Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces
impressed upon it.
Issac Newton, First Law of Motion.
The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between rails) is four feet,
Why such an odd number? Because that's the way they built them in England, and American
railroads were built by British expatriates.
Why did the English adopt that particular gauge? Because the people who built the
pre-railroad tramways used that gauge.
They in turn were locked into that gauge because the people who built tramways used the
same standards and tools they had used for building wagons, which were set on a gauge of
four feet, eight-and-one-half inches.
"Why were wagons built to that scale? Because with any other size, the wheels did
not match the old wheel ruts on the roads.
"So who built these old rutted roads?
"The first long-distance highways in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the
benefit of their legions. The roads have been in use ever since. The ruts were first made
by Roman war chariots. Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches was the width a chariot needed
to be to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses."
Maybe "that's the way it's always been" isn't the great excuse some people
believe it to be.
Clark Cothern Tecumseh, Michigan.
On June 4, 1783 at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from
Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages.
Tethered above, straining its lines, was a huge taffeta bag 33 feet in diameter. In the
presence of "a respectable assembly and a great many other people," and
accompanied by great cheering, the balloon was cut from its moorings and set free to rise
majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went -- the first public
ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth
several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants
and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil!
Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.
When the railroads were first introduced to the U.S., some folks feared that they'd be
the downfall of the nation! Here's an excerpt from a letter to then President Jackson dated
January 31, 1829:
As you may know, Mr. President, 'railroad' carriages are pulled at the enormous speed
of 15 miles per hour by 'engines' which, in addition to endangering life and limb of
passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops,
scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never
intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed. Martin Van Buren Governor of
Some people will change when they see the light. Others change only when they feel the
Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make
yourself as you wish to be.
It is hard to believe now, but the potato was once a highly unpopular food. When first
introduced into England by Sir Walter Raleigh, newspapers printed editorials against it,
ministers preached sermons against it, and the general public wouldn't touch it. It was
supposed to sterilize the soil in which it had been planted and cause all manner of
strange illnesses--even death.
There were, however, a few brave men who did not believe all the propaganda being
shouted against it. It was seen as an answer to famine among the poorer classes and as a
healthful and beneficial food. Still, these few noblemen in England could not persuade
their tenants to cultivate the potato. It was years before all the adverse publicity was
overcome and the potato became popular.
A Frenchman named Parmentier took a different tack. He had been a prisoner of war in
England when he first heard of the new plant. His fellow prisoners protested the outrage
of having to eat potatoes. Parmentier, instead, thoughtfully inquired about the methods of
cultivating and cooking the new food. Upon his return to France, he procured an
experimental farm from the Emperor, in which he planted potatoes. When it was time to dig
them, at his own expense, he hired a few soldiers to patrol all sides of his famous potato
patch during the daytime. Meanwhile he conducted distinguished guests through the fields,
digging a few tubers here and there, which they devoured with evident relish. At night, he
began to withdraw the guards. A few days later one of the guards hastened to Parmentier
with the sad news that peasants had broken into the potato patch at night, and dug up most
of the crop.
Parmentier was overjoyed, much to the surprise of his informant, and exclaimed,
"When the people will steal in order to procure potatoes, their popularity is
Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 13, 14, 15.
Everybody thinks of changing Humanity and Nobody thinks of changing Himself.
While visiting the U.S. after World War II, Winston Churchill was aboard a train bound
for Missouri with President Harry Truman. They were in a special car which had the
presidential seal hung up on a wall. Truman noticed Churchill studying the seal and he
pointed out that he had changed it so that the eagle on the seal was turned toward the
olive branch instead of the arrows. "Why not put the eagle's head on a swivel,"
suggested Churchill. "That way you could turn it to the right or the left, depending
on what the occasion warranted."
Bits & Pieces, March, 1990.
In 1886, Karl Benz drove his first automobile through the streets of Munich, Germany.
He named his car the Mercedes Benz, after his daughter, Mercedes. The machine angered the
citizens, because it was noisy and scared the children and horses. Pressured by the
citizens, the local officials immediately established a speed limit for "horseless
carriages" of 3.5 miles an hour in the city limits and 7 miles an hour outside. Benz
knew he could never develop a market for his car and compete against horses if he had to
creep along at those speeds, so he invited the mayor of the town for a ride. The mayor
accepted. Benz then arranged for a milkman to park his horse and wagon on a certain street
and, as Benz and the mayor drove by, to whip up his old horse and pass them--and as he did
so to give the German equivalent of the Bronx cheer. The plan worked. The mayor was
furious and demanded that Benz overtake the milk wagon. Benz apologized but said that
because of the ridiculous speed law he was not permitted to go any faster. Very soon after
that the law was changed.
Bits & Pieces, April 1990, p. 2.
It is not best to swap horses while crossing the stream.
Did you know that it was not until 1850 that our world reached the one billion mark? By
1930 we reached two billion. It took only thirty more years for the world's population to
reach three billion. We have now arrived at five billion. Statisticians tell us that by
the end of the twentieth century we'll have seven billion...
Until 1800 the top speed was twenty miles an hour as people traveled on horseback. With
the arrival of the railroad train, almost overnight we jumped to 100 miles per hour. By
1952 the first passenger jet could travel 500 miles an hour. By 1979 the Concorde cruised
at more than 1,200 miles an hour. But even back in 1961 the astronauts were orbiting the
earth at 16,000 miles per hour.
C. Swindoll, Rise and Shine, 1989.
"Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored."
The Duke of
Cambridge (late 1800s).
Cornford's Law: Nothing is ever done until everyone is convinced that it ought to be
done, and has been convinced for so long that it is now time to do something else.
Openness is essentially the willingness to grow, a distaste for ruts, eagerly standing
on top-toe for a better view of what tomorrow brings. A man once bought a new radio,
brought it home, placed it on the refrigerator, plugged it in, turned it to WSM in
Nashville (home of the Grand Ole Opry), and then pulled all the knobs off! He had already
tuned in all he ever wanted or expected to hear. Some marriages are "rutted" and
rather dreary because either or both partners have yielded to the tyrrany of the
inevitable, "what has been will still be." Stay open to newness. Stay open to
Grady Nutt, in Homemade, July, 1990.
Picture a scene from the Old West, sometime in the 1870s. Weary cowboys in dusty Levi's
gather around a blazing campfire after a day on the open range. The lonely howl of a
coyote counterpoints the notes of a guitar as the moon floats serenely overhead. Suddenly
a bellow of pain shatters the night, as a cowpoke leaps away from the fire, dancing in
agony. Hot-Rivet Syndrome has claimed another victim. In those days, Levi's were made, as
they had been from the first days of Levi Strauss, with copper rivets at stress points to
provide extra strength. On these original Levi's--model 501--the crotch rivet was the
critical one: when cowboys crouched too long beside the campfire, the rivet grew
uncomfortably hot. For years the brave men of the West suffered this curious occupational
hazard. Then, in 1933, Walter Haas, Sr., president of Levi Strauss, went camping in his
He was crouched by a crackling campfire in the High Sierras, drinking in the pure
mountain air, when he fell prey to Hot-Rivet Syndrome. He consulted with professional
wranglers in his party. Had they suffered the same mishap? An impassioned YES was the
reply. Haas vowed that the offending rivet must go, and at their next meeting the board of
directors voted it into extinction.
Everybody's Business, ed. by M. Moskowitz, M. Katz, R.
Charlie Smith was 23 years old when the Civil War ended; 61 when the Wright Brothers
first flew. In 1977 he was recognized as the oldest living American of all time. When
asked about his secret for longevity he said: "I ain't got no special secret for how
I live so long. I just live." Smith avoided exercise. "I don't do much now. I
just sit here, and when I get tired of sitting I get up, and when I get tired of that, I
Wallechinsky and Wallace, The People's Almanac #2, 1978, p. 943.
STATISTICS AND STUFF
Average number of jobs an American worker has held by age 40: 8
Charis Conn, Editor, What Counts:
The Complete Harper's Index.
Stephen R. Yarnall, MD, Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. Unpleasant
Changes--What To Do. When things don't go our way, we typically go through 10 stages which
are a normal part of the coping and healing process.
1. Denial--"It can't be," It can't happen to me," "It's not
true".... The first stage of reaction to any sudden, unexpected event tends to be
denial. Denial is normal if it lasts a short time, but persistent denial is unhealthy
because it blocks further growth and healing.
2. Anger/Blame--"Whose fault is it?," "This makes me mad,"
"This isn't fair," "Why me?" The second stage of reaction looks
backward in hopes of finding the cause and someone or something to blame it on. Although
nothing can be done at this point to change the past, it's nevertheless a normal response.
Like the stage of denial before it, the anger/blame stage is unhealthy if it persists for
an unreasonable amount of time.
3. Despair--This stage tends to be characterized by tears, negative and
hopeless/helpless thoughts, and a feeling of total emptiness and loss. Sleep and eating
disturbances are common as the "reality" of the situation sets in. Relationships
with other people can become more difficult at this time, but understanding and compassion
must be given and accepted if one is to move beyond this stage.
4. Perspective--In this stage, the individual begins accepting the change and is no
longer caught up in denial, anger, blame, or despair. The problem is seen in its proper
perspective. Although the sense of loss may be significant, the individual does not feel
that "all is lost."
5. Relationships--Coming out of the withdrawal and isolation that is inherent in the
previous stages, the individual is able to talk and relate to other people and participate
in normal activities.
6. Spiritual Changes--The individual's relationship with the spiritual side of life is
strengthened as a result of having lived through (and survived) the experience.
7. Acceptance--This stage involves the restoration of self-esteem, and the acceptance
of the consequences and boundaries of the new reality. 8. Humor--Smiles, laughter, and a
sense of humor return to the individual and help in the healing process. There's a renewed
sense of joy in life.
9. Activity and Action--Where once the individual had been restricted or immobilized by
the change, he or she now returns to activity, action, and improved productivity. Travel
and group activities become more interesting.
10. New Goals--In this final stage, the individual is able to focus on the positive
aspects of whatever change occurred, and on new goals and activities. He or she takes
comfort in Ashley Brilliant's line, "I may not be totally perfect, but parts of me
are excellent!" When faced with an unexpected, unpleasant change, you may not go
through all 10 of these stages in this order, but it helps to keep them in mind. While it
can seem as if life changes nearly drown us at times, by and by we see that it's only
through meeting the challenges of change that we can grow.
Stephen R. Yarnall, MD.
The clerk of Abbington Presbytery, outside of Philadelphia, approximately 100 years ago
gave these 5 kinds of attitudes about change:
1. Early innovators (2.6%), run with new ideas
2. Early adaptors (13.4%), influenced by (1) but not initiators
3. Slow Majority (34%), the herd-followers
4. Reluctant Majority (34%)
5. Antagonistic (16%), they will never change
The majority of ministers are being nibbled at by the last group. They focus on the
minority opinion. This group is basically carnal. You expect antagonism from them.
Howard Hendricks, in The Monday Morning Mission.
Three stages people go through when confronted with change:
1. Resistance to change
2. Tolerant of change
3. Embrace the change
Howard Hendricks, in The Monday Morning Mission.
Principles for change:
A. People must have reasons for change
1. They must see the value to them of the change
2. The plan must be understood by them
3. They must be involved in the process
B. People must be prepared for change, don't just drop it on them. Introduce the
ideas/changes months ahead of time.
C. People must be involved in the process of change. If people are involved
planning stage, they'll be involved in the implementation. Therefore, don't do too much for them.
D. People must be exposed to models of change.
1. Tapes and books (Men listen to tapes, women read)
2. Evaluative experiences (experience is worthless unless you evaluate
3. Educational conferences and seminars
4. Expose them to infectious people
Howard Hendricks, in The Monday Morning Mission.
Teenagers are much more inclined to take warnings about steroids seriously if the
drugs' muscle-building benefits are acknowledged in the same speech, say doctors at Oregon
Health Sciences University. That was the case when the doctors lectured nine high school
football teams on the effects of steroids. They found that football players who heard a
balanced presentation on steroids were 50 percent more likely to believe that the drugs
could harm their health than those who were told just of the dangers. This isn't the only
instance where scare tactics have been known to fail. In spite of a massive, ongoing
campaign on the hazards of cigarette smoking, millions continue to light up. Health
experts might be more successful if they acknowledged smoking's pleasurable aspects. Then
once they had a smoker's attention, they could let loose on why it's time to quit.
Spokesman Review, November 13, 1991, p. C1.
Americans spend $50 million a year on subliminal message tapes designed to help them do
everything from improve their self-image to stop smoking. But there's no hidden message in
the National Research Council's verdict on such techniques. The Council's report, released
in September 1992, concludes that subliminal messages simply don't work. They don't
deliver the life-transforming power they promise.
Today in the Word, June 14, 1992 .
Behavioral studies show that if 2% of a homogeneous group are strongly dedicated to a
given cause, and that small minority can eventually move the whole.
Association of Church
Missions Commissions Newsletter, Autumn, 1989, p. 1.
There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse; as I have
found in traveling in a stage-coach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position
and be bruised in a new place.
Washington Irving G. Collins, The Magnificent Mind, p. 73
(how to change).
A man from the back mountains of Tennessee found himself one day in a large city, for
the first time standing outside an elevator. He watched as an old, haggard woman hobbled
on, and the doors closed. A few minutes later the doors opened and a young, attractive
woman marched smartly off. The father hollered to his youngest son, "Billy, go get
"You," said the doctor to the patient, "are in terrible shape. You've
got to do something about it. First, tell your wife to cook more nutritious meals. Stop
working like a dog. Also, inform your wife you're going to make a budget, and she has to
stick to it. And have her keep the kids off your back so you can relax. Unless there are
some changes like that in your life, you'll probably be dead in a month."
"Doc," the patient said, "this would sound more official coming from you.
Could you please call my wife and give her those instructions?"
When the fellow got
home, his wife rushed to him. "I talked to your doctor," she wailed. "Poor
man, you've only got thirty days to live."