Thursday, January 5, 2012

718. The Twelfth Lesson

A LESSON FOR THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is today, January 5th

As many of you know, I like to drive - a lot. In these trips, labelled in 2006 by the then-Yarmuth for Congress Campaign Manager Jason Burke as "nobling" it often appears that the drives are aimless wandering. I know my "greener" friends will not appreciate the idea that I like to drive aimlessly here and there. The truth is it usually isn't aimless at all. I often have a desitnation in mind, whether it be Frankfort or Perryville or Madison (IN) or Corydon (IN) or Maysville, as was the case a few weeks ago, or even Washington DC or Brooklyn NY. The wandering part comes in the route getting from Point A, somewhere near the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, to Point B, wherever the destination might be. There is an entry on the blog called the Twelve Roads to Frankfort (or something like that). It could have just as easily been titled the Twelve Roads to Bardstown or Owensboro or wherever. Owensboro, technically, is not the easiest place to get to unless you are in Henderson or Evansville, just for the record.

In any event, I've known all along what the Lesson for the Twelfth Day of Christmas would be. It is a poem I've written about before on the blog, James Whitcomb Riley's My Philosofy. I learned it as an eight year old at the direction of my late great-uncle, Bob Lewis, Jr. I recite it all the time, to myself, and often to friends. I recently recited it at the 30th birthday party of Elizabeth Sawyer, a successor to Jason Burke as manager of the Yarmuth campaign. At the time I was with Kathy Wright, a Democratic Party activist from southeastern Jefferson County. It is my favorite poem.

Earlier today on Facebook, I rhetorically asked "who would provide the Twelfth Lesson?" I got feedback from several people including my friend Thomas A. "Tony" McAdam, who offered a 1925 quote from Lord Arthur James Balfour, "Nothing matters very much, and few things matter at all." I am familiar with that quote and really like it. I reduced that to the words from Bobby McFerrin's a capella song from September 1988 - "Don't Worry, Be Happy." McFerrin borrowed the line from an Indian guru/mystic, Meher Baba, who used it as part of his teaching in the mid 20th century. Interestingly, McFerrin's song and Tony's suggestion from Lord Balfour aren't far from the snetiments expressed in the poem which I knew would be the final lesson. Of course the poem is a much longer version, but it is one I have always known and somewhat followed.

I am understood by many to have a philosophy - I'm fairly liberal, fiercely partisan, and have sometimes been called a socialist, probably deservedly. I was so earlier tonight, in fact. But I have tried with great earnest throughout my life not to hold another's religion or creed or personal mantra or family status or any other distinction from having and keeping friends who are different than me. I believe I have been successful as most of my friends do share differences of opinions, beliefs, lifestyles, social strata, and many other measures of differentiation. I've never, or perhaps rarely minded. I am more of a process person than policy person. Sure, I support policy but I especially support policy if it is attained through the proper processes. I've been criticised for that over the years, most recently by Curt Morrison, but I haven't changed much in response to that criticism.

James Whitcomb Riley's poem has been a guiding light since the age of eight, which at 51 now was a long, long time ago. Here is the poem with its original rural gothic spelling -



I ain't, ner don't p'tend to be,
Much posted on philosofy;
But thare is times, when all alone,
I work out idees of my own.
And of these same thare is a few
I'd like to jest refer to you--
Pervidin' that you don't object
To listen clos't and rickollect.

I allus argy that a man
Who does about the best he can
Is plenty good enugh to suit
This lower mundane institute--
No matter ef his daily walk
Is subject fer his neghbor's talk,
And critic-minds of ev'ry whim
Jest all git up and go fer him!

I knowed a feller onc't that had
The yeller-janders mighty bad,--
And each and ev'ry friend he'd meet
Would stop and give him some receet
Fer cuorin' of 'em. But he'd say
He kindo' thought they'd go away
Without no medicin', and boast
That he'd git well without one doste.

He kep' a-yellerin' on--and they
Perdictin' that he'd die some day
Before he knowed it! Tuck his bed,
The feller did, and lost his head,
And wundered in his mind a spell--
Then rallied, and, at last, got well;
But ev'ry friend that said he'd die
Went back on him eternally!

Its natchurl enugh, I guess,
When some gits more and some gits less,
Fer them-uns on the slimmest side
To claim it ain't a fare divide;
And I've knowed some to lay and wait,
And git up soon, and set up late,
To ketch some feller they could hate
Fer goin' at a faster gait.

The signs is bad when folks commence
A-findin' fault with Providence,
And balkin' 'cause the earth don't shake
At ev'ry prancin' step they take.
No man is grate tel he can see
How less than little he would be
Ef stripped to self, and stark and bare
He hung his sign out anywhare.

My doctern is to lay aside
Contensions, and be satisfied:
Jest do your best, and praise er blame
That follers that, counts jest the same.
I've allus noticed grate success
Is mixed with troubles, more er less,
And it's the man who does the best
That gits more kicks than all the rest.


Merry Christmas on the Twelfth Night. Tomorrow is Epiphany. Thanks Be To God.

1 comment:

Curtis Morrison said...

At least you're in good company, Jeff. Very few have outwardly acknowledged changing in response to my criticism.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.