Americana

May 13, 2019

Book Club Short Reads.

Inspirational Book Recommendations.

 

 

 

They are like the strains of banjo music drifting over the neighborhood as the sun sets. They don’t fit the fast, frenetic, techno, metro pace of today’s culture. They seem from another time and place. Early bits of Americana that belong to our grandmother and grandfather’s day.

 

Little sayings accompanied our grandparents along the wagon-train trails of the West.  They made sense when grasshoppers consumed crops. They helped pioneer families live together in small spaces.  They kept vigil while waiting for the doctor to arrive on the long, wintry nights.

 

Homespun phrases and reminders such as these helped our forebearers in moments of frustration, decision or challenge.

 

  • They oriented them around a simple truth.

  • They grounded them in wisdom.

  • They calmed them offering a broader perspective. 

  • They also reminded them of what was true.

 

Here are a few:

 

1. Live and Let Live. Is there a statement more forgiving? It gives people a chance to breathe, to be themselves, to allow for diversity and differences. A guy cuts you off in traffic. Oh well, live and let live. It doesn’t really matter. They are just part of the fabric. I can abide by them. A woman cuts in front of you in a line at the store. Live and let live. She doesn’t get to determine my day. She is but a wrinkle in a moment of time. Let it go.

 

2. Live and Learn. Is there a more liberating phrase than this? I don’t have to be perfect. Life is for learning. In fact, life expects that we will go through a learning phase, and another - and another. We grow. We progress. But we make mistakes. And we take from them a new lesson so hopefully, something is gained. It is assumed – we live, life teaches us.

 

3. I’m Not Saying But I’m Saying. Maybe this is unique to Minnesota. Being good Norwegians, we don’t take many stands. We lived in the small narrow confines of valleys back in the old country. We don’t want to alienate good neighbors for generations.

 

What a wonderful way to distance ourselves from confrontation while at the same time saying what we believe. People don’t use this phrase anymore. Now we are more direct. We don’t give the other person room to consider something we've said without laboring over who we will offend if we disagree.

 

4. There’s nothing so bad there’s not some good in it. It would be unconscionable to say this to someone who has just lost a child or where another tragedy is brewing. But as a matter of daily living, why not? A tractor gets stuck. There’s nothing so bad there's not some good in it. I lose a job opportunity. Can you sense the optimism and forward progression of the person who says, “There’s nothing so bad … ?” That person is not defeated. There must be some good. Somehow it makes sense.

 

5. That’s water under the bridge. If ever there was a prescription for mental health this might be it. Of course, there are moral things we have done that we need to make amends for. We need to let the import of what we have done settle on our consciences for the harm we have caused. But in most areas of life, how much psychological time and energy is consumed berating and beating up on ourselves for what is already done?

 

The moment is past. We can't take it back. This is a call to action and active living instead of living in regret and self-recrimination.

 

6. Life is what you make it. You get to decide. You have the power to create something beautiful or destructive. It's not just a combination of forces (DNA, environment, social status) that determine who we are. I fall down. It's what I make of it. I'm rejected. It's how I choose to decide. On the one border - defeatism and excuses. On another, determination and strength of character and challenge.

 

There you have it. That is my half dozen or so. What are yours? What are sayings from our pioneer past you think about that make sense still?

 

We can swear, cuss, use profanity sometimes with vigor. But these are all merely a release of energy. None of these ground us in truths we need to be reminded of daily.

 

Removed from our history, they are quaint and homey sayings, something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  But at the time they must’ve been reminders that bound them to community and perseverance. We could pick up any of these to use them. They are an extension of our heritage.

 

"God be with You" is another way of saying you are not alone. "Godspeed." Divinity will accompany you. "I reckon." That’s my opinion on the subject. “There’s nothing so bad there's not some good in it.” I refuse to be overwhelmed by anything that’s confronting me in all its blackness.

 

From: Empowered by Wilderness (proposed title)

Inspirational book recommendations. Book club short reads.

 

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