Skip to main content

Visiting the UU Forebears: Edward Everett Hale

If you have come to this post seeking noble inspiration, because you know that Rev. Edward Everett Hale was that wise soul who wrote, "I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something..." and you seek some of the same -- well, keep on walking, Pilgrim.

I love finding out that the noble and dignified were very much human, and funny, and gossipy, and the Rev. Hale is today's example of What, You Thought Your Generation Invented Snark?

Seriously, Dude could have fit in well on RuPaul's Drag Show and held his own while not holding his tongue.

In 1871, Hale wrote How to Do It, To which is Added, How to Live. It's public domain and you can get it for free. Oh, do. It's so delightfully catty.  Hale gives advice about the right conduct of one's life, and I have to confess, I found myself often thinking in response to his words, "Whoa, guy, that's RUDE," followed by a musing, "He's right, though ..."

He introduces the book by listing the names of 34 young people he's known. They make up a nice set, he writes, "None of them are too bright or too stupid, only one of them is really selfish, all but one or two are thoroughly sorry for their faults when they commit them, and all of them who are good for anything think of themselves very little." Really, how can you put down a book that begins as such, even if it were written in 1871?

He offers many bits of wisdom such as "Remember that a central rule for comfort in life is this, 'Nobody was ever written down an ass, except by himself.'"

Along with the snarkiness, I couldn't help but be reminded that certain things are timeless, it's only the method that changes. Like this advice Hale gives:
Talk To The Person Who Is Talking To You
This rule is constantly violated by fools and snobs. Now you might as well turn your head away when you shoot at a bird, or look over your shoulder when you have opened a new book,--instead of looking at the bird, or looking at the book,--as lapse into any of the habits of a man who pretends to talk to one person while he is listening to another, or watching another, or wondering about another. 
If you really want to hear what Jo Gresham is saying to Alice Faulconbridge, when they are standing next you in the dance, say so to Will Withers, who is trying to talk with you. You can say pleasantly, "Mr. Withers, I want very much to overhear what Mr. Gresham is saying, and if you will keep still a minute, I think I can." Then Will Withers will know what to do. You will not be preoccupied, and perhaps you may be able to hear something you were not meant to know. 
At this you are disgusted. You throw down the book at once, and say you will not read any more. You cannot think why this hateful man supposes that you would do anything so mean. Then why do you let Will Withers suppose so? All he can tell is what you show him. If you will listen while he speaks, so as to answer intelligently, and will then speak to him as if there were no other persons in the room, he will know fast enough that you are talking to him. But if you just say "yes," and "no," and "indeed," and "certainly," in that flabby, languid way in which some boys and girls I know pretend to talk sometimes, he will think that you are engaged in thinking of somebody else, or something else,--unless, indeed, he supposes that you are not thinking of anything, and that you hardly know what thinking is. 
What? WHAT??? You mean rudeness predates the invention of the smartphone? Eureka, here Hale criticizes the 1871 version of Phubbing. There truly is nothing new under the sun.


Less snarky info on Hale can be found HERE and HERE.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to