11 November 2008

Homily on heuristic hubris

Humility, Hardwork, Honesty, Honour and Humour

After reading in Jonathan Haidt's wonderful book, The Happiness Hypothesis, about Benjamin Franklin's daily self scoring regime to make himself better practised in behaving virtuously, I have been mulling over how an attention-span-challenged modern like myself might successfully implement a similar system, adapted for our times.

Choosing which of the many possible virtues to measure oneself against is fraught with challenge and all the inherent perils of wanton list making, so my criteria, for the moment, has been reduced to ease of recall in a tight spot, hence a resort to onomatopoeia. I can just remember 5 things, sometimes, so here is my new ready reckoner to arm myself with as I prepare for my daily engagements with my fellow humans. Remind yourself, the 5 aiches:

" humility, hardwork, honesty, honour & humour"

As a boy I was subjected, through a school cadet corps, to the gross stupidities of mass produced military training techniques. One of the more endearingly dumbfounding of the mnemonics our superiors imposed on we putative sentries, were the then famous (and now no doubt long since abandoned) "Five Ss and the M".

This was presumably designed to assist we greenhorns to know what to look for during the tired watches of the night, whilst on sentry duty or reconnaissance, on the basis that we trainees had no prior experience in seeing things and needed pointers to identify what was happening in our field of vision. From memory the "Five Ss" were: "Shape, Surface, Shadow, Silhouette and ....?... (help!) " and the "M" was "Movement". You can see how indelibly this etched itself into my brain. Its principle actual use for we cadets was however the endless other daily rituals or prosaic events to which we could now assign "Five Ss and an M".

My favourite to this day remains our description of how to restore yourself after a hard day's yacca:
"shit, shower, shave, sex, sleep, and a meal".

We riffed on this and other variations endlessly as adolescents. But I have remembered it to this day, so something worked.

If I can now only remember to apply my newly minted "5 Aitches ", in action, half as well as I have applied our favourite mock version of the "Five Ss and the M", I might yet become a better person.

What were those 5 aitches again?
Humiliate, Hardarse, Hollowness, Hypocrisy and Highhandedness".

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