Using words, importance wisely

How to rule the world, and other tips:

About 65 years ago I read a book entitled “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupery. In it the fictional Little Prince traveled from plant to planet, and on each one he met a personality that suited an example for discussion. I passed the book on to one of my children years ago, so any words I may attempt to quote are only paraphrases from a dusty mind, amply laced with cobwebs. (My apologies to Saint Exupery).

On one planet he met a man who claimed to be the King of the Universe. On learning this, the Little Prince said, “Oh I love sunsets! Would you show me one?” To which the would-be King said, “Certainly, if you will come back at 8 tonight I’ll show you a beautiful, original sunset.” “But,” said the Little Prince “I don’t need your help to see a sunset tonight, show me one now.” His host replied, “You don’t seem to understand my power. If I should command one of my Generals to change into a butterfly, something he is utterly unable to do, it would only frustrate him, and be a complete misuse of my power. The secret of my power is that I use it wisely, and only command the possible.” I guess now we all know the secret of ruling the world. Nuff said.

It’s strange sometimes the things one may remember while forgetting other things of more importance. In my sophomore year in high school I had a pretty red-haired teacher in biology class. I recall her name as being Ms. Grennell, though I’m unsure of the spelling. We were dealing, I guess, with some of the unfamiliar big words of various things, and she, I presume in an impulsive moment, said “If you want to impress someone with your vocabulary, here is a complete sentence containing only three words that will leave people blinking their eyes.” (again not a quote, but a dusty memory of a flavor). She then went to the blackboard and hastily wrote, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” She went on to explain that essence of what it said was that the history of the individual closely follows the history of one’s culture, or group. There, I said it, I’m spreading the word, and now you’re as smart as I am!

Is the National Endowment of the Arts still taking an active part in awarding grants to artists who can’t make it on their own? With all the money they’ve been throwing around in Washington, we don’t hear anything about this like we used to. I’m sorry folks, but in my opinion one of the biggest wastes of money by the federal government is endowments to would be artists whose main specialty is to create paintings and sculpture that has little or no definition. Truly pleasing artists don’t need an endowment. Are we supposed to be awed by the artist’s secret of what it possibly could mean? I may be just a country boy, but I question the artistic insights of those supposedly “in the know” esthetes who decide who should be so endowed.

The crudeness of some has made me realize how I might become rich and famous. First I’d get stinking drunk, then with the help of my loyal assistant I would vomit on a canvas on the floor, and my assistant would distribute it evenly across the sheet. When it dried I would give it a coat of varnish to preserve it and diminish the odor, although just a trace of stench might contribute to its authenticity. Such ingenuity might even surpass the awe awarded Jackson Pollock. On second thought I think I’ll skip the opportunity for such murky fame. Surely, some endowment seeking artist has already produced such a work anyway. My work would merely be seen as opportunistic plagiarism. Aw Shucks! May God bless America.

Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to