In an Over-Communicated, Intrusive World, Simple is Better
Ed

Yes, Virginia, There
Is a Santa Claus

 
Copyright © 2007
by Ed Bagley

(Editor’s Note: The following editorial by Francis P. Church was first published in The New York Sun in 1897 in response to an
8-year-old girl’s letter to the editor, and is arguably the most famous editorial ever written in an American newspaper. This incredible piece of writing happened when newspapers were the primary means of communication. In 1897 there was no mass communication by radio, television, computers, cell phones and the associated technical goodies we have today. Readers actually believed and trusted in newspapers. Now we do not believe and trust in newspapers anymore than we do in politicians.)

Here is how Francis P. Church responded to Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter:

“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (in what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal (supernal means “of exceptional quality or extent”) beauty and glory beyond.

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

About the Exchange
Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and went on to became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in The New York Sun in 1897, more than a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

“Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus,
I was filled with doubts.
I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in the The Sun, it’s so,’ and that settled the matter.

‘Well, I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,’ I said to father.

He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does’.”

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents’ favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer.

Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, “Endeavour to clear your mind of cant.” When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl’s letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply that was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O’Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master’s from Columbia University, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator.

Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Clason’s “The Richest Man in Babylon” Part 2 – The 7 Cures for a Lean Wallet and The 5 Laws of Money

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Part 1 of this 2 Part series ends the synopsis of George Clason’s book “The Richest Man in Babylon,” but Clason raises an important question: Why should
so few men be able to acquire so much gold?

The answer is because they know how.

One may not condemn a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less ability.

And so it was that the good king of Babylon sought out the richest man in Babylon to teach to others in his kingdom the secrets of his success.

This is a synopsis of what the richest man taught to the people
of Babylon:

The Seven Cures for a Lean Wallet

1) Start your wallet to fattening. Save one-tenth of all you earn. Remember that a part
of all I earn is mine to keep. Do this faithfully. Do not let the simplicity of this escape you.

When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings,
I got along just as well.
I was not shorter than before, and, money came to me more easily than before.

2) Control your expenses. How is it that all do not earn the same yet all have lean wallets? Here is the truth: That which each of us calls our “necessary expenses” will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to
the contrary.

Confuse not necessary expenses with desires. We all have more desires than our earnings can gratify. Examine which of the accepted expenses of living can be reduced or eliminated. Let your motto be 100% of appreciated value demanded for every dollar spent.

Budget your expenses so that your actual necessities are met without spending more than nine-tenths of your earnings.

3) Make your money multiply. Protect your growing treasure by putting it to labor and increasing. Money in your wallet earns nothing. Money that we earn from our money is but a start; it is the earnings generating earnings that builds fortunes.

When the richest man in Babylon loaned money to the shield maker to buy bronze, he said this: “Each time I loaned money to the shield maker, I loaned back also the rental he had paid me. Therefore not only did my capital increase, but its earnings likewise increased.”

4) Guard your money from loss. Everyone has an idea of how to make quick money; few, however, have the evidence of making money to justify their idea, scheme or offer of quick riches. The first sound principle of investment is security for your principal.

Before you loan your money to any man assure yourself of his ability to repay your loan, and of his reputation to do so. Make no one a present of your hard-earned treasure.

Consult the wisdom of those experienced in handling money for profit. Such advice is often freely given for
the asking, and may possess more value than the amount you
are about to invest.

5) Make your home a profitable investment. When you can set aside only nine-tenths of what you earn to live, and can use a part of that nine-tenths to improve the investment in your housing, do it; owning your own home is also an investment that grows with your wealth.

Your family deserves a home they can enjoy and call their own. It builds a sense of stability and well-being.

6) Ensure a future income. Build income-producing assets that do not require you to work forever. We will all grow old and die.

You should prepare a suitable income for the days to come when you are no longer younger and cannot work as hard, and to make preparations for your family should you no longer be with them to comfort and support them. Provide in advance for the needs of your growing age, and the protection of your family.

7) Increase your
ability to earn.
Desire precedes accomplishment, and the desire must be strong and definite. When you have backed your desire for saving $1,000 with the strength and purpose to secure it, you can then save $2,000.

Desires must be simple and definite. Desires defeat their own purpose when they are too many, too confusing, or too difficult to accomplish. Cultivate your own powers to study and become wiser, more skillful, and more productive.

Here is more sage advice from Clason’s masterpiece on financial matters:

The 5 Laws of Money

If you had to choose, would you choose tons of money or wisdom? Most men would take the money, ignore the wisdom, and waste the money. Here is the wisdom:

1) Money comes gladly and in increasing quantities to any man who will put aside not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and the future of his family.

2) Money labors diligently and contently for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying unto itself in infinity if kept working diligently. Money multiplies itself in surprising fashion.

3) Money clings to
the protection of the cautious owner who invests it with the advice of men wise
in its handling.

4) Money slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes that he is not familiar with, or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep. The inexperienced handler of money who trusts his own judgment, and puts his money in investments which he is not familiar, always pays with his money for his experience.

5) Money flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings, or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers, or who
trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

Here is the hard lesson of the 5 Laws of Money: You cannot measure the value of wisdom in bags of money. Without wisdom, those who have it quickly lose money, but with wisdom, money can be secured by those who have it not.

This ends the condensation.

Copyright 2007 by Ed Bagley

Waking Ned Devine – 4 Stars (Excellent)

Sooner or later one has to come clean. When pigeonholed about what is my favorite comedy, I said some time ago that “Meet the Fockers” was the best comedy I had seen in a long time.

What I did not say was what is the best comedy I have ever seen. So let me say it here and now: as of Thursday, March 11, 2007 the best comedy I have ever seen is “Waking Ned Devine” and it is not even a close call.

It would be easy to throw around a bunch of adjectives like outstanding, fantastic, remarkable, extraordinary, superb or phenomenal but why bother when you can say this: there are not another five writer/directors in America that are better than Kirk Jones and his creation.

In crafting Waking Ned Devine Kirk Jones has done what dozens of his peers have not done on their best day, and that is both write and direct a film worthy of being called the best. Let me not be shy or just throw out words to fill up space.

Let me name some writer/directors whose effort in a dual role bred more failure than success: They include Kimberly Peirce (terrible rating) for Boys Don’t Cry, Vanessa Parise (average rating) for Kiss the Bride, Peter Weir (average rating) for Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, Nancy Myers (average rating) for Something’s Gotta Give, Thomas Bezucha (average rating) for The Family Stone, Michael McGowan (average rating) for Saint Ralph, Jared Hess (terrible rating) for Napoleon Dynamite, Robert Rodriguez (terrible rating) for Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Paul Thomas Anderson (terrible rating) for Punch-Drunk Love.

The worst of these efforts was Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love.

There is no question that all of these wannabe writer/directors probably worked their butt off trying to win an Academy Award for their effort, and I do not mean to discredit their time and effort, just their result. Hopefully, they will learn from experience and get better.

Kirk Jones is almost unique because this was his first effort at being a writer/director. He was in very dangerous territory but talent, judgment and sensibility can overcome a lot of mistakes. I would put Kirk Jones in the same incredible class of writer/directors as Tim McCanlies in Secondhand Lions. Both Jones and McCanlies are great writers-not-yet-discovered who become artists painting a masterpiece when directing. Waking Ned Devine is set in Ireland but filmed on the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea that is a British crown possession with home rule.

The Narrator for the film (Paul Vaughan) sets the stage for the film with this great observation: “Saturday evening, and the world is much the same as at any other point in the history of the world. The planets and stars orbit and spin, and do everything that is expected of them. On Earth, as the sun sets, millions prepare for an event that is much less predictable.

“In 63 countries around the world, dozens of lottery machines spin hundreds of lottery balls. It takes seconds for the winning numbers to be selected . . .seconds for the losers to realize that they have lost. But for the winners, it is an event that will undoubtedly change their lives forever . . . lucky sods!”

In the tiny Irish village of Tullymore two best friends—Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly)—discover that someone among them has won the Irish lottery, and they go to great lengths to find the winner.

After concocting an elaborate chicken-dinner ploy that fails to rat out the winner, they plough through a horrific rainstorm to call on the only person to not attend the dinner.

When they find the elderly Ned Devine with the winning ticket is in his hand he is dead. Imagine Ned Devine at his moment of triumph. He survived endless storms upon the sea as a fisherman but ends up dying of shock in his lazy boy upon discovering his good fortune. Jackie O’Shea, being the good Irishman he is, does not want the money to go to waste and convinces his reluctant friend Michael O’Sullivan to go along with his plan. You simply must see what happens when these two pikers get about the business of dealing with Ned Devine’s body.

Jackie’s wife Annie (Fionnula Flanagan) is beside herself when she learns of Jackie’s plan, upbraiding Jackie for his dishonesty and fearing that both of them will end up in jail. Jackie, being the creative Irishman he is, lets Annie know that he has had a dream that the deceased Ned would want to share his winnings with him.

When Jackie and Michael were skinny-dipping in the sea, they bump into the claims inspector as he is coming to interview Ned Devine to settle the claim ticket. Jackie takes the claims inspector on a wild goose chase while trying to find “Ned’s” house, and Michael is left to jump on a moped naked and make a mad dash back to the house before the inspector arrives.

Earlier, when Jackie’s wife Annie learns he has put Michael up for the part of Ned Devine, she reminds him that “he’s never told a lie in his life.” “Well,” replies Jackie, “he’s making up for it now.”

Michael, nervous as a cat, does pull it off, and the inspector lets Michael know that his payout will be almost $6.9 million Irish pounds. If you can only see one other comedy bit ever, see Michael O’Sullivan, buck naked, riding that moped like a man possessed. It is beyond comedy, it will be legend for those in the know. Only when Jackie discovers that the winning ticket is worth $6.9 million Irish pounds does he realize how out of the control the situation has become, and that the entire village will have to become involved to pull off a deception of this magnitude.

Every villager to a person agrees with the plan except for Lizzy Quinn (Eileen Dromey), a cantankerous, wheelchair-bound, b-class whiner who holds out for a hefty 10% take with a threat that she will spill the beans.

When pushed Lizzy (I hope my memory serves me right in thinking this is the right character) makes good on her promise, and wheels herself up the road to the pay phone by the cliff. Fortunately for the villagers, Lizzy dies when the lottery claim inspector’s car spins out of control and forces an oncoming van to crash into the phone booth, sending Lizzy over the cliff before she can report the fraud.

The claims inspector shows up in the middle of the funeral with the $6.9 million pound check for Ned Devine, sending all of the attending villagers into a state of emotional and mental panic.

Jackie O’Shea who is delivering the eulogy slides into some instant Irish resourcefulness with this brilliant piece of oratory: “Michael O’Sullivan was my great friend. But I don’t ever remembering telling him that. The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man who is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral. To sit at the front and hear what was said, maybe say a few things yourself.

“Michael and I grew old together. But at times, when we laughed, we grew young. If he was here now, if he could hear what I say, I’d congratulate him on being a great man, and thank him for being a friend.”

Waking Ned Devine is both one of the best comedies ever made and a classic study in relationships, not just among friends and families but among a small community as well. Kirk Jones has given this story heart, risk, honor, integrity, unity, romance, love, tolerance, chicanery and Irish whiskey all rolled into a masterpiece of storytelling.

Waking Ned Devine is the funniest film I have ever seen. Because Ned Devine is a comedy and also a story about relationships among common people, this, as much as anything, gives it such solid goodness despite the deception. I mean really, who wants to give $6.9 million Irish pounds back to the government when it really belongs to the people?

There are other subplots in Waking Ned Devine too good to detail here.

We learn of the romance between Maggie O’Toole (Susan Lynch) and Pig Finn (James Nesbitt), a pig farmer Maggie would like to marry if she did not have to smell him. We learn that Maggie has a son, and Pig Finn wonders if he is the father. We learn that the real father is none other than Ned Devine, and that the son is rightfully due the entire $6.9 million pounds as the legal heir. Maggie, thankfully, realizes that a rising tide lifts all ships to a better place.

Waking Ned Devine ends with Jackie O’Shea, Michael O’Sullivan, Maggie’s boy and Pig Finn all raising a toast to Ned Devine while standing on a cliff overlooking the sea. A better comedy I may not see in my lifetime.

Sadly, recognition for Kirk Jones, the cast, outstanding casting by John and Ros Hubbard, and cinematography by Henry Braham all go without their proper due. To prove there is some small measure of justice in the world, the budget for Waking Ned Devine was estimated at $3 million and this independent film has generated at least $43 million worldwide and the video is still raking in more bucks.

There are 6.9 million reasons to see Waking Ned Devine, but here is the best one: Kirk Jones. I raise a second toast of Jameson’s to Kirk Jones’ effort. I may only be 18% Irish, but it is the best 18% of me. I am a better person for having seen Waking Ned Devine.

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The First Time I Had Witnessed a Miracle

 

(Ed’s Note: This article was written in 1976, 44 years ago, on the occasion of my daughter’s birth, and was first published in The Lacey Leader, the newspaper
I owned and operated for
8 years. As a Christian,
I celebrate the Resurrection of Christ rising from the dead this Easter Sunday so that all who believe might have eternal life. It is a joy for me to recount this miracle with you, recognizing that the birth of life is both a miracle and mystery to be cherished among all of our living experiences.)

Copyright 1976
by Ed Bagley

I have lived on this Earth 31 years, but Saturday night was the first time
I had ever seen a miracle.

It started in the dead of sleep at 5 a.m. For four hours I slept on like a newborn baby. It was nothing unusual for me—
the freight train that cuts Patterson Lake in two could detour through our bedroom, and I would probably not wake up.

Inside Annette—while I cut through zees like rewrite copy—a slow stirring began. Soon it became sharp pains. Finally I woke at 9 a.m. to greet the new day and found out Annette had been up at 5 wondering if her time had come. It had.

We checked into St. Peter Hospital at 11 a.m. and began an even longer wait. Soon it was 1 p.m., then 3 and 5 and 7 and 9 and her labor continued. The baby was not in the right position, and Annette spent a good deal of time figuring out how to push when the contractions came.

It was a struggle we went through together, her frank cries of anguish and my dispassionate encouragement. I could not have become emotionally involved, or it would have been all over for me. I wanted to see everything.

Finally monitors were put on her to play out the frequency of the contractions and the frequency of the baby’s heartbeat. A steady blip, blip, blip played across the face of the machine and, to the right, numbers changed every few seconds, telling the baby’s heartbeat per minute. Eventually medicine was used to help induce the contractions.

After 17½ hours, Annette went to the delivery room and I was right behind her. Inside, as Dr. Krug exhibited a totally calm, professional demeanor, I watched as the baby’s head pushed into the new world.

Dr. Krug noted that the cord had a knot and then, with one final push, Kristin Ann came into the world and nothing could hold back Annette’s elation and tears, and Kristin’s cry for survival.

Kristin was bright and alert to the momentous occasion; she immediately opened her eyes and let us know she was here—it must have been a tremendous struggle for her too.

I sat stunned, not giving in to instant joy. I wanted to note, with the patience and calm of a craftsman, every detail of this glorious moment.

Kristin looked blue and—had it not been for her crying—you might have thought she was not alive. Her eyes, if not her voice, said otherwise. I felt like
I could have reached out and touched the Hand of God.

Later, in the nursery, I was astounded that Kristin looked a healthy pink only minutes after her arrival. Her eyes were still open and her mouth was constantly moving.

When Annette came out of the delivery room and the nurse wheeled her up to the window, I was sure I saw Kristin smile. As if to test this observation against reality, I asked the nurse if she had smiled. I could not believe it.

The nurse replied yes and then, when the nurse, Annette and I once again focused on the wonder before us, Kristin Ann smiled again.

(Ed’s Note: Family is the fundamental core unit of our culture, from the unity of many comes the strength of the family to fulfill its destiny, with each generation experiencing the life cycle, and the joys and challenges of realizing our individual and group potential. The gift of life is only our first gift, it is up to us—as individuals and as a family unit—to love and support each other as we develop our unique gifts as children of God. Regrettably, more than 62 million babies have suffered abortion and been killed in their mother’s womb because of the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court. It obviously never occurred to the majority of the 7 of 9 setting Justices that they would have not been alive on Planet Earth if their mothers had aborted them. And many of us thought that those 7 Supreme Court Justices that ruled in favor of the motion were kind, thoughtful and sensible students of the United States Constitution, a document whose authors never, and I mean never, would have approved the motion. I say this because our great nation ensured us that were endowed by God with the fundamental tenet of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The majority decision by those
7 misguided Justices have resulted in the killing of 62+ million babies and counting, as more are killed every day in America. It is easy to see why liberal progressives are happy with kicking God out of our schools. These are the same Pro Choice believers who would like to kick God out of our country and kick Christianity out of our nation, then we could become a socialist nation (or Communist or a Dictatorship) without a need for God or religion. Non-believers have some other ideas about this same topic. That’s OK. I believe our universe is big enough to accommodate everyone.)

Financial Thoughts
on Investing
by Warren Buffett

 

(Ed’s Note: The following condensation is from The Tao of Warren Buffett, written by Mary Buffett and David Clark and available for sale at Amazon and bookstores nationwide. I am always impressed by what Warren Buffett has to say and am doing this condensation to help promote their book.)

On Investing: Never be afraid to ask too much when selling offer too little when buying.
(Ed’s Note: How much you get from a sale or how much you have to pay when making a purchase determines whether you make or lose money and how rich you ultimately become.)

(Ed’s Note: For more of Warren Buffett’s advice go to the menu bar above and click on Financial Thoughts.)