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Ronald Frederick Price

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Wee-Wisdoms and Funnies
By Ronald Frederick Price
Monday, April 03, 2006

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I wrote the following little bit of prose on "Wee-Wisdoms and Funnies: A Sub-Genre of the Email Industry" due to the many I've received--my guess is about 5% of all emails since 1991 when emails first began to enter my life. I hope you enjoy the read.

To: All Senders of 'Wee-wisdoms and Funnies'

I hope you enjoy this little piece of gentle satire, analysis and comment. It will serve as a more detailed response to the many emails I have received over recent months and years and from some email correspondents for more than a decade. When you are not teaching sociology and the several social sciences, as I had been doing for so many years; when you are not having your mind kept busy by a hundred students a week, other things come into the gap: like responding to emails. Emails need to be given some sort of analysis-at least the genre I am concerned with here, given their increasing frequency as a form of communication. This piece, this email, is probably a little too long given the general orthodoxy of most 'personal' email communication. Perhaps you could see this as one of the long articles on the internet that you need to copy for future reading, rather than one of those 'quick-hit-emails' you receive as part of your daily quota. Then, with this framework in mind, perhaps, your emotional equipment will be able to make a positive adjustment to the lengthy(some might say verbose) piece of communication that this is.

Dr. Funwisdum, the editor mentioned in the following paragraph, in the end, rejected my contribution to his book, but encouraged me to try for his next collection so impressed was he with the quality of the short essay which follows. I trust you enjoy it, too, even if it is a little longer than my normal missives,and those you usually receive and even if it is a little too critical of the genre it is concerned with. And, if you don't enjoy it, I'm sure you will at least tolerate its presence. For we must all, in and out of the world of emails, increasingly learn to tolerate each other's eccentricities, thus making the world an easier place to live in.

Ron Price, "Wee-Wisdoms and Funnies: A Sub-Genre of the Email Industry," in Human Communication in the Twenty-First Century, editor, Harry Funwisdum, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 45-63.

The following is a digest of Price's twenty-one pages that did NOT make it into Dr. Funwisdum's new book. Price is a prolific writer and, although he is neither famous nor rich, he churns out some provocative stuff from his word-factory on the Tamar River, at Port Dalrymple, in northern Tasmania.


Receiving so many 'funnies' and 'words-of-wisdom' as I do week after week, for over a decade now, from a small coterie of people, I thought I would try to respond more befittingly than I normally do with my perfunctory and usually brief set of phrases and sentences, if indeed I respond at all. What you find below is a more reflective piece that sets all these wisdoms and funnies I receive from you--and others--in some perspective, a perspective that derives in large measure from my years as a teacher/lecturer and from well-nigh half a century now of imbibing funnies and wisdoms from a multitude of sources. It is probably these years as a teacher that have resulted in my habit, engrained after all these years, of responding-if I can- to any and all incoming mail/email. I enjoyed teaching but, as the years approached thirty-in-the-game, I got tired of much of what was involved in the process. Some of the emails and letters I receive now are somewhat like pieces of work I used to have to mark. Like making comments on the work of students, I think it important to respond to such emails and letters with courtesy and with honesty. This is not always easy for courtesy and honesty do not sit easily together, especially if the content of the received material is, for me, neither funny nor edifying, as is the case with so much of the material I receive.

It has been 10 years since the email became part of my daily life, after a several year warm up in the early 1990s while I was a Tafe teacher. This short think-piece is a reflection on an aspect of the email industry as well as a celebration of the many advantages of reading the products of this wonderful, although not always rewarding or intellectually engaging, mechanism of technology. I think I write this for me more than I do for you, since the thrust of so much of this sub-genre of email communication does not, for the most part, require any reflection, or at least a minimum of reflection. It is primarily meant to entertain and, like so much of TV and the print and electronic media, it generally accomplishes this task. I'm sure that is the reason for its success as a genre of communication.

I really wanted to have a think about an aspect of the email industry that has engaged my attention for some of these last ten years. Quick hits as so many emails are, like jokes themselves-"affections arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing," as the philosopher Emmanuel Kant once defined laughter, on occasion stir the mind. Perhaps, they are a sign of "a mind lively and at ease, as Emma once said in Jane Austin's book by the same name. These quick hits require quick responses, if any at all. Many of the emails--both the funnies and the wee-wisdoms--are funny or wise and sometimes both. But given their frequency over a decade now, I felt like making some 'statement' about them.

Is this humour and wisdom? Or is it the trivialization of the human battle, as the literary critic Susan Langer once defined so much of the output of the electronic media factories? I hope you don't find this little 'think-piece' too heavy, too much thinking, too long without the quick-natural-lift, message or laugh that is part of this particular sub-genre of emails these days. In the end you may see me as too critical but, as I used to say to my students, that is the risk you take when you open your mouth or write.


In a more general sense, I have been giving and receiving various forms of advice/wisdom for some 60 years now, 2005 back to 1945 when my mother began to read passages each morning to me from The Daily Word, a publication of the Unity School of Christian Thought with its world centre in Madison Wisconson, if I recall correctly after all these years even before I could understand. I see those readings now as the experience of my first mantras. Then, in the early fifties, when my mother began to take an intyerest in the Baha'i cause, I was exposed to Baha'i prayers. Baha'i was a religion that had been in Canada then for a little more than fifty years and the books my mother read from, English translations of Persian and Arabic Baha'i prayers were just beginning to be published.

Life began to assume a more serious aspect in the years of my late childhood(1953 to 1957) and, then, in my teens: school, sport, girls and entertainment found some competition in life's round of activities from the more earnest side of life. First as a student imbibing wisdom from the several founts of knowledge I was then exposed to or that I investigated as a youth(which I have always defined as those in their teens and twenties); and then as a teacher/lecturer in the social sciences(including human relations, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, working in teams, a list of subjects as long as your proverbial arm)I received and dispensed advice and wisdoms in a multitude of forms. I was clearly into the advice and wisdom business right from the dawn of my life. It was part of the very air I breathed.

I'm sure even in those years of unconsciousness, in utero and in early childhood, I had my very earliest experiences of wee wisdoms, although funnies were in short supply during the war and shortly thereafter, at least in my consanguinial family. My mother was one of those seekers, always willing to try on a new idea if it came into town. And now, twenty-five years after her passing, I have a small books of the wee wisdoms she collected in those embryonic years. I should by now be a fount of unusually perspicacious aphorisms from the wisdom literature of history, or at the very least run 'wisdom workshops' for the lean and hungry.

The funnies department was never as extensive or successful as the wee-wisdom section. Right from my first exposure to jokes about: Newfees, Polocks and the Irish or the genitals of males and females, I generally found much of the humour distasteful back in my late chilhood and adolesence. Although I must confess that thirty years of living in Australia has taught me a rich appreciation of the funny side of life probably due to the humour that lurks below the surface of so much of Australian culture or inevitably bubbles to the surface in this essentially pleasure-loving people whose stoicism is strengthened by an ability to see the lighter side of life. Here humour is compulsory. By now,I should have an accummulation of jokes-and-funnies to keep everyone laughing in perpetuity.

But instead I feel a little like the marriage guidance counsellor who has been married six times. He has never been able to pull-it-off, marriage that is, but he has had a lot of experience trying. For some fifteen years, during that part of my educative process as a teacher--and educative it was--I used to give out "a summary of the wisdom of the ages" on several sheets of A-4 paper to the approximately one hundred students I had every term or semester. Thousands of intending 'students of leisure and life' and I went through the material to see if we could come up with the 'wisest of the wise' stuff, practical goodies for the market-place and the inner man/woman. For the most part I enjoyed the process. Giving and receiving advice was a buzz, particularly when it was sugar-coated with humour. Advice-giving can be a tedious activity and the advice can act as a weight even if it is good advice, unless the context is right. Humour often makes it so.

Now that I approach the evening of my life, the wee-wisdoms and the funnies continue to float in, unavoidably, inevitably. From emails and the internet,among other sources, material is obtained from by my interlocators from:

(i) the wisdom literature of the great historical religions;
(ii) the wisdom of the philosophical traditions(outside religion);
(iii) the wisdom of popular psychology and the social sciences(usually from the fields of (a) human relations, (b) interpersonal skills, (c) pop-psychology, (d) management and organizational behaviour and (e) endless funnies and wee-wisdoms from known and unknown word factories; and
(iv) the electronic media.

The social sciences, the disciplines in which so much of the wisdom literarture I receive is now located--the social sciences are either old like history, philosophy and religion, or young like economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, human relations, etc.. Unlike some of the other academic fields, say the biological and physical sciences, all these social sciences are inexact, highly subjective and infinitely more complex than the physical and biological sciences. Everybody and their dog can play at dispensing their wisdoms, with the dogs sometimes providing the best advice in the form of close friendships, at least for some people with canine proclivities. Unlike the physical and biological sciences,too,knowledge and experience is not required. Anyone can play the game. Often the untutored and apparently ignorant and those who have read nothing at all in the field, can offer humble wisdoms and funnies which excel the most learned, with or without their PhDs. So be warned: it's a mine field, this advice and wisdom business.

The result for many practitioners who would really like to be both wise and entertaining is the experience of a field that resembles a mud-pie, poorly constructed and not of much use to humanity, although lots of laughs are had and wisdom gets distributed liberally. The industry, the word factories, pour out their wisdoms and their humour with greater frequency with every passing day. I often wonder how Voltaire would have coped downunder. He said he never had one "ha ha" in his whole life.

I felt like having a little think about this sub-genre of emails at this ten year mark and this half-way point(if I live to be 121!) in what you might call my wisdom/advice-lifeline, as I, and you, continue to imbibe the endless supply of resources available from the endless supply of word factories. I hope the satire here is gentle and does not bite too hard or at all. Canadians are on the whole nice people who try to perform their operations on their patients in such a way that these patients leave the hospital without the suspicion they have even been operated on at all, but with the new glands, new body parts, fully installed for daily use. Like the pick-pocket and the burglar, I want to get in there and out without alerting anyone to my work. The New Testament calls it--or so one could argue--the act of: 'The Thief in the Night,' or so one could render one possible interpretation. But, again, this is a prophecy capable of many interpretations, as all prophecies are.

I send this your way in response to the many emails I've received in this sub-genre in recent months/years. There are, perhaps, a dozen people now who are 'into this sub-genre' and who send me this special type of material in the course of a year, some with a zeal bordering on the religious. This dozen sends me many delightful pieces, more it seems as the years go by, including photos, images, attachments of various kinds and colours, to embellish the content of the wisdom and humour.

I feel, after so many years of giving my jokes out as a teacher, that it is only fair that I now receive humour and wisdom as graciously as mine was accepted by my students over those many years. Like my in-class jokes, some of the material I receive is funny, some not-so-funny; some is wise, some not-so-wise. But, then, you can't win them all. Both wisdom and humour are irrepressible. So, carry on gang.

George Bernard Shaw used to say that "I can no more write what people want than I can play the fiddle." So he wrote what he thought his readers needed. What people need and what they want are usually not the same. Many found George presumptuous. I hope what you find here is not in the same category as Shaw's, presumptuous that is. I hope, too, that this somewhat lengthy read has been worth your while. If not, well, you now have:

.....ten choices regarding what to do next:

(i) delete it;
(ii) print and save for pondering because it's wise, clever and something quite personal from the sender;
(iii) read it again now, then delete it;
(iv) save the very good bits and delete the rest;
(v) none of these;
(vi) all of these, if that is possible;
(vii) write your own think-piece on this sub-genre of emails;
(viii) send me a copy of your 'writing on this sub-genre of emails' for(a) my evaluation(1)or (b) my pleasure;
(ix) don't send your evaluation to me; and
(x) don't think about what I've written; just dismiss it as the meanderings of a man moving speedily toward his last years of middle adulthood(the 40 to 60 block).

And, if time permits from your busy life, and

(1) using(a) the scale: A+(91-100), A(81-90) and A-(75-80); B+(71-74),B(68-70) and B-(65-67); C+(60-64, C(55-59) and C-(50-54); D(25-49 hold and try again) and E(0-24 attend a workshop on 'wisdoms and funnies'); or the feedback form often called (b) anecdotal--give my think-piece a rating and forward it to Dr. Funwisdom.

I remain yours

Ron Price
That's All Folks!

       Web Site: Pioneering Over Four Epochs

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Reviewed by Ronald Price 5/25/2012
Apologies to those who prefer the internet convention of short and pithy posts. When I get long emails and posts, I skim and scan the document, and I encourage readers here to do the same. My website has a new URL. Go to this link if you want to access the 4th edition of my 16 year old(1997-2012) website.-Ron Price, Tasmania
PS the title of my website is: Pioneering Over Five Epochs

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