Being New

“You can only be new once,”

Steve Martin, comedian, actor and author, heard on NPR this afternoon from a November 2007 interview with Renee Montagne.

Just once?

In context, the quote refers to “new” before a particular audience; a specific time; a place. Martin reinvented his stand up comedy act, then reinvented himself as an actor and author. In 2005 he won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Martin shows us that the keen edge of life is in becoming new.

Where in the world is Frank Outlaw?

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

— Frank Outlaw

“Frank Outlaw” doesn’t seem to exist. The quotation is attributed here to “Elizabeth C.”

Here is another, more poetic variation found at

“Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts inspire your words. Be careful of your words, for your words precede your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits build your character. Be careful of your character, for your character decides your destiny.”
~ Chinese proverb

The Josephson Institute of Ethics sites another varation:

Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.
(Josephson Institute Editor’s note: This quote is commonly attributed to Tryon Edwards, a 19th-century American theologian and editor. Note the similarity of this quote to the one above.)

Addition: The Bible adds:

“Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts”

Proverbs 4:23

Frank Outlaw has another quotation attributed to him but it’s really, really bad, so jump over with fair warning. Get a third quote and Frank rises to mythic stature. Still, the destiny quote is compellingly simple.

My money for the original is on the Chinese, or at least it was until I came across the minimal form in Proverbs.


We’ve become a nation of gossip-mongers from the Mean Girls growing up to the celebrity gossip that clogs the grocery magazine racks and TV airwaves to our political discourse. Gossip holds sway.

“Gossip” used to be a pejorative but society rewards the best gossips with TV hosting contracts.

[amazonify]0691122946:right[/amazonify]Nothing new under this sun. The Bible discusses the sin of gossip Romans 1:29b-32. Today, Harry G. Frankfurt’s best-selling book touches on gossip in a different way, making the argument that gossip, or bullshit, whether true or false is more harmful than the knowing lie.

“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit,” writes Frankfurt.

Frankfurt’s short book is reviewed at an intellectual philosophical level here.

Psychologist Dr Pam Spur discusses how we should respond to gossip as it occurs in our daily lives, attempting a slippery differentiation between gossip that is harmless and harmful.

“Malicious gossip excludes the person being gossiped about from the group in a negative way. It becomes a form of bullying.”

The impulsive need for social inclusion makes gossip appealing and drives the gossipy nature of chain emails leading up to the Presidential election.

Stop Lying

Googling “the Christian teaching on lying” leads to a piece on the CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) web site by J. Steven Lang. In part:

But people know instinctively that they should tell the truth. We certainly expect it from others, knowing that the world can’t function if no one is trustworthy. The Bible takes lying so seriously that one of the Ten Commandments forbids it:

“Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.”

Exodus 20:1

In a public life, does failing to condemn a public lie condone it?

Difference Of Opinion: Pro, Anti or Just American?

“Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth; and that, I am sure, is the ultimate and sincere object of us both. We both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our Constitution, not to cherish its exercise even where in opposition to ourselves.” –Thomas Jefferson to P. H. Wendover, 1815. ME 14:283

A timeless piece from Gandhi

Seven Blunders of the World

Wealth without work

Pleasure without conscience

Knowledge without character

Commerce without morality

Science without humanity

Worship without sacrifice

Politics without principle


I Stumbled on this today. Having listened to our Presidential debates this week, finding this passage by happenstance jolted me. Perhaps, you’ll think carefully about the power of these few, well-chosen words, too.

From Wikipedia: The Seven Blunders of the World is a list that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi gave to his grandson Arun Gandhi, written on a piece of paper, on their final day together, not too long before his assassination.