Danny Tyree: Inspirational quotes: Are you for or against them?

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, September 8, 2020

One of the highlights of my 93-year-old mother’s week is when she receives an inspirational essay from a church lady (hi, Regina!) who maintains a mailing list for Special People.

Yes, the world is flooded with anxieties, conflicts and doubts. Many of us NEED someone hitting us over the head with a metaphorical two-by-four on a weekly/daily/hourly basis – refocusing our thoughts on truisms about perseverance, forgiveness, friendship, self-worth and happiness. (And about counting to 10 when some insufferable busybody bugs us concerning whether the metaphorical two-by-four comes from a metaphorical SUSTAINABLE FOREST.)

When I was growing up, we basically had “Keep on truckin’” and “Today is the first day of the rest of your life – start it right with Total”; but now there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of books, calendars, refrigerator magnets, posters, jewelry, coffee mugs, apps, etc. to promote a positive attitude. If he were alive today, I’m sure Winston Churchill would reassure us, “When your heart is weighed down with despair…when you’re DOWN IN THE DUMPS…gather up some of those discarded calendars, refrigerator magnets, etc. and see how long it takes them to give the NEXT schmuck Type-2 diabetes.”

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Six years ago, one of my business associates encouraged me to become a motivational speaker. Because of family commitments, some since-resolved health issues and a detour waiting breathlessly for each new day of the Klingon inspirational calendar (“Today is a good day to die. And TODAY is another good day to die..”), I haven’t taken that route yet. But I am putting the finishing touches on a motivational/inspirational book for publication in November. (Details to follow.)

I’m keeping both eyes on the deadline. It’s harder than it looks to write gems such as “You can’t motivate other people until you first master motivating…master motivating… y’know, if they would hurry up and detonate dynamite at the quarry again, maybe that bag of Cheetos would vibrate over toward me…”

Inspirational quotes can be stressful when they are (superficially, at least) in conflict with one another. My guiding maxim is poet Robert Browning’s “A man’s reach should always exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” It takes some fancy footwork to mesh that with Saint Paul’s “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (Sudden-death overtime tiebreaker: so, Robert, got a spare BASILICA on you?)

I’ll admit that I would derive more benefit from inspirational quotes if I didn’t insist on OVERTHINKING them.

Take for example, when I read Leo Tolstoy’s advice “Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.” Just imagine: a “Groundhog Day” existence where you’re constantly shifting between “Hurry up and give me that room key or I’m LEAVING the car parked right here in your lobby!” and “We’re not going back 350 miles for that teddy bear! Not when I…uh, had him CLONED for your birthday.” High jinks and productivity ensue.

Let’s not forget Buddha’s “Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness.” Yeah, and the key to falling from the gym rope and getting out of P.E. class for the rest of the year.

Whether you prefer Zig Ziglar, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain or “Unknown,” keep thinking those good thoughts.

As for my book, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger in resisting the sequel. *Sigh*

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”