Friday, December 23, 2011

Teach a Man to Fish or Buy a Violin

My Uncle Joe is ninety years old.  He came over with his wife today, and we talked about our ailing backs.  Then he gave us this little nugget, talking about his haircut;  he said he had to get a haircut or get a violin.

He said it was an "old" saying, and when we said we'd never heard of it he said, "I know, I know." 

So I googled it.  Seems that FDR said something like that, a while back.  As one site attributed, "It got to a point where I had to get a haircut or a violin." -F.D.Roosevelt  So that's the origin.  But what does it mean?

Is it that there's absurdity in the decision between the two things?  Either get a hair cut or get a violin?  Or is there a pun I'm not seeing here?  Can somebody help me out here?

Has anybody under the age of forty ever used this saying?  Can you explain it to me?  I'm totally intruigued.  I just don't know how to make sense of it. 

I need a haircut.  But I also need a violin.  Hmm.  Which should I ask Santa for?

I wonder if my dad's heard of it.  Or my mom.  Or my mother-in-law-- she's 87.  She might know what FDR was getting at.

I'm usually inspired and in awe of FDR's quotes, but this one has got me a bit differently.  I want to know more, but the internet is lacking.  I might have to go to a library or something.  Imagine! 

Eventually, I guess, the internet catches up and makes a place for all this wisdom.  But what if it misses something (no, really.  It could happen...)  What if we don't actually catch everything in words and pictures from our iPhones and texting ad infinitum?  What if there are little nuggets of truth out there, not being captured by the masses madly frothing their way through this world as if we were racing? 

What if we slowed down and noticed the bloom opening to reveal vibrant color? 

There are choices that we have to make in this life, yes.  But are we really seeing all that we have to see?  Is the news telling us the whole story?  Are we getting unbiased information?  Are we seeing what's really there, or is everything imagined?

I imagined a person,  say, a "homeless" person who lives under a bridge somewhere, going along, existing but totally outside of society's "reality, and I don't mean a mental illness per se, but just think about it-- if you're not plugged in, you don't have to decide whether or not you think Kim Kardashian's boobs are real.  You don't tweet about your most recent bowel movement.  You still exist, as does the rain and the sun, and the trees.  Or do you?  Are you just a violin?

I don't have any answers here.  I'm just putting it out there.  Tell me what you think.  Let's write this story together.  We're on the crest of a creative wave, riding it like the wind.  These words gather around and net a structure for remembrance.  But what will last once the wave has crashed?  What endures?

Not even meaning is crystal.  But now I'm paraphrasing Oliver Wendell Holmes.  "Word is not crystal, transparent, and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used."  There, I quoted him even.  We try to act authoritarian, like we know what we're talking about and have all our ducks in a row.  But I'm sorry, my friend.  It's not exactly like that.  You're not in control.  And all attempts to capture a signature "reality" come up short.  Because you can't be neutral on a moving train, to quote Howard Zinn.  This thing we call life is dynamic, moving, ebbing and flowing.  It's a mixture of paradox and truth.  It's a conundrum cocktail, with ingredients both massive and minute.  And if you try to stop it and figure it out, it leaves you right where you were.  Without "it."

"It" slips through the cracks, evades the spotlights.  "It" escapes to live again another day.  We clutch at the water, cupped in our hands, and still, it slips away.  Whether seapage or evaporation we don't rightly know.  But it moves, along, as does life.

So how do we keep on creating this world?  With more thought?  Or less?  Has it all been done already?  Or did we really miss the good parts?  I don't know.  But I do know that I'll more likely visit the barber than the instrument craftsman.

But that's just me.  You're entitled to your own opinion.


Deb said...

Ooohh... I love the conundrum cocktail. Perhaps at the time of FDR's words, violinists had horrifically (by society's standards) long hair. Perhaps it was the violinists, not the Beatles, who changed the hair of society-- setting a trend with a power they could not foresee. They were the "hair bands" of the times, yes? Rock me, Amadeus.

Suzy said...

Deb had the same thought that I first had when uncle Joe said it. I will ask tomorrow at My Mom's house. I imagine Bill Aaron might be able to help figure it out.