Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Everything is going to be ok: my teens' mantra for 2009

My friend Bridget invents a motivating mantra for herself every January. This slogan sets the tone for the year to come. One year, her motto was, 'Lighten, tighten and brighten' - excellent, isn't it? Now, I'm far too much of a ditherer to come up with one defining personal slogan for 2009 - the only one I can think of is, 'Fuck off 2008, and may I have another gin?' - but I have been hunting for some inspirational quotes to pin up on our family noticeboard. One of my teen sons has just started matric, and the other is going into Grade 10, and, in view of their unspectacular school marks in 2008, I thought a few Improving Quotations would be just the thing to get them fired up about homework.

I flipped through a few dictionaries of quotations, Googled for quotes (or should that be Quoogled?) and made a shortlist, which I printed out and and stuck on the noticeboard.

But after reading them through, I came down with a severe case of Churchillitis, on top of Gandhilar fever. Something more contemporary, more edgy, was called for, I thought. So I turned to Facebook, and two of my friends generously provided suggestions.

Carsten offered these:

"I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring." - David Bowie

"I make it a rule never to smoke while I'm sleeping." - Mark Twain (?)

Mark suggested:

"Why does it hurt when I pee?" - Frank Zappa

Nice suggestions, guys, I thought, but... er... how is this going to help in the homework department?

I decided to put the quotes to the test. I read my favourite quotes [they're at the end of this post] to my Matric lad, and he rolled his eyes and made a gagging noise. When I read the quotes above, though, he guffawed, and visibly lightened, tightened and brightened.

So all three of the new quotes are going up on the board, and I've put the Churchill and Gandhi homilies away in a drawer to whip out during future emergencies.

I've also added to my noticeboard, my fridge, my dashboard (and my in-brain flight-deck) some little black-and-white stickers that say: 'Everything is going to be OK'. I took these three stickers - quite brazenly peeling them off with my thumbnail - from the counter at my local video shop, from a cashier's desk at Pick 'n Pay, and from a parking-ticket dispenser at my local shopping centre.

I'm not a thief: and this didn't seem like thieving. I was quite enchanted by the stickers - cheered, and comforted - and I had the feeling that the person who had surreptitiously pasted these six little words all over the place wouldn't mind at all if I took them home with me. Every time I nicked a sticker, I asked a person nearby who put it there. 'Don't know,' said Seate, a cashier at Pick 'n Pay. 'A missionary, problably.'

'Don't have a clue,' said Ian, in the video shop. 'We didn't see anyone sticking it there, but everyone asks about it.'

Once I'd put a sticker on my fridge - the most frequently visited place in our house - everyone wanted to know where it had come from. Theories abounded: an artist, a happy-clapper, a campaign for Nandos. Then my daughter remarked, 'Maybe it's someone who wants to make you feel better'.

Turns out she was right. Just before I wrote this post, I Googled the words on the sticker, and was just tickled to discover that the anonymous sticker of stickers is one Elli Garb. I know nothing about him (or her) but here are extracts from a statement he or she sent to 702 Talk Radio:

'The stickers are applied to everything from parking ticket dispensers to ATM's. They've made their way into rehabs and clubs. They've travelled to shopping centres and corporate office parks. Secretly. Unobserved. Sometimes they stay stuck for weeks; sometime they disappear within hours of application. It's a self-funded project, which has meant it has had to happen in bursts. But there is poetry even in that necessity - it's sporadic and unexpected. It's easy come, easy go.

And, while the design is relatively neutral or under-designed (by design), the application is pure punk. The outcome is the juxtaposition of urban viral communication and a little bit of heart.'

Very nice, Elli Garb. I agree, and I'm going to tell my teens that every day.

The quotes my teen rolled his eyes about:

'No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.' - Eleanor Roosevelt

'Be open-minded, but not so open-minded that your brains fall out.' - Carl Sagan

'A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.' - James Keller

'A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.' - Winston Churchill

'Never, never, never give up.' - Winston Churchill

'Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.' - Winston Churchill

'You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.' - Mahatma Gandhi

'I think it would be a good idea.' - Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps your teenage son would like this one: YOu can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf.
Great piece.

Juno said...

Nice quote; thanks, Anon.