Quote of the Day: We Are Gems to Be Polished

 

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I can’t speak for everyone, but living a life without trials and tribulations sounds pretty good to me. Imagine a country where we don’t have to worry about the vocabulary we use, or the politics we follow, or the company we keep. Just think how peaceful life would be if people weren’t called terrorists or Nazis or insurrectionists.

Doesn’t it sound lovely?

Yet the type of life I’m describing is a life that lacks vibrancy, opportunity, and growth. It is a life empty of possibility and without the conditions for being elevated and challenged. Essentially, to me, it would be no life at all.

So as trying as life has been over the last few years with the threats of totalitarianism, cancel culture, and wokeness, we also can see the seedlings of blessings.

We can notice those moments when the reluctant are learning how to speak up and protest. We can praise those who stand up for freedom and fairness and a democratic republic. We can honor the resilience of those who refuse to be silenced and stopped.

For the record, I don’t believe that man can be perfected, nor should we try to attain perfection. But I hope that Seneca was talking about the journey of perfection as a process of maturation, rather than a goal to be attained.

On a personal level, there are many ways that life can “polish” us over time. For me, I’m much more patient with people and willing to take more risks. For others, learning how to speak in front of an audience without stage fright is a great accomplishment. Still others have learned to be great teachers by homeschooling their children–a way to “refine” those children for their future in the real world.

As human beings, we are meant to strive for a life of meaning, relationship and hope.

May we continue to fight for this country and for each other.

[photo from unsplash.com]

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  1. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Your quote reminded me of this from Proverbs 27:17, which refers to our friends’ influence upon us.

    17 As iron sharpens iron,
    So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

    May we continue to sharpen one another for good.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    If you can achieve an ideal, it wasn’t high enough.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Your quote reminded me of this from Proverbs 27:17, which refers to our friends’ influence upon us.

    17 As iron sharpens iron,
    So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

    May we continue to sharpen one another for good.

    Perfect, Joel. Thanks.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    If you can achieve an ideal, it wasn’t high enough.

    I’m not sure about this point, Percival. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I set ideals, but focus instead on the journey and improvement. Maybe you’re saying that people set their standards too low?

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Your quote reminded me of this from Proverbs 27:17, which refers to our friends’ influence upon us.

    17 As iron sharpens iron,
    So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

    May we continue to sharpen one another for good.

    This also makes me think about people who, to one degree or another, feel like victims. I know that I always want to help them “improve” or grow, and I constantly have to remind myself that the choice is theirs, not mine. I guess I can just try to model my best self. At least most of the time!

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    If you can achieve an ideal, it wasn’t high enough.

    I’m not sure about this point, Percival. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I set ideals, but focus instead on the journey and improvement. Maybe your saying that people set their standards too low?

    One can always improve. 

    I told Dad that Doc Severinsen has announced his retirement from performing. Dad said “I’ll betcha he still practices, though.”

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    If you can achieve an ideal, it wasn’t high enough.

    I’m not sure about this point, Percival. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I set ideals, but focus instead on the journey and improvement. Maybe your saying that people set their standards too low?

    One can always improve.

    I told Dad that Doc Severinsen has announced his retirement from performing. Dad said “I’ll betcha he still practices, though.”

    I’ll bet he does, too. But I suspect he doesn’t have an “ideal” proficiency in mind. Then again, I’m not a musician.

    • #7
  8. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    If you can achieve an ideal, it wasn’t high enough.

    I’m not sure about this point, Percival. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I set ideals, but focus instead on the journey and improvement. Maybe you’re saying that people set their standards too low?

    I’ve always wanted the chance to be the one saying, “You are being too literal!”

    You are being too literal.

    Now that I’ve achieved the ideal, I should be feeling satisfied.  But somehow, there is still a sense of something missing.

    I know what it is!…I am waiting for @Flicker to say, “How meta.”

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    You are being too literal.

    You wouldn’t be the first to tell me that, Mark.  Maybe I’m quibbling over the word “ideal”; it’s too close to my nemesis, perfection. That is, ideal is a close cousin to perfection, which I try not to make my goal, ever.

    • #9
  10. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Lots of slogans about being better for having overcome hardship and pain…  I admire those who march into such headwinds but only from a safe rhetorical distance.  As they say, eagles may soar but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.  Enjoy that growth and greatness, y’all.

    • #10
  11. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I think the definition of perfected used to translate Seneca here is something more akin to complete or mature than flawless.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    As they say, eagles may soar but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines. 

    I agree! But I think there are lots of people who won’t get close to the engines at all. Besides, gems are refined carefully and thoughtfully.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’ve been mulling OB’s response which referred to “overcoming hardship and pain.” And I realize I led the post in that direction. But I think that’s a little unfair to Seneca, because I think that we have an endless number of opportunties to “hone” our lives in small but sometimes significant ways. The cumulative effect can be, at minimum helpful, but can also be transformative.

    • #13
  14. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I think the definition of perfected used to translate Seneca here is something more akin to complete or mature than flawless.

    Nice point.

    I wish we could get our word back.

    (Not that all evolutions of meaning are bad, or that some are not both necessary and harmless. Like “television”. We needed a pointer to a class, because we had a new class to point to; and we chose a new token rather than re-using an old one, so we didn’t

    • create a new ambiguity
    • lose any ability to make fine distinctions, or
    • create a new source of transmission error between those who wrote before us and our own minds.
    • reward ignorance

    (But I think that this one was probably bad.  As you point out, it appears to have caused us to misunderstand Seneca. Or at least, be uncertain about what he was saying.)

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I think the definition of perfected used to translate Seneca here is something more akin to complete or mature than flawless.

    Nice point.

    I wish we could get our word back.

    (Not that all evolutions of meaning are bad, or that some are not both necessary and harmless. Like “television”. We needed a pointer to a class, because we had a new class to point to; and we chose a new token rather than re-using an old one, so we didn’t lose any ability to make fine distinctions, or create a new source of transmission error between those who wrote before us an our own minds.

    (But I think that this one was probably bad. As you point out, it appears to have caused us to misunderstand Seneca. Or at least, be uncertain about what he was saying.)

    Sorry–which word do you want to have back–perfection?

    • #15
  16. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I think the definition of perfected used to translate Seneca here is something more akin to complete or mature than flawless.

    Nice point.

    I wish we could get our word back.

    (Not that all evolutions of meaning are bad, or that some are not both necessary and harmless. Like “television”. We needed a pointer to a class, because we had a new class to point to; and we chose a new token rather than re-using an old one, so we didn’t lose any ability to make fine distinctions, or create a new source of transmission error between those who wrote before us an our own minds.

    (But I think that this one was probably bad. As you point out, it appears to have caused us to misunderstand Seneca. Or at least, be uncertain about what he was saying.)

    Sorry–which word do you want to have back–perfection?

    Yes, “perfection”.

    NB:

    In my pre-launch check, I saw that a careful reader would be left wondering that.  But I went ahead and mashed the “Comment” button, hoping that there wouldn’t be anyone out there reading me carefully.  I would use this to my advantage, for a change, instead of getting frustrated.

    (Well, I knew you were out there, Susan, but I figured you would be too nice to point out my carelessness.)

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I think the definition of perfected used to translate Seneca here is something more akin to complete or mature than flawless.

    Nice point.

    I wish we could get our word back.

    (Not that all evolutions of meaning are bad, or that some are not both necessary and harmless. Like “television”. We needed a pointer to a class, because we had a new class to point to; and we chose a new token rather than re-using an old one, so we didn’t lose any ability to make fine distinctions, or create a new source of transmission error between those who wrote before us an our own minds.

    (But I think that this one was probably bad. As you point out, it appears to have caused us to misunderstand Seneca. Or at least, be uncertain about what he was saying.)

    Sorry–which word do you want to have back–perfection?

    Yes, “perfection”.

    NB:

    In my pre-launch check, I saw that a careful reader would be left wondering that. But I went ahead and mashed the “Comment” button, hoping that there wouldn’t be anyone out there reading me carefully. I would use this to my advantage, for a change, instead of getting frustrated.

    (Well, I knew you were out there, Susan, but I figured you would be too nice to point out my carelessness.)

    Oh, silly man! I just wanted to be sure I understood. And you know that! If you want to add up all my goofs, you’d better plan lots and lots of time!

    • #17
  18. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    JoelB (View Comment):

    I think the definition of perfected used to translate Seneca here is something more akin to complete or mature than flawless.

    Nice point.

    I wish we could get our word back.

    (Not that all evolutions of meaning are bad, or that some are not both necessary and harmless. Like “television”. We needed a pointer to a class, because we had a new class to point to; and we chose a new token rather than re-using an old one, so we didn’t lose any ability to make fine distinctions, or create a new source of transmission error between those who wrote before us an our own minds.

    (But I think that this one was probably bad. As you point out, it appears to have caused us to misunderstand Seneca. Or at least, be uncertain about what he was saying.)

    Sorry–which word do you want to have back–perfection?

    Yes, “perfection”.

    NB:

    In my pre-launch check, I saw that a careful reader would be left wondering that. But I went ahead and mashed the “Comment” button, hoping that there wouldn’t be anyone out there reading me carefully. I would use this to my advantage, for a change, instead of getting frustrated.

    (Well, I knew you were out there, Susan, but I figured you would be too nice to point out my carelessness.)

    Oh, silly man! I just wanted to be sure I understood. And you know that! If you want to add up all my goofs, you’d better plan lots and lots of time!

    No, no. This change is a GOOD one!  With the new Susan, I am giving up a past of

    1. futile attempts to communicate,
      with the compensation that…
    2. I can really stop working so hard on writing well

    But I am getting a much more satisfying future, of

    1. writing with the confidence that I am passing on some idea to another human
    2. working harder on writing well (a small price to pay)

    Now, if I could get every reader to tell me every time something I write is not perfectly clear, well, I would try to write everything more clearly, and that would be as close as I could get to Ricochet heaven.

     

    • #18
  19. She Member
    She
    @She

    Mr. She was fond of saying “stress is what turns coal into diamonds.”

    While I do appreciate the sentiment, I’ll just say that he often chose the most inapposite times to bring the subject up, and that I usually found it infuriating (and stressful) when he did so.

    I don’t think I’d want a life of complete ease.  Or at least, not for very long.

     

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She (View Comment):
    I don’t think I’d want a life of complete ease.  Or at least, not for very long.

    But it sure is tempting to comtemplate it.

    • #20
  21. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):
    Mr. She was fond of saying “stress is what turns coal into diamonds.”

    Compression. 

    Close enough. :)

    • #21
  22. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Percival (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    Mr. She was fond of saying “stress is what turns coal into diamonds.”

    Compression.

    Close enough. :)

    Yes.  It is stress, specifically compressive stress, that does it, as both Mr. She and you said ;-)

    • #22
  23. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone Cowboy
    @LimestoneCowboy

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    minutes

    Susan, I think that @Percival is correct. There’s wisdom in the quote by poet Robert Browning….

    “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” In modern biz-speak  we sometimes refer to “stretch goals”. But no less true in our inner lives. Go long or go home…

    On the larger point, the beneficial effects of life’s difficulties, some years ago I had a tough conversation with my oldest friend who’d  lost his wife of 25+ years to cancer, some years prior. He was considering the idea of remarriage. Now, we were both geologists, so naturally my analogies were from our common experience. I pointed out that as rock fragments.move downstream  they change from being angular chunks of rock to rounded  ellpsoidal pebbles. And continual immersion in water would dissolve weaker minerals. My point was that that the wear and abrasion invariably experienced in new marriages were actually beneficial..  they could help knock off many of the rough edges of both partners behaviors.

    We’ve spoken of that long ago conversation a number of times. He’s told me that the analogy has been and is helpful in managing his, and his now long term partner’s expectations.

    So difficulties are often blessings in disguise.

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Limestone Cowboy (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    minutes

    Susan, I think that @ Percival is correct. There’s wisdom in the quote by poet Robert Browning….

    “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” In modern biz-speak we sometimes refer to “stretch goals”. But no less true in our inner lives. Go long or go home…

    On the larger point, the beneficial effects of life’s difficulties, some years ago I had a tough conversation with my oldest friend who’d lost his wife of 25+ years to cancer, some years prior. He was considering the idea of remarriage. Now, we were both geologists, so naturally my analogies were from our common experience. I pointed out that as rock fragments.move downstream they change from being angular chunks of rock to rounded ellpsoidal pebbles. And continual immersion in water would dissolve weaker minerals. My point was that that the wear and abrasion invariably experienced in new marriages were actually beneficial.. they could help knock off many of the rough edges of both partners behaviors.

    We’ve spoken of that long ago conversation a number of times. He’s told me that the analogy has been and is helpful in managing his, and his now long term partner’s expectations.

    So difficulties are often blessings in disguise.

    It’s good to see you, LC. A wonderful analogy and so true to the topic. Wise input you gave to your friend. Thanks.

    • #24
  25. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    If you can achieve an ideal, it wasn’t high enough.

    I’m not sure about this point, Percival. Maybe it’s because I don’t think I set ideals, but focus instead on the journey and improvement. Maybe your saying that people set their standards too low?

    One can always improve.

    I told Dad that Doc Severinsen has announced his retirement from performing. Dad said “I’ll betcha he still practices, though.”

    This is great. Profound.

    • #25
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