“What are those sayings called, the ones that you can use to remember other things? Sometimes they rhyme, like ‘i before e, except after c’, or that one about the weather; ‘red at night, sailor’s delight’… or is it a shepherd that gets delighted? And that one about how many days are in a month, ‘thirty days hath September…’ — it tries to rhyme but gives up mid way.”
Benny was thinking of mnemonics, and how handy it would be to have reminders like these at hand, sayings that were easy to recall but could prompt him to remember a lot of the ideas and conclusions he’d been coming to. It was a fine thought — and I’m all for taking a ‘first thought, best thought’ sort of approach; especially if based on the refocused view of things that Benny had been delving into.
Of course, our boy wouldn’t ideally need smart rhymes or mnemonic devices and reminders… eventually. I could fill in the gaps anytime; all that was needed was to clear the otherwise cluttered communication channels between us. And if Benny were to assign a flavour to the thoughts he sought to keep in touch with, he’d find they were mostly coming from the same spice shelf — for him to lose the tired and predictable assumptions; to ditch the self-absorption and egoistic values and take a wider view, for all of us; to be prepared to learn from experiences, not be further closed off by relying on convention or the ‘tried and true’.
It was like that time one day after work, coming home in a warm twilight, when Benny came around a corner and was startled to see a snake on the footpath, which made him freeze in fright. When it didn’t move he peered closer, and saw that it was just a dark thin strip of bark that had come off a tree and was left on the concrete, about a metre or more long and that just happened to have a particular shape and be lying there in such a way that made it look something like a snake. So his stupid scaredy brain just thought ‘hey, snake’ without really knowing. And when he realised what was what, the ‘snake’, and the fear, disappeared — it was just a construct of mind, a concept that was never real in the first place, that dissipated through a clearer perception of what, in the end, always was. Of course there are a lot of things in our lives that can be that way.
So here was a verbal reminder Benny could take up — ‘Is it a snake, or…?’ — and obviously not just for objects he physically sees and is confused by, but as a reminder that things may not always end up being what they first appear to be (or how our fretful minds construct them). Of course he needn’t be tied to those words, and he could create his own saying. It was just a suggestion, but this is where his thoughts were taking him, thankfully.
(In all activities, train with slogans)
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