DEDICATED: Alex Tabisher used the Cape Argus as learning material when he was a teacher. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures
DEDICATED: Alex Tabisher used the Cape Argus as learning material when he was a teacher. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures

Literally Yours: Use aphorisms to hammer home interesting points

By Alex Tabisher Time of article published Aug 19, 2018

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My penchant for language has given me great joy throughout my life. It has given me this platform on a Wednesday. And the growth is starting for the newer ones.

An excellent example is the platform this newspaper is providing for high-schoolers to write about their attempts to find peace and safety in gang-ridden environs. I applaud the vision of this exercise.

Think what it means to a child who could be a no-hoper seeing his words in print.

I am speaking to those young writers.

The main thing is to retain your sense of humour. Use aphorisms. These are clever sayings that can be thrown out with immediacy and serve to start discussion and introspection.

For example: If a hammer is the only tool you have, then all problems begin to look like nails. This teaches you to find new solutions to old problems.

Another aphorism says: When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. This is fertile ground for us to speculate about unthinking, mindless cruelty.

One exemplar can be the pain children feel when their parents divorce. The wrong people suffer when fights are fuelled by passion.

Then: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. One learns to deal with realities at school, like bullying, or bias. One learns that failure can be a springboard for at least one more attempt. As long as there is life there is hope.

We should also not shy away from the faith-based aphorism. If you cannot sleep, do not count sheep. Speak to the Shepherd. This is a calming little piece of advice that reminds us to turn elsewhere when earthly solutions don’t help. It doesn’t matter which religion you subscribe to.

This saying reminds us that there is a power greater than you who cares. You just have to state your case and ask for help. I like this one, because it doesn’t preach, or proscribe or push preference. It just adds another context to your faith.

Your Creator is approachable.

For those interested in these pithy sayings, I will - tongue in cheek - recommend WhatsApp. It bristles with ready-made aphorisms.

In this case my words are addressed to the teachers of these young writers. It is our duty to convince the learner that we needn’t search for material when we write. It is all around us.

Of course, we gravitate to the big guns eventually and learn that “No man is an island”. Or that “Faith can move mountains”. The point I am labouring to make is that these young writers have been given a window.

We as adults should tell them where to look, but not what to see. Try it.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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