Be like a child

Love like you never will be hurting,
Learn like there's right in every way,
Laugh like no one else is watching,
Live like today is your last day.

-- 1999, Douglas Reay
A .sig is four lines after a "-- " put at the end of a piece of text that, for ascii communication, takes the place of a signature. It is a flourish. Something unique to help others remember who the post is from more easily than just a name.

Why use text for that, when you can have cute animated gifs? And why restrict yourself to just 4 lines, when you can use ascii art? I guess I'm just a purist. Heavens, I even bottom post, trimming the post I'm replying to down to just the bits I am replying to, using "[...]" and nested layers of "> " to preserve attribution and context. In other words, your standard archaic net pedant.

The point being though, unless used just to list contact details or include standard legal disclaimers, a .sig becomes something very personal. Like a haiku or limerick, the length restriction forces you to think about and boil down to its essence what you stand for, believe or see yourself as.

The sentiments behind the four lines of my signature come from different sources. I believe that the way I have phrased and juxtaposed the four of them is original to myself, though others have done similar compilations. Everyone brings their own meanings to a text, but here are some of the things these mean to me...

Line 1: Love like you never will be hurting,

In Memoriam:27

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

-- 1850, Alfred Lord Tennyson
To receive you must give. To be truely in love, you must let yourself go; beyond calculation, beyond earnt trust, you must open yourself up - deliver your heart in hand and the very keys to your soul. To do so is also to open yourself to risk terrible hurt, but rational though it may not be, you must put that risk aside in your mind. Act without flinching, with faith that hurt will never come. Trust like a child.

Line 2: Learn like there's right in every way,

In the Neolithic Age

Then I stripped them, scalp from skull, and my hunting dogs fed full,
And their teeth I threaded neatly on a thong;
And I wiped my mouth and said, "It is well that they are dead,
For I know my work is right and theirs was wrong."

But my Totem saw the shame; from his ridgepole shrine he came,
And he told me in a vision of the night: --
"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!"

-- 1895, Rudyard Kipling
Not every way of doing things is right. Or equally right for everyone. I would not say that critical thought, or even skepticism, has no place in the learning process. However, there are also times to lay aside judgement, and listen as a child. Not to what you want them to be saying, or what you think they ought to be saying, or what you would be saying, but to what they ARE actually saying. Kuhn spoke about incommensurable world views. Nan-in spoke about full tea cups. Miller spoke about chunking. Basically what it means is that what you believe affects your interpretation of what you see and sometimes, in order to be able to see something new, you must temporarily 'dechunk' your beliefs.

Line 3: Laugh like no one else is watching,

Come From The Heart

You got to sing like you don't need the money
Love like you'll never get hurt
You got to dance like nobody's watching
It's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

-- 1989, recorded by Kathy Mattea, written by Susanna Clark & Richard Leigh, plaguarised from Mark Twain
Children often learn best through play. Adults often work best when what they do is what they would do anyway for free. Do what you do for yourself and be damned to the audience and their expectations. Be yourself.

Line 4: Live like today is your last day.

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

-- 1920, Edna St. Vincent Millay
A sentiment going back to Ecclesiastes, and restated many many times: Carpe Diem. To me it does not mean "don't invest for the future". It means that every second is precious and to be savoured, like a strawberry, not to be passed by absently while thinking of future or past. My family motto is "In Omnia Promptus", and my personal motto is "If a thing's worth doing, it is worth doing to excess." Don't live for the now, but live in the now, like a child.

There's a wonderful example of this in Steve Jobs' Commencement address

Title: Be like a child

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm. - Aldous Huxley

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity. - Thomas Henry Huxley

I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child. - Vladimir Nabokov

True genius sees with the eyes of a child and thinks with the brain of a genius. - Puzant Kevork Thomajan

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 18:3

The principle "Be Childlike" is paramount in the education of mankind. The child represents the future, all the possibilities, all the coming greatness of the human race. We, the adults, are contaminated by the brutal passions and vices incident to the struggle for existence and self-preservation.

Plasticity of mind is characteristic of genius. Plasticity of mind and body is preeminently characteristic of the child. Adaptability and plasticity are found in all young tissue, muscle, gland, and nerve. As the organism ages, becomes differentiated, and adapted to special functions and conditions of life, it loses its original plasticity. The tissues become fixed and the functions set. The adult's brain and mind begin to work in ruts. The child is superior to the adult.

The child looks at the world with eyes simple, clear, bright, not blinded by the heavy scales of traditions, superstitions, and prejudices of remote ages. The intricate worries, complex fears, selfish motives, brutal passions, greed, revenge, malice, vice, enmity do not as yet mar the soul of the child. Artificial needs, strong animal passions have no firm hold on the child's mind. The child's mind is purer, fresher, brighter, far more original than the adult intelligence with its philistine notions and hide-bound habits of thought and belief. - Boris Sidis

Discovery is the privilege of the child: the child who has no fear of being once again wrong, of looking like an idiot, of not being serious, of not doing things like everyone else.. - Alexander Grothendieck