Do not treat all new words in exactly the same way. Have you ever complained about your memory because you find it simply impossible to memorize all the new words you are learning? But, in fact, it is not your memory that is at fault. If you cram your head with too many new words at a time, some of them are bound to be crowded out. What you need to do is to deal with new words in different ways according to how frequently they occur in everyday use. While active words demand constant practice and useful words must be committed to memory, words that do not often occur in everyday situations require just a nodding acquaintance. You will find concentrating on active and useful words the most effective route to enlarging your vocabulary.
The old lady was eighty today. She had put on her best dress. Perhaps—perhaps Myra might come. After all, eighty was a special birthday, another decade lived or endured just as you chose to look at it.
Today she was sure there would be something. Myra wouldn’t forget her mother’s birthday, even if she seldom wrote at other times. Of course Myra was busy. Her husband had been made Mayor, and Myra herself had got a medal for her work for the aged.
Even if Myra did not come, she would send a present. The old lady was sure of that. Two spots of color brightened her cheeks. She was excited — like a child. She would enjoy her day.
I would like to propose that for sixty to ninety minutes each evening, right after the early evening news, all television broadcasting in the United States be prohibited by law.
Let us take a serious, reasonable look at what the results might be if such a proposal were accepted. Families might use the time for a real family hour. Without the distraction of TV, they might sit around together after dinner and actually talk to one another. It is well known that many of our problems—everything, in fact, from the generation gap to the high divorce rate to some forms of mental illness- are caused at least in part by failure to communicate. We do not tell each other what is disturbing us. The result is emotional difficulty of one kind or another. By using the quiet family hour to discuss our problems, we might get to know each other better, and to like each other better.
Now they were 20 miles from Brunswick, and the young people took over window seats on the right side, waiting for the approach of the greater oak tree. Vingo stopped looking, tightening his face, as if fortifying himself against still another disappointment.
Then Brunswick was 10 miles, and then five. Then, suddenly, all of the young people were up out of their seats, screaming and shouting and crying, doing small dances of joy. All except Vingo.
Vingo sat there stunned, looking at the oak tree. It was covered with yellow handkerchiefs—20 of them, 30 of them, maybe hundreds, a tree that stood like a banner of welcome billowing in the wind. As the young people shouted, the old con slowly rose from his seat and made his way to the front of the bus to go home.
I was deeply moved by the discovery and yet sickened by the knowledge that, bursting into her room like this, I had robbed her of the pleasure of seeing me astonished and delighted on Christmas day. I hadn’t wanted to know her lovely secret; still coming upon it like this made me feel as though I’d struck a blow against her happiness. I backed out, put the key back in its hiding place, and thought over what to do.
I decided that between now and Christmas I must do nothing, absolutely nothing, to reveal the slightest hint of my terrible knowledge. I must avoid the least word that might reveal my possession of her secret. Nothing must deny her the happiness of seeing me completely amazed on Christmas day.
Something was definitely happening here. It was messier than a food fight and much more important than whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable. My kids were doing what Copernicus did when he placed the sun at the center of the universe, readjusting the centuries-old paradigm of an Earth-centered system. They were doing what Reuben Mattus did when he renamed his Bronx ice cream Häagen-Dazs and raised the price without changing the product. They were doing what Edward Jenner did when he discovered a vaccination for smallpox by abandoning his quest for a cure.
They were refocusing the parameters. They were redefining the problems. They were reframing the questions. In short, they were doing what every scientist who’s ever made an important discovery throughout history has done, according to Thomas Kuhn, in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: They were shifting old paradigms.
A “promotion” out of teaching would give me money and power. But I have money. I get paid to do what I enjoy: reading, talking with people, and asking questions like, “What is the point of being rich?”
And I have power. I have the power to nudge, to fan sparks, to suggest books, to point out a pathway. What other power matters?
But teaching offers something besides money and power: it offers love. Not only the love of learning and of books and ideas, but also the love that a teacher feels for that rare student who walks into a teacher’s life and begins to breathe. Perhaps love is the wrong word: magic might be better.
I teach because, being around people who are beginning to breathe, I occasionally find myself catching my breath with them.
My shock and embarrassment at finding Mother in tears on Wednesday was a perfect index of how little I understood the pressures on her. Sitting beside her on the couch, I began very slowly to understand.
“I guess we all have to fail sometime,” Mother said quietly. I could sense her pain and the tension of holding back the strong emotions that were interrupted by my arrival. Suddenly, something inside me turned. I reached out and put my arms around her.
She broke then. She put her face against my shoulder and sobbed. I held her close and didn’t try to talk. I knew I was doing what I should, what I could, and that it was enough. In that moment, feeling Mother’s back racked with emotion, I understood for the first time her vulnerability. She was still my mother, but she was something more: a person like me, capable of fear and hurt and failure. I could feel her pain as she must have felt mine on a thousand occasions when I had sought comfort in her arms.
I thought perhaps he was a little lightheaded and after giving him the prescribed capsules at eleven o’clock I went out for a while. It was a bright, cold day, the ground covered with a sleet that had frozen so that it seemed as if all the bare trees, the bushes, the cut brush and all the grass and the bare ground had been varnished with ice. I took the young Irish setter for a walk up the road and along a frozen creek, but it was difficult to stand or walk on the glassy surface and the red dog slipped and slithered and I fell twice, hard, once dropping my gun and having it slide away over the ice.
We flushed a covey of quail under a high clay bank with overhanging brush and I killed two as they went out of sight over the top of the bank. Some of the covey lit in trees, but most of them scattered into brush piles and it was necessary to jump on the ice-coated mounds of brush several times before they would flush. Coming out while you were poised unsteadily on the icy, springy brush they made difficult shooting and I killed two, missed five, and started back pleased to have found a covey close to the house and happy there were so many left to find on another day.
Now picture yourself—as vividly as possible—the way you want to be. Remember to picture your desired goals as if you had already attained them. Go over all the details of this picture. See them clearly and sharply. Impress them strongly on your memory. The resulting memory traces will supposedly start affecting your everyday life. They will help lead you to the attainment of your goals.
Of course daydreaming is no substitute for hard work. If it’s athletic achievement you want, you also have to get lots of practice in your sport. You have to work hard to develop skills. If it’s school success you’re after, you can’t neglect studying. Daydreaming alone can’t turn you into your heart’s desire. But in combination with the more usual methods of self-development, it might make a critical difference. It could be the difference between becoming merely good at something and becoming a champion.