The significance of number

It’s not always wise to follow the crowd.

Remember the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen?

A pair of weavers tricked the conceited Emperor into believing they had made him a fine set of clothes; clothes so fine, they would be visible only to those worthy of their position, and invisible to anyone lacking intelligence. Not wanting to appear stupid, his subjects were quick to join in the admiration of his (invisible) clothes. It took a young child to see through the claims and announce the deception.

Honesty is a trait often admired, even found refreshing, in children. However, the same kind of honesty is not always endearing in an adult. As we grow, many of us learn to use a little more finesse when telling someone what we think of them or their work. It is sometimes wiser to take the side road, rather than the direct route.

I have always loved the story of the Emperor and his invisible clothes. I found the people’s dishonesty frustrating. I just wanted to shake them, “Can’t you see?” But I loved that it was a child who told it like it was.

The story is a wonderful allegory for so much that is going on in the world today, and probably always has. (The story was published 180 years ago.) Someone comes up with a bright new idea. It is promoted; and before long everyone is following the trend, proclaiming its, often-questionable, value. It happens in education too. Those who see through the hype are often ridiculed.

The importance of interrogating ideas to determine their worth cannot be overstated. The ability to question and to think critically is essential for an intelligent society. Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it wise, right, or best.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a wise story. It can be about wisdom, expressing wisdom or advice for turning 50! It can be a wise-cracking story, too. Go where wisdom leads you.

The reason for the prompt including the suggestion of “advice for turning 50” is that Charli celebrated her significant 50th birthday on the weekend.

I remember turning 50. I had a big party that I spent months organising. A magician helped break the ice early in the evening and prepared everyone for joining in games that were interspersed throughout the evening. People danced and were entertained by a musical duo who also liked to tell jokes. It was a memorable occasion for me, if not for anyone else. I’m pleased I did it then, as I wouldn’t be bothered now, though the numbers do seem to get significantly bigger each year.

It was about that time that I realised I wasn’t as mature and wise as I’d expected to be. Didn’t adults give the appearance of wisdom when I was a child? They’d certainly seemed convinced of what they were telling me, and rarely displayed hesitation in decision making. I figured, if I wasn’t mature and wise by then, I was never going to be. So what the hell. I’d just stay a six-year-old for life!

Remember the A. A. Milne poem?

“When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

Anyway, I would like to wish Charli a very happy fiftieth birthday, and welcome her to the second half-century. I’ve been there a while and it’s not too bad. I’d hazard a guess that it’s better than the alternative. There are still plenty of new discoveries to be made. But you must make the most those years. They can just fly away.

Coinciding with her birthday, Charli has announced a new project on her website. Charli is a wonderful source of support and inspiration to writers all over the globe and, as you know, the instigator of the flash fiction I, and many others, write each week.

Charli says, “If I can raise the funds, I will start an imprint for Carrot Ranch, expand our platform to benefit those who write in this community and seek new ways to inspire and inform other writers beyond the ranch hands.” She is developing a Patreon. If you would like to help Charli get this work started, please ride on over to her website and donate to the project.

In the meantime, here is my response to her challenge to write a “wise” story. I hope you enjoy it.

Growing into wisdom.

“My Dad knows everything!” bragged six-year-old Billy.

“Parents,” grumbled Will E., at surly sixteen, “They know nothing.”

For thirty-year-old William, at the top of his game, conversations were strained. One more “In our day…” he’d surely explode.

By forty-five, with kids of his own, “But kids are different these days,” Will would state.

Dad would wink and suggest, “Not that different.”

Throughout the fifties, his recalcitrant teens mirrored those years of his own.

Into his sixties, with kids gone and more time for chatting with Dad, he discovered, almost too late, they shared more than he had ever appreciated.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

24 thoughts on “The significance of number

  1. Sarah Brentyn

    Love The Emperor’s New Clothes. Fabulous tale. So agree that “the same kind of honesty is not always endearing in an adult.” Shame, that. Great flash through-the-ages and glad the end was “almost” too late. Not too late. 🙂 Wonderful tribute to Charli. 🎁🎈🎂

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  2. Jennie

    Norah, I love this post. The messages are timeless for children (and adults). How we see and live life past the age of 50 is delightful. I wouldn’t trade living all I learned from The Emperor’s New Clothes and A.A. Milne, for anything. I still feel like I am six. Your post really says it so very well. Thank you.

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  3. Pingback: Wise Words « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    Cake! Thank you, Norah, that’s quite an unexpected and yet fun gift! Thank you for sharing here on your blog, too. I think your flash mirrors the interesting face morph, in that we grow and mature, changing internally as much as we do externally.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m sorry it wasn’t a real cake, but then, no calories! 🙂
      After I wrote the flash, I remembered seeing the video (actually a different but similar one) a few years ago, and was pleased when I found it. I thought it worked well too.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the birthday wishes.

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  5. TanGental

    hey now that’s a rather splendid tribute and flash to match. Every age has been rather wonderful if I’m honest. But you and me both like to squeeze the good juices for all they are worth, hey?

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  6. thecontentedcrafter

    Happy Birthday to Charli – she is a special light in the world! Although at 50 she is only just getting underway 🙂 I think the 60’s has been my favourite decade so far. It just keeps getting better and better! Who knew ‘maturing’ could be so much fun? ❤

    Your flash reminds me of the (apocryphal) Mark Twain quote: ' When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.' Probably most young folk feel that way about their parents – or adults in general 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m so pleased things got better for you in the sixties, Pauline. I hope they continue, as you say, to get better and better too.
      Thanks for sharing Mark Twain’s quote. I’m sure I’ve heard it a number of times over the years too. No doubt it influenced my thinking a little; but I was also influenced by what I see around.

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  7. robbiesinspiration

    I love this weeks 99 words post, Norah. It is so true and you have told it so well. A wonderful article about questioning. It is amazing to me how the younger (in their twenties) generation doesn’t seem to question anything except for their increases and benefits. I have always been a great one for asking questions so I find it really strange when people just accept comments without thinking about them and applying some logic.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you very much for you encouraging comment, Robbie. I’m pleased to hear you have always asked questions. It’s the only way to find anything out. 🙂

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  8. Patricia Tilton

    I think of the 50s as the power years for women. They’ve experienced a lot in their lives and for many it’s the best years of their lives — into their 60s. It’s their time to really step out and shine. Do what they want — perhaps their real work — which may not be a paycheck.

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  9. Susan Scott

    Nice to be 6 and ever so clever! Yes, it’s a strange world we live in and the ability to sort the wheat from the chaff becomes even more imperative – and to pass that discriminating function on to the younger ones. Thanks Norah – The Emperor’s clothes is apt. And happy Birthday to Charli!

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  10. Annecdotist

    What a wise post, Norah, and beautiful tribute to Charli – did you actually bake that cake? Either way, it’s impressive. I also love story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, although the pressure to believe in the fantasy can have a sinister side, you only have to think of North Korea. I also like When I Am Six, and remember when six sounded old, but I wouldn’t fancy going back there. Great how you picked up that theme in your flash, showing how ageing can bring us full circle. The video is very clever. Thanks for another brilliant post.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for such a lovely comment, Anne. No, I didn’t make the cake. 😦
      The Emperor’s New Clothes definitely has a sinister side. That is what I was alluding to. Maybe I was a bit too subtle?
      It’s funny how our perception of age changes as we get older, isn’t it? I’m now much older than my parents were when I thought they were ancient. We think we are younger than they were at the same age, but I’m sure today’s youth don’t think so!

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