Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Borrowed words to live by

Last weekend I attended a memorial service for a woman who led a full and interesting life, dying in full possession of her faculties. At the service, her son told of finding a folder among her effects labeled “Words to Live By.” He read two items from the folder. One was the Desiderata we are all familiar with, and I won’t bore you with the story of its writing by Max Ehrmann and its misattribution to an anonymous seventeenth century author.

The other was a piece I was unfamiliar with but that fits the putative theme of this blog. Paul read from a yellowed newspaper clipping, and I do not know when or where it was printed, nor when it was written. The author, Paul tells me in an email, was “William DeWitt Hyde, seventh president of Bowdoin College, from 1885–1917, interestingly a graduate of both Harvard and Union Theological before taking his ‘post on the coast.’”

Here it is:

Get Your Grammar Right

“Live in the active voice, not the passive. Think more about what you make happen than about what happens to you.

“Live in the indicative mood, rather than the subjunctive. Be concerned with things as they are, rather than as they might be.

“Live in the present tense, facing the duty at hand without regret for the past or worry over the future.

“Live in the first person, criticizing yourself rather than finding fault with others.

“Live in the singular number, caring more for the approval of your own conscience than for the applause of the crowd.

“And if you want a verb to conjugate, you cannot do better than to take the verb, ‘to love.’”

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