BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4)

By: Lynn Peril
July 11, 2022

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, delivering brief remarks on mottos, mantras, speeches, slogans, and other words to live by. Series edited by Adam McGovern.

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Illustration by Johnny Bartlett

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

Looking back, I believe the assignment was to create a personal coat of arms using images cut from magazines. I think it may have been a kind of get-to-know-you project, from either my first year of junior high school, or possibly, freshman year of senior high. In either case, it was surely one of the last times I used construction paper during my school career.

I remember only two of the required elements: an animal and a motto. The latter left me flummoxed. A motto? Words to live by? I had no clue. “How about ‘to thine own self be true,’” said my mother, when asked for help. Sure, why not?

There were a couple of things I didn’t realize when I passively accepted her suggestion. One was that in its original context, “to thine own self be true” was only part of a slew of parental advice delivered by Polonius to his son Laertes in Act 1, Scene 3, of Hamlet. How fitting that my mother would pass these words on to me.

More importantly, I didn’t understand that my newly adopted motto was in fact a cliché, overused to the point of meaninglessness. This may have been why it sprang so easily to my mother’s lips.

This didn’t make it a bad motto, however. “To thine own self be true” has stood me in good stead over the years. But while the desire to be honest in thought and deed is conceptually solid and always something to be aimed for, copping to one’s personal truth can be tricky.

In fact, had I given any thought to those words, I might not have immediately contradicted them by choosing as my representative animal, a dove. A DOVE. Had I been honest with myself, I would have chosen something with claws, a raptor at the very least, or maybe a cat. Possibly, a winged cat, rampant (in heraldry, this means in profile and rearing up on its hind legs). Better yet, a winged cat, rampant, breathing fire. My role in the family may have been that of the easy child who bore quiet witness to chaos, but make no mistake, I was no peaceful dove. I was filled with rage, something I couldn’t admit to myself for many years to come.

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BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Ran Xia on BLACK CROW BELIEFS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on LEFT-CORNER BRICK | Andrea Diaz on JOY IS RESISTANCE | Lynn Peril on TO THINE OWN SELF | Miranda Mellis on THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | Bishakh Som on LET THE WEIRDNESS IN | Lucy Sante on FLAUBERT’S PERFECT WORD | Stefene Russell on CRYSTAL SETS | Crystal Durant on LIFE IS A BANQUET | Adam McGovern on EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | Josh Glenn on LUPUS LUPUM NON MORDET | Heather Quinlan on SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | Adrienne Crew on WATCH YOUR PENNIES | Art Wallace on COME ON AND GIVE A CHEER | Julia Lee Barclay-Morton on WILLIAM JAMES, UNADAPTED | Christopher-Rashee Stevenson on TO EACH HIS OWN | Nikhil Singh on ILLUMINATE OR DISSIPATE? | Mimi Lipson on CHEAP FOOD TASTES BETTER | Kahle Alford on NOT GONNA CRACK | Michele Carlo on YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT | Marguerite Dabaie on WALKING ON WATER | Raymond Nat Turner on TRYIN’ AND TRANEIN’ | Bob Laine on WHEN YOU GROW UP | Fran Pado on THE SMILEY EMOJI | Deborah Wassertzug on PLACING YOUR BETS. PLUS: Lisa Levy on TBD.

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Enthusiasms