Archives for posts with tag: raising a child with books
Success is speaking to the people who matter,
In networking when due. Waste no time on a satyr.
Success is doing what you should
for Work, for Security, for Good.

It’s silence when your speech would rattle,
And indifference to a pointless battle.
Success is deafness to all that’s ugly,
But sympathy if your deed’s seen widely.

It’s loyalty as the price dictates; 
Courage when others might judge, “Flake.” 
It’s patience when the drudge seems worth it,
But for laughter, song or frivolity – surfeit.

Success is found in application, 
financial stability and securing one’s station.
In all of life and nothing less
Is this almighty guidepost that’s called Success.

--

Sometime between the ages of eight and ten, when I had already learnt to read and was in the habit of memorising written material (mostly bible verses for Sunday School and gedigte (poems) for Afrikaans lessons), my paternal Granny gave me a palm-sized laminated card. On the card was printed the motivational poem “Success.” In sing-song iambic quadrameter and neat AA, BB, CC end rhyme the poem sets forth fourteen guidelines that should assist one in living the worthy life. My earnest pre-adolescent self set about memorising these words of wisdom.
In trying to write out the poem, I was certain I had forgotten part of it. So I turned to Google, and found the full piece.

Success
author unknown

Success is speaking words of praise,
In cheering other people’s ways.
In doing just the best you can,
With every task and every plan.
It’s silence when your speech would hurt,

Politeness when your neighbour’s curt.
It’s deafness when the scandal flows,

And sympathy with others’ woes.
It’s loyalty when duty calls,
It’s courage when disaster falls.
It’s patience when the hours are long,

It’s found in laughter and in song.
It’s in the silent time of prayer,

In happiness and in despair.
In all of life and nothing less,
We find the thing we call success

Interestingly, it is the verse about loyalty, courage and patience and the third to last line that I had not recalled. This was my reconstruction of what I thought to be my favourite part of the verse: “It’s found in laughter and in song,/ And in the silent time of prayer,/In all of life and nothing less,/ We find the thing we call Success.” I had erased, “In happiness and in despair.” Or, rather, whenever I have thought of the line, “In all of life and nothing less,” I simultaneously imagine the line in church marriage vows, “In sickness and health,” which serves to encompass all joys, hardships and eventualities of life.

This ennobling little verse, if a verse can ever imbue such upon its reader, resonates with Max Ehrmann’s (1872–1945) poem “Desiderata” (1927), which also lists actions and mindsets through which one could foster a good and worthwhile life. My earnest adolescent self also went through a phase of trying to memorise this work. The favourite line, besides the famous opening (“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”), is “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.”

Yes, a poet would cling to such a line.

Shining in Brightness,” a book of my poems and essays was compiled earlier this year. Preview this first volume at blurb.co.uk
Follow my Twitter musings about the artist’s life, the successful life and the wonder of dried figs. I tweet as @BeadedQuill

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Today, 7th March, is World Book Day. Is this a day for a species facing extinction? As someone who has created a book, I suppose I should encourage you to go and save a book from extinction. Go and pick a book off a shelf at your library, indie bookstore or your own overfilled shelves. Or at least, order a copy of mine.

Forgive the tone, for in truth I love books. I love how as an adult I can carry one around like a comforter, for I suspect many of us do. Even in this age of digital reading options, some people I know will carry around a choice of volumes on transport with them and those in addition to a few ‘must read’ newspaper articles and supplements. So we go out with these talismans against boredom, those of us with brains that struggle to keep still or who have become arrogant enough to think a stranger’s conversation will probably be uneducated babble and a waste of time. My Father, who would talk to (though not with) anyone, was well known for having a book stuffed in the back pocket of his trousers; my Mum would despair at how this ruined their spines.

At Primary School on a Friday we used to watch old fashioned reel-to-reel movies in the school hall. Usually there were a few cartoon balanced with a couple of Department of Education issues. One week we watched about book care. In the clip, we were shown a book wailing out in its moments of torture: being dropped in a bath, having its spine bent, being written in, having liquid spilled onto it. (What else was there to educate little girls about in late 1980s South Africa?) I took these warnings to heart and endeavoured for many years afterwards to spare the books in my life such agonies.

In our home, books were regarded as precious, except by my Dad who left them lying open on top of the ‘fridge or stuffed ungraciously in-between others in a bookshelf (habits that proved of further irritation to my Mother.) At one point during my growing up, we had twenty-two bookshelves of books, many shelves bulging with many more than one neat row.  My Dad, who littered his volumes around the house, was the one who was always reading. He read while eating, shaving, even walking home from the station. He juggled life with absorbing those volumes and read a great thick volume about the Irish Potato Famine at least three times over in the last few years of his life.

The wonderful habit, which drove us all batty, was that Dad would recount, chapter for chapter, page by page, what he was reading. It was a running audio book (seldom on subjects of our interest) in the household. We all longed for silence and less incessant “Did you know?” Now, of course, we miss it. Even “Anna Karenina” on MP3 download is not the same. Nobody else has the same knack for recounting what they’re reading.

Books can be precious. They can be portals. They certainly were an addition to my childhood home life. However, I believe it is the storytelling – over and above the format – that warrants celebration. So, yes, go and support your local library, the indie bookstore, dig out an unread volume from your shelf, but add a story to it. Write it, tell it, leave it on a voicemail. Give that story to someone else. Love a book, sure; just enlarge the stories that they carry and share the love with another person.

(Image credit: “A Young Girl Reading” (c. 1770) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. A copy of this painting hung next to the window in the old, attic library of my Primary School.)