It’s 1:33 in the morning. I’m groggy and a bit annoyed. This is the earliest my “Muse” has awakened me to write to you. For what it’s worth, my Muse is that creative part of me that runs the show, has a better vocabulary than I do and dictates what I’m going to write about. Strangely, she’s female, smart and rarely wrong.
I have always had a fascination with the short gems-of-wisdom that are passed down over the generations. Surely, if there’s such a thing as a cheat-sheet to life, the best things said by the brightest minds have to come close. Read and truly understand a great quote and you’ve jumped three steps ahead and become truly wiser. Strange that so many young people don’t even bother…
What served as the seed for this essay was a quote by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I think Ms. Angelou nailed it. I have a fairly keen memory for those who have inspired me and an even sharper memory for those few people who have hurt me. Most of us want to be remembered. We all might think seriously about how we make our friends and loved ones feel.
If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise they will kill you. A good part of why I’m still alive comes back to this tiny gem. Keep a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye and you just might survive.
No Good Deed goes Unpunished. (Pamela reminds me of this at least once a week.)
The truth is rarely pure and never simple. (99.9999% of life is a LOT greyer and a LOT more nuanced than you might think. Keep that in mind when your brain wants to snap like a mousetrap upon a quick easy answer. Perhaps there’s a bit more grit to the answer than you might think.)
A good friend will always stab you in the front. This is a concept I warn good new friends. I promise that I will never stab you in the back. However, if provoked, you’ll discover a gaping psychic hole right up front. At least you’ll know that it was coming.
You don’t love a person for their looks or their clothes or their fancy cars, but because they sing a song only you can hear. This goes back to another Oscar Wilde concept. Pam’s and my unabashed goal with friends is to charm. One of the worst sins in life is to be an utter bore.
One from me: “I never met a deadline I didn’t meet.” A handful of years ago, I received a call from Peter and Nancy Schiffer, the two pistons behind Schiffer Publishing. They asked if they could come up (in an hour) to do an interview for a possible book on my 45 years of sculpting. I hung up the phone and Pam and I went right to panic mode. One hour??? 55 minutes later, we were still sweeping crap under the workbench and waving the doors back and forth to get rid of the welding fumes.
Peter and Nancy were as charming as they were enigmatic and spent the next 40 minutes wandering around the gallery and exchanging glances. Then Peter took me aside and asked me one question: “Henry, if we do a book about your art, what’s going to be in it?” I answered with one word. MAGIC… He smiled and nodded. I’d passed some sort of Zen-like test inside his mind. He nodded, not just once, but a couple of times, and then he came back for one more question: He said, “Book publishing is part art, part business, but it’s 100% deadlines.” I responded with this sentence, which he really liked and I thank my muse, my subconscious for coming up with it in three nano-seconds. I said, “I never met a deadline I didn’t meet.” It’s an easy sentence to say, but it was and continues to be a bugger of a concept to live up to. If you translate it, what it actually means is: If you make a promise, you have to keep it. You have to…
One from The Association that has served me well:
“It’s not the bridges burned that bother me, but the ones that I never crossed.” ……followed closely by, “This is not a dress rehearsal. You are here and this is today. Do whatever you’re going to do…now.” (my quotes)
Here is a hugely important quote from the movie, The Rainmaker: You’re so concerned with what’s right, you’ve forgotten to think about what’s good.” Many friends and a handful of relatives get this wrong. Being right all the time can be tremendously boring and tedious for everyone. Being kind, or at least trying to do what is good…is never boring.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” —Vince Lombardi.
Success: A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.—Bob Dylan
This one isn’t a quote so much as an equation: In nearly half a century of being a sculptor, I’ve been asked what creativity is at least 2,000 times. At a lecture entitled, Back Pages up in Pennsylvania, I finally reduced the question to the equation to your left: Haven’t had any arguments against it so far. It works for me…
A Serious and Recent one from Pamela: It’s no secret that Pam and I have spent this past year both in Heaven and in Hell. The Heaven was moving to Old Fort, North Carolina. The Hell, was battling uterine cancer, lymphedema, and a hip replacement all at the same time. Pam’s surgeons seriously warned me, “You, Henry, are in charge of keeping Pamela absolutely safe for the next 8 months,” a task which I took 1000% to heart. But it was not without its emotional conflict and impact on both of us. Pam is the proudest woman I have ever met and as such was a bugger of a patient…seriously so. We made it through, but a couple of weeks ago, Pam said, “Yes, you got me through, but you have to take your caretaker hat off now. You can’t be my mate and be my caretaker at the same time. She was right. Please pin this concept away for future reference. Being a caretaker is a huge hat to wear. And being a lover and a caretaker at the same time is nearly impossible.