Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On

"Keep Calm and Carry On", we've all heard it, and it's become one of my favorite mantra's, as it was.  So when I saw a book labeled "Keep Calm and Carry On", by Andrews McMeel Publishing, I had to have it.  On the back of the book it says "Good Advice for Hard Times".  I also picked up copies of the sequels to the book, "Screw Calm and Get Angry: Resigned Advice for Hard Times", and "Now Panic and Freak Out: Bad Advice For Good People".  

I've always loved the story of where "Keep Calm and Carry On" came from, ever since my mom gave me a copy of the poster, and told me the story; and realize that most people don't know the story.  So here's the introduction to the first book, "Keep Calm and Carry On":  "Keep Calm and Carry On.  The British have never been terribly good at the more touchy-feely aspects of self-help and inspiration-the kind peddled so effectively in the United States for decades and now beloved in the rest of the modern world.  When the British have been stuck in a spot of bother in the past, such as the odd world war, they have tended to resort to more formal and restrained modes of address- "pull yourself together," "stiff upper lip and all that, old man."  This is the very world that spawned Keep Calm and Carry On

It was one of three posters produced by the British government's Ministry of Information on the eve of war in 1939.  The other two were "Freedom Is in Peril" and "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory."  Simple reassuring instructions, each topped with the commanding seal of King George VI's crown.  Two and a half million copies of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" sheets were printed, but they would be distributed only in the imminent threat of German invasion.  Thankfully they never saw the light of day and were almost all pulped.  So that might have been that, if one of the few remaining posters hadn't been discovered in a dusty box of old books bought at auction by British bookseller Stuart Manley.

Though they didn't initially know what the poster was, Mr. Manley and his wife liked it so much they framed it and hung it in their bookshop.  They weren't the only ones who found it's stark, simple reassurance engaging.  In fact, they had so many inquiries about it from customers that in the end they decided to have some copies printed.  It seemed that in the seventy years since it's first appeared, its very British soothing strength hadn't lost any of of its appeal.  The bookshop has gone on to sell tens of thousands of the poster, not to mention mugs, T-shirts, and tea towels, with customers including everyone from Top Gear presenters to Buckingham palace and Downing Street.  Its message, it seemed, was just as effective a tonic for those laboring under modern anxieties as for those who endured the Blitz.  But it wasn't until the uncharted waters of the economic downturn began to rise that the mantra really came into its own.  Since the autumn of 2008 it has quite literally become the pin-up of our current predicament, with even the BBC posing the question: Is this the greatest motivational poster ever?

So what yhou hold in your hand is the book of the poster-a modest attempt at inspiration for hard times, a restorative mixture of advice, entertainment, and inspiration to help you through.  In an age not just of recession but also of information overload, you need a source of wisdwm that doesn't hang about of mince its words, so these quotes have been chosen not only for their ability to echo the universal good sense of the original poster but also to echo the virtue of its brevity.  Drawing on over two millenia of common sense from home and abroad, from Cicero to Churchhill, Keep Calm and Carry On attempts to put its finger on the mess we are in and, moving forward from that sory mess, what can make life truly worthwhile.

Enjoy-and pass on the good cheer." 

So I'm going to do just that.  If I read a particular quip or quote I like, then I'll go ahead and share it.  Hopefully it will be an enlightening and inspiring thing to do.  We shall see!  

The first quote, at the beginning of the book, before the inspiration, it says,  "Wise men don't need advice.  Fools won't take it." - Benjamin Franklin

With thanks to Barter Books, Home of the original WWII poster


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