Yorker, in a profile article there entitled “The Believer,” by Ariel Levy.

The article profiles the life of author Glennon Doyle, a middle-aged woman who describes herself as a “clinically depressed motivational speaker.” She’s the author of the recent bestseller, “Untamed”, a book billed as liberating women — one that will doubtless find disfavor in many quarters.

But over a million copies have been sold, and it has been named as a Best Book of the Year by O magazine and some other reviewers.

Her father, responding to the proposition, “You must be very proud of your daughter?,” replied, “Honestly, we’re just happy she’s not in jail.”

But neither of the above expressions is the one I resolved to tuck away. Rather, it’s the expression appearing on a poster in a middle school principal’s office — Doyle’s father’s office: “Don’t get too proud,” the poster advises. “The size of your funeral will likely depend on the weather.”

What a novel lesson to pose to early adolescents, one that is doubtless well-intentioned, but a lesson I’m not convinced will hold, for I’m aware of a fair number of adults who have yet to learn it.

It’s a lesson that can bring one up short but allows for the rearrangement of bits and pieces of nonsense so as to render them more easily discarded. It tends to minimize incidents of overreaction and relieve apprehension. It conveys relief — the assurance that we don’t have to go all out all the time to the very end — trying to please other people or institutions.

It’s knowledge that settles the body and calms the mind.

I’m on Facebook. I don’t spend a lot of time there, but, for the most part, enjoy the time I do spend interacting with family, friends, and Facebook friends.

But, once in a while, something comes along that is disconcerting.

This occurred the other day, when a Facebook friend posted an overarching condemnation — one of those thick, oversized blankets — a covering of darkness that allowed no light. Being the seasoned but still naive person that I am — one who still believes most people are congenial decent sorts doing their best to get along and get along with others — I took exception.

The person who posted this darkness was of long acquaintance.

When I read something offensive from someone like that, it invariably surprises me. Surprised, I often let it pass. If I were to dwell in the negatives of life, they could drag me down. I prefer to find positives and spend what time I have with them.

But this particular post was a screed of divisive political negativity, one of intolerance claiming erroneously a religious predicate. Cult-like, it was a thing I could not abide.

“Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.” Micah 4:4.

A verse our skinny black poet, Amanda Gorman, quoted in her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

Still, maybe I should have let the negative pass — but I didn’t — got myself “unfriended”.

Then, thought I, I’m not going to see that guy at my funeral, anyway. So, I moved along, leaving an implied question unanswered:

Who will be at my funeral?

The God who made me and yet loves me — who, despite my imperfections and rejections knows I tried; my family; and a few friends, who, though having known me will nevertheless stop by –understanding none of us is perfect and knowing I would come to their funerals, if I could.

No matter the weather.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.


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