Many of us will recall childhoods filled with fables and parables that contained moral truths about life. Some more imaginative ones have stuck with us.
Anyone else recall how a stitch in time saves nine? How about the contest between the tortoise and the hare where slow and steady won the race? Remember the boy who cried wolf repeatedly until no one believed him about anything? Chicken Little constantly skittered to and fro warning "the sky is falling" when it wasn't.
Those childhood admonitions remain relevant.
Over a lifetime, I've discovered numerous truths about this world from what we "cannot" expect to occur from our behavior (some from Rev. William J.H. Boetker's "10 cannots"). That's likely the case with you, too, considering we're all floating a short time in this enormous life raft together.
For example, we humans can't:
Expect to be believed once our willingness to lie is revealed.
Bring prosperity by discouraging thrift.
Help smaller men by tearing down bigger men (or women).
Strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
Lift the wage earners by pulling down those who pay the wages.
Keep out of financial trouble by spending more than your income.
Further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
Establish financial security by using borrowed money.
Build character and courage by taking away initiative and independence.
Help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
Expect to be respected without having worked to earn respect.
Hope to have true friends without the willingness to become one yourself.
Gain the trust of others if you haven't first proved yourself worthy of trust.
Build ourselves up by humiliating others.
Expect people to believe what others say when they don't follow their own advice.
Fully understand others without empathizing with them.
Expect positive results from a negative mindset.
Live a fulfilled life by continually striving to please others.
Make a positive impression on others by continually talking about yourself.
Force or coerce another to love or cherish you.
Readers know the comic strip Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis is one of my most anticipated offerings in our newspaper. I find his work to be on target when it comes to 2020 America and its changing culture.
He belted another home run (well, at least a triple) when he penned the following exchange between Pig, Goat and Rat.
Pig: "Hello all! Today will be a grand day!"
Goat: "How can you say that with all that's going on in the news?"
Pig: "I've chosen to become woefully uninformed."
Rat: "I didn't know that was an option."
That set me to wondering just how many crisis-weary Americans have adopted pretty much the same philosophy of late. How many among us have thrown up their hands and uttered something to the effect: "Lawsa mercy, media! Enough with the petty and constant attacks predictably intended to incite, smear and politically damage."
If this is what politics (and the study of political science) has devolved into--continual nasty and often overblown, unjustified assaults and fractional truths against others while protecting like-minded friends--then I believe America's entire system of governance sadly has become malfeasant and corrupted by money and power to its core.
Pastis again has struck a painful nerve in society's funny bone.
Paws out of prison
The Innocence Project recently published a story about four people released from imprisonment who have since established close connections with dogs that share and enrich their lives in newfound freedom.
Among those featured is Belynda Goff, the mother and grandmother formerly of Green Forest, who spent 23 years of a life sentence in prison before Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson freed her in 2019 for time served on a dubious murder conviction in 1996.
Belynda spent part of her sentence working with 19 shelter dogs to prepare them for adoptive homes. Today, living in the east since her release, having three dogs of her own--Marley, Samsonite and Rooster--has come naturally and brought her joy.
"Belynda Goff spent her entire life around dogs before being wrongfully convicted," the story reports. "And even while wrongfully incarcerated, she continued to work with dogs as one of the first incarcerated women to participate in the 'Paws in Prison' program at the Hawkins Women's Unit in Arkansas."
"I absolutely loved being a part of the program! They should be in every prison," she told the Innocence Project. Most staff and inmates were happy to have the interaction with dogs on a regular basis: it improved the morale of most. And of course saved the life of the animals."
She said she feels "deeply blessed" today by her three "precious fur balls," in addition to having her children and grandchildren now also beside her.
"Whether I've loved dogs through fostering, training, or ownership, they are truly a special gift from God," she said.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at email@example.com.