50 Shades of Wisdom

You and I are sitting outside at a picnic table by a waterfall.  It’s a spring morning and a few other people are pulling up chairs to join us.  We’re sipping coffees and passing the croissants.  The conversation starts out light and jovial.  But then…

The topic for this round-table discussion is WISDOM… though not the kind you’re thinking of.  I’m not talking about the usual regurgitation from a self-help book. I’m talking about your own personal everyday common sense wisdom that you’ve gleaned from getting knocked around by life.  The kind that you might like impart to your kids but never got around to relating.

Because there’s a lead-time between my writing and your writing back, it’ll take a day or three for your response to appear.

bumper stickerLet me jump-start by prodding and poking a few of you whom I’m beginning to know.  You know who you are.  You make hammocks, or you were part of the D.C. in-crowd.  You sell real estate  or you just went through one helluva battle.  You’re disillusioned and tired, or you realize this is your big moment and you are goin’ for it.  You’re a surgeon and there are ten things you’d like to convey…or you’re about to have surgery and you have a stack of questions. You’re rich…or not so rich.  You’re a Millenial, a Gen-Xer or a Boomer. You are from a distant continent.  Every generation has their own particular brand of wisdom.  Some overlap.  Many do not,  The KEY Concept is that there isn’t just one Wisdom.

One of the huge, sad truths of mankind is that whatever wisdom we’ve gleaned…doesn’t get passed down.  We constantly feel the need to “reinvent the wheel,” start from scratch and that may be our un-doing.  In the animal kingdom, the mommies and daddies make damned sure their progeny know what they’ve learned through experience.  Wouldn’t it be nice to collate a book together?  50 Different Wisdoms.  

About a year ago I posted something I wrote for the epilogue of my last sculpture book. It’s entitled, A Universe of Metal Sculpture, (Schiffer Publishing) and I wrote it for my grandson, Gryffin, in the event I wasn’t around when he might need it.  I boiled it down to eight truths for me.  If you’re curious, the EIGHT are in this link:  http://henryharveybooks.com/uncategorized/desiderata-and-some-parting-words/

Here are two, chosen at random to give you an idea:

Keep your word. In this complicated world, maintaining the value of your word, and telling the truth has become a rarity. As a man, there will come a time when your word is the only thing you have. Protect this treasure and don’t let it become tarnished.

Be very careful what yardstick you choose to measure success.  Success is not money, for money is an elusive measure and you will never have enough. Neither is fame or success. Fame can be the harshest mistress of all, leaving you without freedom, solitude, or privacy.  And power, in and of itself, is not success, either. The many would think so; it is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Look around you. Judge for yourself.  Success is finding something in your life that you like to do, and finding a way to do it for your life’s work.  It doesn’t have to be wondrous; it just has to fulfill you. And guess what the definition of happiness is…that’s right, they are the same.

Little Practical Every-Day Wisdoms:

If you’re feeling washed-up, burned-out, over the hill, I have a proactive prescription for you.  Take one or both.  I’m not joking.

1. Seriously consider volunteering…helping people out.  You don’t know anyone who could use a hand…or your wisdom?  BALONEY.

2.  Get a dog…period.  No matter what the excuse is, ounce for ounce a pup will change your life for the better…guaranteed.   A happy extra benefit from this?  Read below.

dog imageWant to impress that gal you’re falling for?  your neighbor next door?  your old buddy from way back, or…anyone?  Don’t bother buying a Lambo, Jag, Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsche.  It’ll do EXACTLY the opposite.  Want to flirt with the waitress in the coffee shop?  Get a pup. Leave the Lambo home.  They actually tested this out on Top Gear…with a Lamborghini…and a pup.  The Lambo didn’t have a chance.  If you catch a trophy gal because of what you’re driving…you caught the wrong gal.

3.  Don’t Buy a New House Until You’ve Sold Your Old One.  It’s very tempting, but don’t do it.  In the big scheme of things, it’s easy to buy a house…hard to sell one.  Don’t fudge on this one.  It’ll come back to bite you.

You and I and most of the rest of the planet are competing with something that isn’t even real.

Health Wisdom:  Some of you know…a portion of the nightmare Pamela and I went through this past year.  No one, other than my son, Cameron and his wife, Melissa, know the second more scary part of the story.

Rule One:  If it’s serious, get a second opinion if you think they might be wrong.

Rule Two: Do Not Procrastinate.  In health, sometimes days matter, sometimes hours matter, sometimes seconds matter.  If necessary, move heaven and earth to get checked quickly.

Do Your Homework:   Pick the surgeon that has done your procedure five times this week, not five times in his entire life.

Take your meds:  The fact that….now you’re feeling better is not a reason to stop taking them.  It’s the reason to KEEP Taking Them!

You don’t need 50 people e-mailing you good wishes…just one person who’s guarding your ass 24/7.  With a personal tragedy, you quickly find out who your friends are.

socratesZen/ Philosophical Wisdom:

Where there is great doubt, there will be great awakening, small doubt, small awakening, no doubt………no awakening.

Nothing in Excess:   This one has held 100% true, since I first learned it in college.  Thank Socrates.  Even now, if I say that sentence, someone attempts to refute it…unsuccessfully.  You can have too much of anything, even love, kindness, empathy….money.

Wisdom on a Bumper Sticker:

Be selective in your battles.  Sometimes PEACE is better than being right.

coexistTo Heal a Wound, You Need to Stop Touching it.

A Flower Does Not Think of Competing with the Flower Next to It.  It just BLOOMS…

You Are What Comes Out of Your Mouth

imagesThey Asked Me Why I Don’t Have any Tattoos.  Ever See a Ferrari with a Bumper Sticker?

Integrity is Doing the Right Thing When No One is Looking

Home is Wherever I am With You…Pamela

Literary/Artistic/ Musical Wisdom:

Never, ever, ever write a book, song, poem, make a sculpture because you want to be famous.  Do it because you love to, have to, or…can’t not do it.  Those are the only reasons.

smaller cartoon


Hemingway spoke of a good Bullshit Detector:  What he was talking about is a bullshit detector…for your own bullshit.  Don’t write to impress.  Don’t write to show off.  Don’t search for a 50-cent word that no one understands.  Be prepared to throw out (my own personal record) 167 pages, if you realize the story starts on page 168.  …….(Note:  Look closely at the signature of this cartoon.)  It is none other than the signature of my bouncing baby boy, Cameron…who is now a cartoonist with The New Yorker Magazine, possibly the most difficult magazine on the planet to get a cartoon published in.  He has really terrific genes!

To a rookie, that first draft is glorious and you wouldn’t change a thing.  That is never the case.  Never.  Never, ever, ever.   Edit, and come to realize that perfecting is almost as much fun as creating.

Write every damned day, whether you’re in the mood or not.  Writing is work.

Writer’s Block: Bullshit.  Writer’s block only means you don’t know what comes next.  Write something…anything, even if it’s awful.  Your mind will see it’s awful and correct it…to something better.


sleeping with the editorMarry for Love.    Marry for Love.   Marry for Love.    Marry for Love.

Priorities:  Here’s how it’s supposed to go:   Priority One:  Your mate.

Priority One-A:  Your family.

Priority Two: Your Job

Priority Three:  Your friends.

Strangely, it’s really, really easy to get these all mixed-up.  Anecdotally, when I was young, my mom was everything.  Everything important that I learned I got from her, particularly whatever wisdom I’ve gleaned about women and how they think.  We were very close.  When I got engaged, I had a glimmering of wisdom and visited Mom.  I told her that my priorities would have to change very soon, though I wouldn’t love her any less.  She was wise and understood.  If you’re lucky, you have one mate to see you through this odyssey of life.  First your mate, then the rest of the world.  It works.  It’s supposed to be that way.

Well, I could go on and on, but hopefully before your eyes glaze over, cogitate a moment about what YOU… that person with the glazed eyes reading these words this very second….have learned from life.  Share it with the world.  Let us know what you’ve gleaned.





10 Responses to "50 Shades of Wisdom"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    Hey Henry,

    Two items that I’ve learned, not created, and do attempt to practice, but fail often.

    1) “You get what you give.” This came to me through standing on the risers as our chorus was being coached, including having everything video taped. Our director would scowl at us and tell us with a gruff voice that we needed to sing lighter, sing happier, sing with a more positive feeling. The coach asked the director if he would mind being turning the video tape around, which happened, and then he asked the director to go over the same part… Snarly face and all he tried to lead us thru … failing the whole way… he was getting what he gave..

    2) “Quiet people aren’t the only ones who don’t say much” – This was given to me on a sticker early in my career… never forgot it, but also often violated the wisdom.
    Charlie Davenport

    • Henry Harvey says:

      Two good ones!
      You get what you give…on each side of the knife blade. If you give your time and your energy and good intentions, it comes back. The corollary is also true.

  2. Henry Harvey says:

    The most important thing I’ve learned is to listen to children as they can teach us so much.
    When my youngest son, Simon, was 4 I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said “time”
    I asked him if he wanted a watch.
    His response was “No, time like when Aunt Sue took me to New York to see Uncle Surashri.”
    Think of what have your learned from the younger people in your life.
    Carol P.

  3. Henry Harvey says:

    Morning Carol,

    Wow. Your son, Simon was very perceptive at age four. I know a number of adults who still don’t “get it” with the most precious commodity of all.

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    You asked me to provide my wisdom on life. Here it is. If someone knifes you once, they will knife you a second time.

    You learn who your friends are when you lose- even more so when you win.

    Rejection is the first step towards acceptance.

    It is in the day to day interactions with your spouse that a marriage is made or broken, not the big events.

    Every generation is convinced that the up-and-coming one is lazy, shiftless, and up to no good… and yet the world keeps going on as it always has.

    When you child has made a mistake, usually your first instinct for punishment is a wrong one.

    Good news is harder to handle than bad news.

    In a real confrontation it is better to be thought of as a little nuts, then tough.

    No one is born interesting, talented, or funny. You make yourself that way.

    It is useful and necessary to be able to picture the worst-case scenario. But know that it is a possibility, not a probability.

    You learn more about who a person really is by watching them fight than anything else. Period.

    Humor is a weapon that can get through someone’s amour and defenses when nothing else can.

    Things are only impressive until you can do them yourself.

    Never take a sedative and a laxative at the same time.

    No one has a monopoly on wisdom, but there is a wisdom in learning Monopoly.
    Cameron Harvey

  5. Henry Harvey says:

    Well, well, well…
    Interesting, Cameron! What is nice is you now have a solid chronicle of your wisdom as of age 41. I would submit to you that a number of them will drop off, soften, or morph over the years. The only one where I strongly disagree is: “Good news is harder to handle than bad news.” That’s one of those things that sounds good (I believe ironic is the word du jour). But you will find that really bad news is shitloads worse than good news. I hope you don’t have to find that one out sooner. And…since you have a whole bunch listed, I think you learn most about a person by watching them handle adversity, which can take many forms. Fighting is a thin lense with which to view a person.

  6. Henry Harvey says:

    I really like this post. I started thinking about sixty-plus years of living on this planet. Where to begin….
    Be careful who you go to for advice. Ask an expert in his field for help, not the local know-it-all who thinks he knows everything.

    Trust your instincts…that gut feeling that raises the hairs up on the back of your neck or makes your stomach tighten when something just doesn’t add up.

    Dogs are the best judges of character. When someone new comes to our house, one of our dogs always greets them first. If they growl and won’t let the company pet them, they are telling you that these people are definitely not on your side.

    Going shopping for a new outfit and need sales help? Brunettes should always ask a brunette sales person, otherwise you’ll wind up having to consider those wussy pastels that look just awful on you, but great on her.

    Super models should never be interviewed. To quote Judge Judy, “Beauty is temporary, but dumb is forever.”

    Don’t spend your whole life cleaning. Do something worthwhile…read a book, draw a picture of something that you love, knit something, build something, go for a nature walk. Clean when it is imperative and get a life. Two days after you die, your house is full of dust.

    When you are starting your new career, look toward yourself. There is always something that you absolutely love to do and can’t wait to get into. This is not the thing that should be your life’s work. Pick the second thing that you like to do and pursue that…why? Because once you are heavily entrenched in your field, life will knock you down so many times, that it will distill all the fun out of your passion. So, if you make the other interest your vocation, you will still have your first passion undented from life’s tough knocks.
    Pamela Harvey

  7. Henry Harvey says:

    I can usually jump right in with some mildly intelligent remark, but right now I’m sitting here, fingers wiggling idly over the keyboard. A bit of grass roots wisdom, a bit of snarkiness (you’re too pretty to come down too hard on “beauty”) and then you sprinkle in some heavy-duty solid wisdom. You are a shotgun blast of wisdom, Pamela! Yup, 99% of the time you should trust your instincts. But what about the percentage of idiots out there? Should they do that, too???
    “Don’t spend your whole life cleaning” Well, you’re preaching to the choir on that one, though I noticed that one of our Bostons is missing. Gigi crawled under our bed to investigate the dust bunnies. Not sure of her status.
    And to go serious on ya, I’m not sure you can put aside the thing you really really love to do, just because life is going to grind you down. If you pick something you don’t really like to do, it’ll grind you even quicker. Let’s discuss this one in private.
    Gotta go now and see if Gigi survived the dust bunny encounter.
    Your loyal fan!

  8. Henry Harvey says:

    Not bad, Henry.
    Not bad at all!

    Mary Lou

  9. Henry Harvey says:

    C’mon Mary Lou,

    I can’t imagine you walking away from a wisdom discussion without making a contribution.

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