Putting new spin on old proverbs can help attitude

BY BOB WACHS, Columnist
Posted 10/6/21

One of the advantages of being a pack rat is that when you run across something you haven’t seen in awhile and forgotten you have said item, it’s almost like seeing it for the first time — and …

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Putting new spin on old proverbs can help attitude

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One of the advantages of being a pack rat is that when you run across something you haven’t seen in awhile and forgotten you have said item, it’s almost like seeing it for the first time — and then rediscovering why you squirreled it away in the first place.

That phenomenon has happened to me several times recently as I have moved boxes of this and that from here to there. Everything in those boxes is, of course, stuff of the finest degree and no doubt will come in handy if the Depression of the 1930’s comes back around. My boyhood friend and advisor on all things from the pocketbook to the heart, Bobby Joe High, says the way things are going that sooner or later we’ll be there, but I hope he’s wrong.

But if he is, I will be in good shape.

Anyway, the last few days or so I have come across some great stuff — a few dollars I didn’t remember putting away, some notes from the two now 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house, a 1949 UNC-N.C. State football game program, a wad of old sports pages and some really good books that cry out to be read as well as some “Best of Carol Burnett” DVDs, complete with sketches from comic genuises Harvey Korman and Tim Conway.

There is a bit of a problem with the books, though. It has occurred to me that I don’t think I’ll be around long enough to read all the unread ones in my study. So now the issue becomes setting priorities, a really hard thing for me to do — which is one reason there’s so much stuff to start with.

But the other day I may have stumbled upon the secret to life among those unread books. As I pawed through a falling-apart cardboard box I came across a little volume by a writer named Richard Eyre with the title, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: New Maxims to Refresh and Enrich Your Life.” No doubt you have figured out that the main idea of the book is to take old sayings and proverbs and things that have been told to us for years as truths and put a modern day spin on them.

There are many such examples in the book. For instance, “Get serious!” becomes, “The reason angels can fly is that they have learned to take themselves lightly,” and “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” becomes, “Always put off a ‘put-offable’ in favor of a ‘now or never.’”

It is the one that is the title of the book that has captured my attention and fancy. I heard it from my dear old mom, or at least a variation — “Get off your duff,” or “Don’t let the moss grow under your feet,” or something equally as fatiguing — for most of my tender young life.

And not only did she say it, but she lived it. If she had caught up on everything on her list, for instance, she’d go out and make another round through the garden looking for rocks and so, consequently, many were the nights she went to sleep sitting on the living room couch with the ol’ television blaring the 10 o’clock news.

The book’s author agrees it is better to be up and doing than to be down and drooping. But then he goes on to note very simply that our society has evolved into one where, he says, “There is so much going on that we are always acting and doing, sometimes at the expense of thinking and feeling.”

In a less urban, less mechanized, less complex and competitive time, there were natural seasons and periods of reflection and repose. There were natural “breaks” after the planting or the harvest and when it got dark at night, work was done.

Not so today! We may have business cycles but none of them involve rest. We have weekends but they’re usually the time to do the work we couldn’t get to during the week. And we have evenings but the night belongs to meetings, homework with the kids or to working overtime, or trying to “play as hard as we work.”

We become fanatic whirlwinds of activity in a world where there are endless things to do, working ourselves to an exhausted frazzle each day — yet we look back over the weeks and months and don’t see much progress. We think any action is preferable to inaction, and that doing anything is better than doing nothing.

The new proposal he puts forth is simply this: Don’t just do something; sit there. Sit each morning to decide what is really important. Sit there long enough during the day to collect your thoughts, to meditate for a moment, to calm your mind and regain perspective. Look at life from a spiritual perspective.

I think I’ll start working on it.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.


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  • pastor1132

    I love this! Thanks so much for sharing the book and this priceless insight. As a fellow pastor and citizen who has made it through this exhausting year, these are precious words.

    Tuesday, October 12 Report this