“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”

—Jane Austen, British writer, born December 16, 1775

3-ball cascade movieJane Austen and John Selden remind us to take the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. People can be reliably assumed to not be angels; governments and businesses can be expected to be chaotic and to demand improvisation and adaptability. The trick is to “juggle” realism, charity, and humor.

I was confounded by encountering a young Russian woman at Valley Venture Mentors last Wednesday who was smiling. I asked her what kind of Russian goes around smiling, which made her smile even more, and explain that she’s probably been out of Kirghizstan too long to be properly in control of her face. I linked a few weeks ago to Why Russians Are Not Smiling, which does a great job explaining the cultural reasons for Russians’ solemn demeanor. Go visit the young woman’s husband’s jazz website if you would like something to make you smile this morning.

Other cultures besides Eastern European ones have rules about smiling different from ours, too. Here’s a piece from reformed non-smiling Englishman Geoff Dyer that resonated with me: “Not smiling seemed a sign of high seriousness, the badge of the intellectual and reader of Adorno.” Ah, youth: we’re better off smiling. (By the way, the smiling Englishman was a great favorite of my mother’s, Terry-Thomas, often found leering in comedies in the fifties and sixties. Maybe guys like him convinced people that they were better off not smiling at all.) 

Today and Tomorrow in #westernma

7:30–9:00AM Hadley Northampton Chamber Incite Breakfast
8:00AM Agawam Market Right
9:00–10:00AM Easthampton G.R.I.S.T. – Get Real Individual Support Today
6:00PM Holyoke Easthampton Chamber Holiday Dinner Dance
6:30PM Indian Orchard The Geek Group of Western Mass
8:00PM Amherst UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative Social


Should Englishmen Smile?

189px-Terry-Thomas in Where Were You When the Lights Went Out“I remember very distinctly my parents insisting on the importance of being honest, of never telling lies, of always being dependable. What I don’t recall is their instilling in me the importance of a nice smile. Maybe they did and I just forgot, but that seems unlikely since although I turned out to be the soul of honesty and reliability, I ended up greeting the world with the face of an undertaker arriving – precisely on time – at the home of the bereaved. So was this, in order of specificity: just a familial oversight? A generational thing – I mean, are kids now taught to smile in the way that we learned our multiplication tables? Or is a paucity of smiles a persistent feature of British life?”

The Last Word

“The world cannot be governed without juggling.”

—John Selden, English statesman, born December 16, 1584

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