For the longest time, this little plaque has hung by my door, much in the same way as a mezuzah graces the home of the Jewish faithful.
For a number of reasons, it is among my most treasured possessions, those things that have transient value during our sojourn on this pale blue dot, and which often end up in a thrift store or the landfill when they are passed to family who have no connection to them.
The back side looks like this:
This came to me from the effects of my father, who – despite the fact that it was a gift celebrating a marriage that would end 9 years later – obviously treasured it and the sentiment included.
I have already written of Ladson Butler, a man of keen intellect and the heart of a Compassionate Samurai, whom I regret not having known in life. This was a present from him to my parents on the occasion of their wedding.
The hanzi (慢慢行) on the front read “mahn mahn hong” in Cantonese, or “Màn man xíng” in Mandarin. Butler’s translation, “gently, gently go” is accurate – 慢 is “slowly,” and 行 means “go” or “travel.” Other translations have been rendered as “take it easy” or “take care.” The sentiment extended to a visitor who is leaving your home is the same, regardless of how you read it, and brings to mind the gentleness of the well-known “Irish blessing:”
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d’aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Decades ago, Chase Manhattan ran an investment campaign featuring the “nest egg” as the primary hook:
Charles Addams, the famous cartoonist whose work appeared so frequently in the New Yorker, had a different take on this:
Despite intense effort, it’s still true – you can’t take it with you. Elbert Hubbard, an author and humanist of previous generations, once expressed the same sentiment more poignantly:
“The dead carry in their clenched hands only that which they have given away.”
So this little jewel of mine will remain behind when the bus comes for me, and whether or not someone treasures it after I am gone remains to be seen – I can only hope. But for me it has had immense value.
The Old Wolf has spoken.