Sunday, December 30, 2012

12-30-12 The Baker's Dozen & Robert Brault Encouragements for 2013

It's the eve of the eve of a New Year, and I've already started thinking about 2013 as my Baker's Dozen Year.

The baker's dozen, as most people know, is 13. What most people don't know is the origin of the phrase, but this plays into the way I'm approaching the coming year, too. 

It's a phrase that you can trace back in written literature at least 500 years, and it refers originally to the fear of being penalized for cheating. Even older is the law that led to this fear, closer to a thousand years back,during Henry II's reign. Then, the price of bread was tied to the price of wheat. If you got caught selling "light" bread in a dozen loaves, you were fined. So, just to be safe, bakers would typically throw a thirteenth loaf into the dozen, just one more, just to be sure they came up to measure.

So for 2013, the hope is that in everything I do, I give it the baker's dozen, a little more, in every way: an extra kind word, an extra mile, an extra push.

And an extra book. 

I hope to have a list of 13 amazing books by the end of the year, at least one a month, plus one.

I can't do that for 2012, because I let my reading slide, at least until late into the fall. No more of that.

But in 2012 Sammi and I could both put one book at the top of our favorites list, A Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, the title of which is taken from a line from Julius Caesar:

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

In that book, one set of parents have a bit of an obsession for what their son, Gus, describes as "encouragements." When Hazel, the narrator, comes over to his house for the first time:

I followed him inside. A wooden plaque in the entryway was engraved in cursive with the words Home is Where the Heart Is, and the entire house turned out to be festooned in such observations. Good Friends are Hard to Find and Impossible to Forget read an illustration above the coat rack. True Love is Born from Hard Times promised a needlepointed pillow in their antique-furnished living room. Augustus saw me reading. "My parents call them Encouragements," he explained. "They're everywhere." . . . .

I sat on the couch for a while as Augustus searched for his keys. His mom sat down next to me and said, "I just love this one, don't you?" I guess I had been looking toward the Encouragement above the TV, a drawing of an angel with the caption Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy?

(This is an old argument in the field of Thinking About Suffering, and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries, but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate.) "Yes," I said. "A lovely thought."


When I unwrapped a large wall hanging as a Christmas present from my mother-in-law, which was was a very pretty design, and I read the script text saying "Live Simply. Laugh Often" I looked across the room at Sam and mouthed, "It's an Encouragement!" (and we laughed often). 

And so, here at the end of this year, I can laughingly offer a dozen favorite 2012 encouragements from one of my favorite Encouragement writers, Robert Brault, who seems to have the output of a modern day Ben Franklin in his quipy observations.

1. I count myself lucky, having long ago won a lottery paid to me in seven sunrises a week for life.

2. There comes a point in a relationship when you realize you trust someone enough to let them keep their secrets.

3. No one who tells you you need to calm down has ever actually seen you when you needed to calm down.

4. I like friends who, when you tell them you need a moment alone, know enough not to stray too far.

5. Inner beauty, too, needs occasionally to be told it is beautiful.

6. Sometimes you believe a thing that isn't true because in the world you wish to live in, it would be true.

7. I am not the hopeful person I once was, but we try to stay in touch.

8. Love is that rare attraction to someone that can survive getting to know them.

9. Sometimes it is just the right degree of separation that makes the most lasting bond.

10. It is not necessary to be strong in every place if in the place you are vulnerable, you are loved.

11. You know you have found love when you can't find your way back.

12. A best friend is someone who never disturbs your solitude, but won't let your loneliness have a moment alone.

13. Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.


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