My father had a little saying he always shared. It was “keep-a-going.” He lived to be ninety-seven, so he certainly followed his heart. I have a notebook/journal in which I jot down bits of sage wisdom or proverbs. Some are delightfully silly—such as “Brother Ben shot the rooster and killed the hen”—and some speak to deeper matters such as the Chinese proverb, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrows.”
I was told once by someone in my family that I had inherited my father’s philosophic bent. Perhaps true. He was widely read, a fine thinker, having won medals on his college debate team, back in the last century. I do believe that my teaching literature and writing did reflect more my interpretation of themes than rigorous rules about grammar or punctuation, although I did admonish my students the lesson my Florida writer friend shared with me. He said, “People who know, know.” He was talking about correct grammar and such. So, yes, I did stress some of the rules, but I loved talking about the themes in the fiction and the classics we read.
There are times when a person needs advice to lean upon, and if literature doesn’t give it to you, then you need to talk with a farmer. Farmers seem to know everything about nature, life and death, planting and harvesting, weather, and common sense applications. I am amazed to know that this wonderful earth is being tended by people who appreciate dirt, water, seeds, and bees. Recently a truck hauling crates of bees overturned in Canada, and there was a real buzz trying to get the queen bee corralled. The world’s existence in some form or another depends upon those pollinators. It’s a theme about life.
When considering themes, there are common ones, such as good vs. evil, love, redemption, loss of innocence, revenge, courage and perseverance, war, death, among others. Having heard a friend talk about the end of the world recently, I began to feel pessimistic about our times. Then it came to me. The best advice ever: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep; Do not be arrogant but associate with the lowly; Do not claim to be wiser than you are.” Paul wrote those words, and they will carry you through most situations. But consider Brother Ben: did Brother Ben shoot AT the rooster but killed the hen by mistake or did he shoot the rooster and by doing so, distressed the hen so much that she died? It could be a theme worth exploring ---but only if you have idle time.