“She will be your stepmother, and she has two wonderful daughters who will be your dear friends…” As a rare Sunday later afternoon activity, Cheri and I decided to watch television for a bit, and found a version of “Cinderella” running. Even rarer, we both decided to watch the movie. It unfolded in that typical Cinderella script, where her mother dies, and her ever-caring father eventually decides that it’s time for wife number two, and so his conversation with his daughter includes the hoped-for famous last words – they will be your dear friends!
I laughed out loud when I heard that line, because from the Disney animated classic, to the musical with Leslie Ann Warren (who, through the eyes of an eight-year old boy was indeed the most beautiful girl in the world), the tragic hopefulness of those words created a really tough time for ol’ Cinders. Not that all step-mothers are evil, nor step-sisters self-centered, greedy and willing to destroy a sweet young girl, but in this story, at least, the sad seeds are sown for a truly lousy life, until a prince, a fairy godmother and a glass slipper all combine for a happy ending. Actually in the Brothers Grimm original version, at the royal wedding, birds come and peck the eyes out of the step sisters, and the step mother is forced to wear iron shoes that had been heated in the fire, and then to dance until she dies. Perhaps not the best bedtime reading.
But we still have those famous last words. Often, words like these are quoted because in retrospect they are so incredibly and naively hopeful – we know the rest of the story, and have to shake our heads that anyone would have believed those “last word” at any time. I remember, during my stupid teenage years, that my brother Tim secured an “M-80” firecracker, which was the equivalent of 1/8 stick of dynamite (now you understand the reference to “stupid teenage”). There was no doubt that it had to be exploded, but we pondered the way to the maximum effect. Finally, about five of us headed to the huge steel culvert that carried rainwater under the road. There, Tim lit the firecracker and threw it as far as he could into the culvert. Nothing. We waited a bit longer. Still nothing. I will always remember the famous last words spoken at that time – “Maybe it went out – let’s check the fuse” – as the five of us stepped into the culvert.
The sound of the explosion was unbelievable. It was also enhanced by the giant echo chamber of the culvert itself. It was more than a few minutes before I could hear anything beyond the deafening ringing in my ears, and the dull thumping of blood in my veins. We didn’t even laugh over it until much later. I am just very glad that we didn’t manage to find our way to the firecracker before it blew! “Maybe it went out…” sort of like in a horror movie, “It looks pretty harmless,” or “Let’s hide in the closet…”
It probably can go without saying that most things can go without saying. What we think are wise musings that we speak out loud are often in hindsight pretty ridiculous and actually kind of goofy. I remember Mark Twain’s great comment: It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt. What we say and when and how we say it is always within our power. It is unfortunate that it is pretty common for us to speak our opinions, our beliefs, what we surmise, instead of not doing so. It’s almost as if our mouths are on autopilot, and our brains sometimes are switched to sleep mode.
When we are living intentionally, however, we think before we speak. We also are able to refrain from speaking everything we think. We keep our own counsel, and do not find the need to direct the entire world by our own sometimes dubious intelligence and wisdom. To paraphrase Twain, sometimes silence is our best effort at wisdom.
That’s not to say we never express our opinion, but sometimes, frankly, it’s not needed, and doesn’t add to the deafening din of pronouncements that arise out of egos without borders. I don’t think Cinderella’s dad was acting egotistically, but the irony is that he tried to sell her what he hoped, and not what he knew. That’s the perfect opportunity for famous last words.
Here’s hoping that today our words will not be either famous nor last, but instead, quietly offer wise and loving thoughts that grow a better world.
Word for the Day: ratite. You may be acquainted with the word already, but you may not know why. Pronounced RAT-ite, it is a category of birds that are flightless, which may defeat the purpose of calling them birds. In the group are ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries, moas, kiwis and a number of extinct birds. Most of them adapt to not flying by becoming pretty huge. The ostrich for the best example can grow to be almost 10-feet tall, weigh over 200 pounds and can run faster than a horse, and beat you to pieces if it wished. Who needs to fly then?
The rarely known part of all this, however, which is what you can spout as great intelligence when you go to a zoo or you are at a dinner party eating chicken or turkey, is that the word, ratite, is from the Latin, ratis, meaning “raft.” Why “raft,” you ask? It’s because all of these birds have flat breastbones – most birds have what is known as a “keel” on the breastbone, where the flight muscles can attach. With no keel on the sternum, it is as if the breastbone is a “raft,” like all rafts that are flat. With no muscles to fly attached to the sternum – they are ratites. You are welcome in advance as you share this novel piece of trivia.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.