Unspoken Water, Spoken Words

My Dear Rotarians and Friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

According to Alexander Warrack’s Scots Dialectic Dictionary, this is water from under a bridge over which the living pass and the dead are carried. The water is brought at dawn or in the twilight to the house of a sick person, without the bearer speaking either going in or returning from the house. Unspoken water is used in various ways as a most powerful charm by the superstitious for healing the sick.

Superstitions aside, there are actually a lot to be said about not speaking, or not speaking at the right time. Spoken words often do not assume the same meaning between the speaker and the listener. Words are often spoken in haste and regretted at leisure. There is a well known Chinese saying that a spoken word can build up or destroy a nation. The need to use spoken words with the utmost care at times perhaps can never be over emphasized.

I remember a very dear colleague who retired shortly after I joined the Administration. He was always very polite on the phone and had excellent telephone manners. Too bad I could not learn anything from him. This colleague would never commit himself on the phone and would always ask the other side to put their requests in writing. I used to laugh at his bureaucratic style and reminded him that as public servants we should be proactive and so on. In reply, he said that people were not homogenous. He went on to say that people were very forgetful when they chose to be, and worse, their memories were often selective.

As a young man and a rather impatient one, I found his wisdom too unfathomable and I never gave too much thought to what he said at the time. Looking back, maybe he was simply trying to tell me the superiority of written words over spoken words, or the need to be careful with spoken words.

There are things that one picks up and leaves behind along the way in one’s life, some knowingly, some by reflex, but mostly unknowingly. By mid life, one is oft left with two things, memories and experiences. I was running through past messages searching for what a dear friend said of me not long ago about one of my many shortcomings, I stumbled onto one forwarded to me by a friend from his friend. It is about 17 things that had taken the writer 50 years to learn. Whoever he may be, I think he would not mind me sharing them with you, and here they are.


1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings”.

3. There is a very fine line between “hobby” and “mental illness”.

4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

5. When God, who created the entire universe with all of its glories, decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

6. You should not confuse your career with your life.

7. No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

8. When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

9. Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.

10. Never lick a steak knife.

11. Take out the fortune before you eat the cookie.

12. The most powerful force in the universe is gossip.

13. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time.

14. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

15. The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to annoy people who are not in them.

16. A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is NOT a nice person.

17. Your friends love you, anyway.

Well, how do you like the 17 things? Next time, I might give you the 21 success secrets I mentioned some weeks ago. Actually, as long as one learns item number 17, one should be content and be sleeping well every night.

It suddenly dawns on me that I have yet to mention the word “Rotary” after nearly two pages of gibberish, albeit not all original. Let me share with you the latest hot news from Rotary International. Rotary News announced on 11 September 2000 the nomination of Bhichai Rattakul as President-nominee, RI for 2002-03.

Bhichai Rattakul is a member of Rotary Club of Dhonburi, Bangkok, Thailand. He was RI Director from 1990 to 1992 and a Trustee of The Rotary Foundation from 1985 to 1986. He served as a member of Parliament of Thailand for nine terms. He was leader of the Democratic Party, foreign minister in 1975-76, deputy prime minister for 10 years, and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Bhichai Rattakul is a good friend of Hong Kong and a personal friend of many past governors in the District. He has a distinguished Rotary career since he joined as a charter member of his club in 1958 and is now a member of the 2000-01 Diplomatic Relations Task Force.

He has received many awards and decorations from the Their Majesties, The King of Thailand and the Emperor of Japan and the presidents of the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Austria, and Nicaragua. He has led many Thai delegations to the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Rattakul has received The Rotary Foundation’s Distinguished Service Award and Citation for Meritorious Service for his support of its international humanitarian and educational program. For other details, go to the RI website.

Talk to you soon.

John Wan

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