FREE FALLING

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WOELK
As a part of a study of American Literature in English III at Hillsboro High School, I recently asked my students to create some aphorisms-witty sayings that convey some truth about life.

Ben Franklin wrote famous ones in his “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”

Notice, I asked students to create these sayings, not just repeat something they had heard or read on a bumper sticker or T-shirt. I do this exercise every year, and I am always amazed at the results.

Permit me to share a few with, of course, a few extra comments of my own thrown in at no extra charge.

“The harder you work, the harder it is to like it.”

If we assume the “it” is work, I think we’d have to agree that this statement is generally true. Though sometimes we work hardest at what we like best.

But, if you are thinking about skipping work because you don’t like it, consider this gem: “Absence makes the work load larger.”

Well said.

“To see from others’ points of view, wear their glasses.”

This is a nice complement to a speech by Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a novel we will read later in English III. The lawyer in the story advises his children to walk around a while in the other person’s skin. If you try this wearing someone else’s glasses, however, you could be mostly stumbling around until you run into something.

The students, who worked in pairs, had some advice about bad habits as well.

“Smoking doesn’t kill, choices do.”

I suppose they were talking about cigarettes here, so I think these students were on the right track. The choices we all make every day result in a wide range of consequences. Some of us adults could take a lesson from our teens.

Consider: “Don’t taste chemicals, or you will have a reaction.”

Students also offered these thoughts on moral issues.

“You can wash your hands but not your conscience.”

They asked, “Would you like to eat your words if you have been talking trash?”

Then there was this sage piece of advice: “Life is like a bouncing football; you never know where it isn’t going to go.”

Some aphorisms seem plainly to the point-until you think about them.

“Don’t kick a porcupine, or both of you will suffer,” and, “Listen now; you might lose your hearing later.”

For those of us who fondly remember the 70s, there was this reference: “Why buy a CD player when your eight-track still works?”

Then, there was this directive: “The best way to open a door is to turn the handle.”

Deep, man.

I’m sure teens were trying to tell the world something with: “The older you get, the younger you behave,” and, “Don’t heat up the curling iron if you are not going to use it,” and, “Don’t jump into an empty pool.” Also, “If you know you can’t jog, don’t run.”

I’m just not sure what the message was.

Consider the pragmatic, “Don’t put so much stuff in your backpack that you fall backward,” “Don’t put cream in your coffee if it tastes fine already,” and, “Don’t pull your own teeth.”

Spoken like people who don’t have to pay the bills for modern dentistry.

Then, there’s this: “If you have a big head, it’s easy to run into things,” “You can’t be afraid of water if you want to learn to swim,” and my favorite potential mind bender: “It is impossible to wake up, dead, on the side of the road.” Hmm.

Some students appeared to speak from experience. “Almost all plans are uneducated guesses,” “The insect that makes the most noise is the most likely to be swatted,” and, “Sweat is sweet.”

I guess smell doesn’t count.

Finally, I offer a saying that may just sum it all up for most of my students: “In order to keep an open mind, I am trying to avoid learning anything.”

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