Cucumbers of Copper

Hey, it's Thursday June 14, cleverly named by Tracy Lynn as International You Poke It You Own It Day. (Tracy has told me personally that anyone who leaves a comment will not face her hellish wrath.)

Today is also Flag Day, which made me realize that the Hyperion Institute does not have its own flag. Thus, I'm starting a new contest to create one. Anyone interested email me for details. I'll even let the Hyperion Nation vote on the finalists, and of course there will be major accolades and Romanian Midget Whores to the winner. (So get on it, people!)

Meanwhile, I know flag burning isn't at the forefront of American debate these days, but at one point it was, causing Hyperion to write this even-handed (yet delightfully clever) column called Six White Stripes. There's even a quote from Nelson Muntz!

I was going through the archives and found this gem, which always cracked me up. Chances are you're new enough to have not read it (or too far on the Chronic to remember). It's hard to believe these books are even real, but I bet your mother has one too!

the Hyperion Chronicles“I wonder if Helen Steiner Rice has groupies?”

#152 Apples of Gold

“A word spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
-Proverbs 25:11

I found the book Apples of Gold on my parents’ bookshelves the other day, and sat down to read it. Before I got to page 20, I knew I had to write a column.

Apples of Gold, by Jo Petty, is a book filled with little aphorisms to help you in your life. Imagine Fortune Cookies, if the “Precious Moments” people wrote them. The mother of this genre has to be Helen Steiner Rice, who has written such thought-provoking books like Moments of Comfort, Moments of Friendship, Blossoms of Friendship, Eyes of Tenderness, Gifts of Love, Moments of Celebration, Moments of Love, Pathway to Sunshine, Flowers of Love, Fountains of Joy, Fragrance of Hope, and Gems of Inspiration; among many others.

I’m not really knocking Rice, or any of the other authors who publish this stuff. It has its place, and not everyone likes what I write either. It’s just…well, for one thing, they don’t really write anything. If, like me, you got several of these books for graduation, then you know what I’m talking about.

To prove it to you, I thought I would take a few examples from Apples of Gold, and examine how profound it is. Or isn’t, as the case may be.

First off, when I say that these women don’t really write anything, I’m not (just) making a value judgment. They really don’t write it. Here is Petty, on page 7:

The material in this book has been collected over a long period of time. Many of the original sources are unknown to the compiler. The compiler wishes to acknowledge the original authors, whoever they may be, but has confidence that they would urge, with her, “Do not inquire as to who said this, but pay attention to what is said.”

You’ve got to hand it to her. Petty freely admits she didn’t create a word of this, and gets around it by implying that whoever said if first wants her to steal it and not attribute properly. That’s bravery even I don’t possess! I think my favorite part is where she calls herself “the compiler.” From now on, that’s what I’ll call her. It’s funny, too, because I was thinking the whole paragraph was a pile of something…Anyway, on to the meaty text. Her “writing” will be in italics, and my thoughts will be in bold.

To love virtually is to know; to know is not virtually to love. (page 9) I virtually have no idea what this means.

We may give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. (p. 10) If this book were written by a Math teacher that would have read, “All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.”

To love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret. (p. 10) The use of labor, intimate, and inmost in the same sentence makes me wonder if this was written in code. Hmm…maybe this is deeper than I thought. I will have to keep an eye out for more examples of the code.

Except in occasional emergencies there is not much that one man can do for another, other than to help him help himself. (p. 10) One man helps another “help himself.” Are you seeing a pattern here? Meanwhile, what are “occasional emergencies”?

The door to the human heart can only be opened from the inside. (p. 10) If I was a deranged stalker and took that literally, do you think I could use the “Apples of Gold” defense at trial?

Restraint without love is barbarity. Love without restraint commits suicide. (p. 11) Okay. I’m no longer wondering if this is written in subversive code. Now she’d advocating knocking yourself off! In a weird twist, though, the kinkier she gets, the more I like her.

How seldom we weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves. (p. 13) This is actually pretty true, although by now I’m sure most readers’ eyes would be glazed over. We excuse behavior in ourselves and our family that we would consider irrational in strangers. That’s one deep thought for the compiler so far.

Not the quarry, but the chase. Not the trophy, but the race. (p. 13) This isn’t all that deep, but I like it. This isn’t turning out like I thought at all. So far we’ve had sexual code, death exhortations, and cool rhymes. Maybe I can get Petty to compile a guest column for me, or at least get her phone number.

Love is not soft like water, it is hard like rock, on which the waves of hatred beat in vain. (P. 13) …for spacious skies, and amber waves of hatred… it could work.

It is absurd to pretend that one cannot love the same woman always as to pretend that a good artist needs several violins to play a piece of music. (p. 14) This analogy seems flawed. A better one would be, “does the artist want to always play the same piece of music?” On the plus side, “multiple violin orchestra” now has a whole new meaning.

Your friend has a friend, and your friend’s friend has a friend. Be discreet. (p. 14) This is another one that has to be written in code. With all this talk of “friends of friends,” are you thinking what I’m thinking?

One reason why a dog is such a lovable creature is that his tail wags instead of his tongue. (p. 15) Great, now we’ve crossed over to animals. This Petty is a real party girl, if you know what I mean.

One of the mysteries of life is how the boy who wasn’t good enough to marry the daughter can be the father of the smartest grandchild in the world. (p. 15) Amen. This is the second true thing she’s compiled.

A partnership with God is motherhood (p. 16) I don’t even want to know what she’s implying here…

It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. (p. 16) Tennyson wrote this. How hard would that have been to look up?

An injurious truth has no merit over an injurious lie. (p. 17) I wonder if Bill Clinton read this book…

Mothers, as well as fools, sometimes walk where angels fear to tread. (p. 17) Now she’s calling my mother stupid! I’m back to hating her.

Hate is a prolonged manner of suicide. (p. 18) I just wrote I hate her, then I read this. Now I feel weird. I wonder if she’s watching me write this?

Interesting people are people who are interested. Bores are people who are bored. (p. 21) So quit drifting off!

All people smile in the same language. (p. 24) This seems profound until you think about it. Then you realize you could say that for anything: all people fart in the same language too.

Mind unemployed is Mind unenjoyed. (p. 26) For all of you say I think too much: take that!

May you live all the days of your life. (p. 27) I realize this is trying to be profound, that we should seize the day, blah blah blah. But I maintain you can do this with anything. Watch, I’ll show you: May all your nights have mornings. See how easy it is to make the mundane sound profound? Here is one more: You always find a lost item in the last place you look for it.

When a man has a ‘pet peeve’ it’s remarkable how often he pets it. (p.27) You have to see this is written in code now! Even French people could see it!

Things are pretty well evened up in this world. Other people’s troubles are not so bad as yours, but their children are lot worse. (p. 28) Okay, she got one more thing right.

Help me never judge another until I have walked two weeks in his shoes. (p. 50) What happened to a mile? If you walk for two weeks, I don’t know what you’ll be thinking, but I know what he’ll be thinking: that bastard stole my shoes!

I am not conceited, though I do have every reason to be. (p. 76) Luckily I don’t have this problem. I’m very conceited.

You can never tell about a woman., and if you can, you shouldn’t. (p. 84) I think this is the compiler’s way of saying, “All women are scary monsters, so don’t mess with them.”

A criminal is nothing else but you and me at our weakest, found out. (p. 87) [Hyperion whistles softly through his teeth] I think I could write a whole column just on that.

And, it’s probably a good stopping point, anyway. Jo Petty has fought me to a draw. This book isn’t nearly as bad as I thought, but since I’m not about to spend 6 hours writing another column, you’ll have to settle for this one, at least for now. Kind of fitting that most of this I didn’t write, but rather “compiled,” just like she did. Maybe there’s a chance for me after all.

Chomping on my cucumbers of copper,

September 12, 2003

Motto Explanation
If you read the column, you don’t need to ask

Jo Petty, we hardly knew ye
Whoever wrote Proverbs: You da man!

[If you like this column you can find many more witty and funny ones like it over at The Hyperion Chronicles]

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