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Robert Heinlein advised, “Never try to teach a pig to sing.  It’s a waste of your time and it annoys the pig.”  He was a writer of unsubtle style but with a knack for saying what needed to be said.  Once you give a nod to his fundamental logic (It has also been attributed to Mark Twain.), the trick then is in recognizing the pig.  Too often it looks and sounds like a soprano.  But it’s still a pig.

That bright optimism that infects the young, the feeble and a good many Englishmen, declares that nothing is beyond the reach of the dedicated and committed.  You can make pigs sing if you try hard enough.  But these days I’m more inclined to let a pig squeal and grunt.  Singing?  

Don’t think so.

I’m not certain when or how this happened, but I suspect it was a slow transition.  There is no defining anecdote to illustrate the point, no dawning realization.  No “Eureka” moment.  Maybe I just developed an appreciation for pigs and how truly fine they are, rooting among the turnips or turning on a spit.

If, on the left, I pile all the things I would change and on the right all the things I can never change, even as my time grows shorter, it’s the pile on the right that continues to grow.  The one on the left just dwindles.  Maybe it’s fatalism.  Maybe it’s wisdom.  Maybe it’s just nature’s way.     

Dylan Thomas was 37 years old when he entreated his father to “rage against the dying of the light” and so was still young enough to be obsessed with raising his hand against the tide’s inrushing flow.  We’ll never know his father’s reply.  Had it been me, it would have been “Bugger off!  I’m Busy!!!”   

It all boils down to recognizing the fine qualities of both silk purses and sows’ ears and appreciating both for what they are. The realization that ‘it is what it is’ comes mostly from the passage of years unless it’s beaten into you early in some brutal way by hunger or disease or a parent fond of delivering drunken, mean-spirited thrashings.  But the revelation is a blessing.  Make it Commandment #11 –

“Thou shall not cause a pig to sing!” and save the world a lot of grief.

Lesson #02 – It Is What It Is

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