Living as Art is Rewarding

As we complain about everyone, the weather, politics, etc, it becomes surprisingly easy to become cynical – despite how justified we feel.“A mean spirit is first a caller, then a guest, then the master.” – Anonymous

“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” – Mark Twain

I have a friend who argued with someone and wanted my advice. I offered – as only good friends can – my candid opinion. This was a mistake. For one thing, I could tell by his defensiveness, that he didn’t think it was 50/50 his fault (or even 1%). The other person was totally wrong… couldn’t I see that?

It reminded me of the advice my dad gave me (which I should have listen to), saying that if you offer good advice, you’ll never get credit for it; if you give (what turns out as) bad advice, you’ll certainly get blamed.

So, if all you can expect is ingratitude, why bother?

Maybe, we do it because, as an observer, we can see so clearly what’s wrong – much better than we can see our own  shortcomings. Or, perhaps, it’s because we’ve made the same mistake ourselves, and simply want to spare others the same pain.

Yet, as we go down our road of truth, how do we avoid life’s potholes: upsetting the very people we’re trying to help?

Human Relations guru, Dale Carnegie, suggested that we give criticism indirectly… thereby not embarrassing the other person. I’ve seen it work, but it has the problem, sometimes, of being too subtle. However, if done skillfully, its effective. And, if it’s avoidable, why would we knowingly hurt anyone, anyway?

“The essence of all art is to take pleasure in giving pleasure.” – Dale Carnegie

In the TV series ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Anne (Megan Follows) – a young orphan girl who is under the care of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert – gets herself in trouble when she refuses to apologize for being rude to Marilla’s best friend… who initially was rude to Anne and her “red as carrots” hair.

Risking being sent packing, she appeals to Matthew (Richard Farnsworth), “I can’t say I’m sorry when I’m not, can I?” He suggests, “You don’t have to be exactly sorry, you know; you can be just… sort of sorry.” He adds that his sister, Marilla (Colleen Dewhurst), is a “…dreadful determined woman … couldn’t you just kinda smooth it over?”

Anne, who would do anything for Matthew, willingly agrees… planning her “apology” to Marilla’s friend. It was a bit contrived, but it worked: everyone was happy. A human relations home run… all way round!

Self-gratification isn’t the name of the game, but thoughtfulness and kindness have their own reward: leaves us in a better, more useful and happier place.

“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today/ look at me, I can be centerfield”
– Centerfield by John Fogerty

As Anne says, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Life’s good!

That’s the way I figure it.  September 2014

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