In Which the Deputy Headmistress Contradicts Phyllis McGinley

Previous posts related to Mrs. McGinley’s poetry are here and here.

A Garland of Precepts

Though a seeker since my birth,
Here is all I’ve learned on earth,
This the gist of what I know:
Give advice and buy a foe.
Random truths are all I find
Stuck like burs about my mind.
Salve a blister. Burn a letter.
Do not wash a cashmere sweater.
Tell a tale but seldom twice.
Give a stone before advice.

And here the Deputy Headmistress reluctantly interrupts her mentor to nitpick. It is true that quite often to offer advice is to receive a foe. This seems to be particularly true when somebody has begged for advice. It’s even more true when the question is phrased something like this:

Friend: “You don’t think I need to be worried about my child telling lies, do you?”

Deputy Headmistress: “Yes. I do.”

Former Friend: “Oh, I don’t think so. My child is a wonderful person, so loving, so affectionate, so thoughtful of others. Telling little fibs here and there is a perfectly normal part of growing up. Why are you singling out my child like this?”

So yes, advice giving, especially when somebody asks for advice, is a situation fraught with peril for the unsuspecting. But some advice is so important it simply must be given.

Early in our marriage the Headmaster and I were the recipients of just such an unsolicited piece of advice. For some reason, rather than resenting it we heeded it, and because we took note of that advice, our lives in the military were much, much less complicated than those of most of our friends.

The Headmaster entered the armed services shortly before our first anniversary. We were young, dumb, and naive. At our church, a young couple with a little more time in the service took us under their wings and explained some military facts of life to us. The most important thing they said to us was, “Do not go into debt.”

They explained that because a military paycheck was so dependable, everybody would be eager to offer us credit. They also explained that even though it seemed that a monthly payment of ten dollars here and twenty dollars there wasn’t very much, it quickly added up and before we knew it our monthly paycheck would be spent before we could even cash it. They suggested we never even put things on lay-away.

I do not why we listened to that advice as well as we did, but we did pay attention, and we have never, ever regretted it. We only regret the few times we didn’t follow it. Because of that young couple, even our most foolish mistakes were rather tame compared to the financial blunders of many of our fellow military couples. While we did succomb to the siren call of easy credit once or twice, it was only once or twice, and we never used more than one source at a time, nor did we ever max out a credit card. We often lived from paycheck to paycheck, but we never had our paycheck portioned out to various credit companies before we actually got it each month.

I was reminded of this wonderful couple and their brilliant advice tonight while reading Hugh Hewitt’s book In, but Not Of. Chapter ten covers the same advice that couple gave to us. We have often passed it on to other couples. I would like to pass it on once more. Do not dig the credit hole for yourself. If you have already excavated such a hole, stop digging it deeper, and start getting out of debt now.

Hugh Hewitt says that interest charges are thieves living in your life and that debt is grease on the rungs above and below you in the ladder of life. We agree. Oh, how much we agree. Do not put more on your credit card than you can pay off at the end of the month. Do not portion out your paycheck to creditors in bits and dribbles here and there.

I know that nobody here asked for my advice, and I know that Mrs. McGinley gently warns against giving advice (query: was that itself unsolicited advice?), but that word of warning helped us so much that we must pass it on.

While on that topic, permit me to mention one other bit of advice nobody shared with us but which we could have benefitted from. If you can only afford to go out to eat on payday, then you cannot afford to go out to eat at all. You should not spend that money on eating out. If you can afford to go to a home party where a hostess is selling kitchen goods or make-up on payday but not in between paydays, then you cannot afford to buy anything at that home party at all. Truly.

Well, we now end our unsolicited advice and return you to the conclusion of Phyllis McGinley’s Garland of Precepts, a poem against giving advice:

Pressed for rules and verities,
All I recollect are these;
Feed a cold to starve a fever.
Argue with no true believer.
Think-too-long is never-act.
Scratch a myth and find a fact.
Stitch in times saves twenty stitches.
Give the rich, to please them, riches.
Give to love your hearth and hall.
But do not give advice at all.

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Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education is up at Jenny D.’s, and The Common Room is in it. Jenny D. thinks we’re scary, but interesting. The Equuschick will be pleased. She likes to frighten people, and being less than five feet tall, she has to work hard at it.

This week’s carnival looks great, with such a diverse array of blogs and topics that everybody should find some entertainment, education, or both on the midway.

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Those Scary Religious People

A friend sent me this link to an article titled Dominionist Domination. I strongly suggest that all the visitors to the Common Room, especially those of you who consider yourselves Christians, read the whole thing. You will need to read the entire article, but the first half will be very, very difficult. Be firm with yourself and continue.

The Deputy Headmistress remembers when certain rightwingers were agitating about conspiracy theories, the Illuminati, and all that sort of sound snd fury signifying nothing (sorry, the DHM isn’t buying today). The left mocked them and scorned the kind of mind that believes in conspiracy theories.

Apparently, only the sort of bizarre conspiracies believed by the far right are mockable. The bizarre conspiracy theories believed by the left are threats we should all take seriously.

So read the article very carefully, and the next time you run into a left wing type remember to say, BOO!

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These are confederate violets that mother took a picture of earlier today.
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Aren’t they pretty?

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Random Notes

Sarah Brightman has a beautiful voice. So does Michael Crawford. <-- anyone have a guess as to my listening material? “Reluctant Spring” is a charming term, but the reality has none of that charm. “Reluctant Spring”=”Tenacious Winter.” No one uses that descriptive phrase in May, though.

I took my Sociology Final today. Reading Understanding the Times in high school and simply having parents who cared about my education gave me more preparation for this class than anything else did. For this class (admittedly it was an introductory course, but introductory college) I was expected to learn the answer to questions like:
* what is a matriarchy?
* what are cultural universals?
* was Marx a conflict theorist, a functionalist or an interactionist?

So it’s done. My book is sold back to the bookstore whence it came. It happens to be the only text book I’ve argued with (thus far). I only hope my contradictory notes in the margin help the book’s future owner realise there is another side to all the Liberal Fluff being dispensed… or, if the student happens to be one such like me, that they feel as if they have a friend somewhere at school. An anonymous one, yes, but the knowledge that Someone Semi-Sensible roams the campus can be quite comforting.

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