Pondering and Parsing Pithy Sayings

I have a love/hate relationship with slogans, philosophies of life, and pithy sayings. At one level I like the way they make me think. They sort of reduce all the complicated ways we think of things to a simple thought, or insight. It’s good for a moment to cut through all the noise and consider “just one thing.” But that’s also my problem with these things. In reducing everything to one thing we lose the essential nuances and the sophistication that accept that not everything fits into a nice little saying.

For example, consider the saying “All things in moderation!” Well yes, moderation is a good thing most of the time. But there is also a time to throw moderation to the winds and become passionate about things. There is a time to fight (or celebrate) with gusto. Maybe its a fight for justice, or maybe we’re called to sell everything for the “pearl of great price.” So all right, “All things in moderation,… including moderation!”

Anyway I hope you get the point about sayings and slogans: enjoy with caution and careful consideration. Enjoy the truth they convey but remember that life is seldom reduced to just one slogan or thought.

The following video contains a very good collection of sayings and “philosophies of life.” Many of them I have never seen before and some of them are quite good. But remember, like analogies, many of the things said in them are as untrue as they are true. Consider them as a way to make you think: What is true about this saying? What is untrue? What distinctions are necessary, especially for a Christian? So think. But don’t think so hard that you fail to enjoy. Take what you like, take what is true and leave the rest.

8 Replies to “Pondering and Parsing Pithy Sayings”

  1. Epistle 219
    My some thoughts about “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope recommended us to ponder and parse pithy sayings.
    In my opinion, here, pithy sayings are all sayings of Lord Jesus.
    Secondly, now permit me to add some my thoughts to relate to the homily hereafter:
    Holy Bible including Lord Jesus’ sayings is teachings so that we learn, meditate, and obey, but it is not to comment that they are right or wrong.
    If we comment Lord Jesus’ sayings are right or wrong, then we are Satan, but is not a Catholic.
    Therefore, as for me, Lord Jesus’ sayings are God’s miracles. If we use (pray) them timely, then we will see God’s miracles.
    In epistle 217 and 218, I preached on Lord Jesus’ sayings in Matthew 4:17 and in Matthew 5:3.
    Today, in this epistle 219, I will say to you on Matthew 5:13-16.
    Content of Matthew 5:13-16 is “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father”.
    Lord Jesus’ above teachings mean that if my two sons are good men, then people will praise me. If I am a good Catholic, then people will praise Msgr. Charles Pope./.

  2. You should have used “Pronouncements” instead of “Sayings” in your title so that it could have been wholly alliterative. 😉

  3. Msgr. Hogan, from Sacred Heart in Bowie, who died about ten years ago, used to thunder from the pulpit: “Nobody has the Right to be Rotten.”

    1. My husband C grew up at Sacred Heart and was slightly terrified of Msgr H! He describes the end of his Confirmation interview as follows:

      Fr H: What religion is the opposite of Catholicism?
      C: *blink*
      Fr H: Well?
      C: (clutching his chair, for the room had started to spin) umm….Judeaism?
      Fr H: No! Protestantism! (roaring) Especially LUTHERANS!
      C: umm…OK. (meekly) Can I go now?
      Fr H: *glare*
      C: (scurries out)

      Fortunately C was a parishioner at St Mary of the Mills when we did our Marriage Prep…

  4. I appreciated your short reminder that we need to take all short sayings with a grain of salt, but you forgot the Master of short pithy sayings: JESUS! The gospels show us time and again that he was very talented at making short statements and stories that stuck with his listeners a very long time. He was very good with language and crystallizing his ideas to the main points. He even showed some talent at hinting at the nuances of the issues while keeping his statements short. Does your advice about pithy statements extend to those statements by Jesus?

  5. I believe you can probably trace the roots of “everything in moderation” back to the ancient temple at Delphi, which had carved on its front “meden agan”, meaning “nothing in excess”. The latter is to be preferred since it allows you to go to whatever extremes are warranted with whatever passion you enjoy – and only then stop. Don’t let moderation stand in the way when the occasion demands.

  6. Some pithy sayings are contradictory. Consider: “All things come to him who waits.” vs. “Time and Tide wait for no man.”
    As a basis for action based on the parables (not Sayings!) of Jesus, I prefer the story of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 15, and the Last Judgment in Matt. 25:31-46. They illustrate a saying in John’s gospel – “Love one another as I have loved you.”

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