10 June 2011
Last week as I was pouring a glass of chilled pomegranate red tea, I spied words encircling the inside of the bottle cap. Even though this marketing strategy is old hat, my curiosity still was flagged. The teaser read: 6-word memoirs. Submit yours at honesttea.com/6words. And in the middle of those words was a memoir by Lisa Marchal, which read “My golden ticket was printed incorrectly.” That’s a kick at one’s life, but apparently apt for hers and riddled with a sense of humor. Congratulations to Marchal for being selected, and for her words being read by Honest Tea fans.
I was intrigued. I was motivated. I was tantalized.
Apparently, the source of this “six-word memoir” word play was the American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). The unsubstantiated back story is sparse. Legend says: in the 1920s Hemingway either met a challenge posed to him in a bar, or he decided to challenge other writers to use their talents and follow his example. He wrote a six-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” (And there is Hemingway’s grand six-word title of the classic, The Old Man and the Sea.) Myth or reality, the brevity of his six-word story intersected beautifully with his style as a novelist.
As I dug through the Internet, it became clear that I had unleashed a snowball’s history that is still gaining momentum. Below are just a few of the Web sites that cater to the concept of a six-word story (6WS) or a variation on that theme. What had been unknown to me was very much visible on the Web as blogs, (offline and) online publications, social media, radio programming, and Web sites. I began to realize that this “story within a story” was a stunning piece of American popular culture. For sure, it is a testament to today’s technology that the 6WS continues to challenge the human spirit.
A spark that lit the unearthing of Hemingway’s challenge was the online publication Smith Magazine, which in 2006 was founded to encourage the art of “personal” storytelling. After the magazine introduced the Six-Word Memoir Project, the popularity of its efforts soared. Then the editors began a teen version, Teen Smith. As a result of these successes, a stream of books were published to honor the six-word memoir. Their Web site (http://www.smithmag.net) offers a forum that gives “professional and never-before-published writers, artists, and photographers” a place to share their narratives. But this online publication is just one of many that celebrate brevity through six-word stories. Go to these sites to get an idea of the concept’s infiltration into twenty-first century media: Flickr Six Word Story (http://www.flickr.com/groups/sixwordstory) or NPR’s programming (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100510986) or Wired Magazine (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/sixwords.html) or the blog Six-Word Story (http://www.sixwordstories.net) or a sundry of other sites (including classroom lesson plans posted by teachers). Most have been inspired by Smith Magazine’s original premise that was inspired by the Hemingway legend. And so it goes.
Here are a few of my own tributes to minimalism and the six-word writing premise. Only my slant is a slice of life: pieces of my personal philosophy and my view on life. They are my contribution to the title of this post, “Philosophy of Life in Six Words: Gimme a Few Slices of Yours.”
Sorry, I had to prod myself to pull away from the keyboard at nine:
Brevity does not shrink one’s thoughts.
My philosophy mirrors Einstein: Question everything.
Usually minds travel further than feet.
Gain knowledge. Love intently. Live fully.
The human animal is perfectly imperfect.
See what surrounds you. Inhale everything.
Rescue yourself: Be inventive. Live creatively.
Re-imagine, reinvent, recreate what can be.
Life can be a polarizing journey.
I’d like to propose a challenge to my readers. What is your philosophy of life in six words (or at least a slice of it)? In the Comments section of this post, please submit up to three examples of a six-word philosophy that represents your take on life. You’ve already read a few of mine, now it’s your turn.
Adults are also welcome to ask their teenagers and tweens to submit (up to three) of a six-word philosophy. Guest juror, Nancy Haydon Gray, who is pumped to pick winners, will select her favorites in the two categories: adult and teen/tween. Nancy is an artist, poet and writer who has had an eclectic life, working and traveling on a few continents. Her careers have spanned the fields of business and education, and she is a consummate learner as well as independent scholar. I welcome her as my first guest juror. Nancy’s contribution to the six-word challenge is so Nancy: “To be thoroughly engaged is heavenly.” Her words reflect her lively and spirited personality. Thanks, Nancy for agreeing to help in this endeavor.
The adult winner can choose one of my photographs (Exception: You cannot select my photograph “Autumn Spirit,” which was chosen by the National Geographic Magazine’s Your Shot competition and posted at their site on 18 November 2011. Then posted on my blog 10 February 2011.) by reviewing all of my posts from February through June. I’ll send the winner a 8 1/2″ x 11″ photograph via snail mail. The teen/tween winner will receive a $10 iTune card. Have fun.
Please ask others to submit their brief take on life. Seriously, I cannot wait to read your responses. Note: Deadline for submission is July 15, 2011.
I am amused and bemused by the idea that the Hemingway challenge could be the source of such wordsmithing in the here-and-now. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) would have jumped at the chance to submit his words to one of the Web sites that celebrates this brief narrative form. Fortunately, for us Thoreau cleverly said his piece/peace in three: “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” It charms me every time.
The winners have been selected. Congratulations and thanks for your insightful six-word philosophy of life. The judge’s comments explain her decision:
I had the pleasure of reading the Six-word Philosophy of Life responses from the Adult and the Teen/Tween categories over the last six weeks. Now, my job is to pick a winner. Wouldn’t you know, the refreshing, cheerful philosophies were from the Teens/Tweens. There were two solid winners. I could not pick between them. Here they are:
Look for light, and find it, written by Kasper 14
Life comes once so cherish everyday, written by flexilexi99
They put responsibility where it belongs, in our own hands. How delightful. Each philosophy would be perfect on little signs in among the flowers in our gardens.
Nancy Gray, Judge