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.