Pepys Diary 8th May 1664 :
(Lord’s day). ..then Deane and I to my chamber, and there we repeated my yesterday’s lesson about ships all the morning, and I hope I shall soon understand it. At noon to dinner, and strange how in discourse he cries up chymistry from some talk he has had with an acquaintance of his, a chymist, (chemist) when, poor man, he understands not one word of it. But I discern very well that it is only his good nature, but in this of building ships he hath taken great pains, more than most builders I believe have.
After dinner he went away, and my wife and I to church, and after church to Sir W. Pen, and there sat and talked with him, and the perfidious rogue seems, as he do always, mightily civil to us, though I know he hates and envies us. So home to supper, prayers, and to bed.
It is clear that Pepys struggles to understand the technicalities of ship construction, which clearly frustrates him. He says “I hope I shall soon understand it”. There is nothing wrong with asking people to repeat what they have said. Far worse than saying you understand for ‘politeness’. The brain takes time to rearrange itself for new types of information. It is not a sign of lack of intelligence but perhaps a lack of preparedness.
I get the impression that in the age before social media, the Internet and other instant means of so-called communication, a personal reputation is to be guarded and treasured. Sir William Penn in spite of his lofty position in society was clearly the victim of his own past actions. I love the sound of the word ‘perfidy’. It’s almost dripping with horror. Just to remind you of what it means, it is a deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery. So here we have Samuel Pepys talking jovially to someone he doesn’t trust as far as he can throw him, as we say in modern parlance. I’m sure there’s a much more colourful phrase that was used in the 17th century but I have no access to it at the moment.
How do we proceed with people we do not trust especially if we have to do business with them. We must not make the mistake of assuming that others are as honest as we presumably are. People are on the lookout for any useful information they can use to their own advantage. So, in matters of business, it is probably best when looking forward to keep your mouth shut unless the person has a good track record. I recall reading about a number of ideas that were stolen because the inventor, in an early and enthusiastic stance, spoke too freely.
Roy Plunkett invented the nonstick pan 1948 using the famous Teflon was offered $500 on the grounds by his employer Du Pont. Quite a decent amount in those days but a bargain for the company no less.
Gordon Gould was a graduate student at Columbia University when in 1957 he developed the first practical method for creating a laser and coined the acronym LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Unfortunately, Gould wrongly believed that he needed to create a working model before he could patent the device. This resulted in him failing to stake a claim on his invention until 1959, by which time colleagues from the same laboratory had already filed patents for the laser. It took him 30 years to claim his rights to ownership.
Most of us gossip to other people over the garden fence, or in the immediate neighbourhood. Many years ago someone gave me some good advice which I do not always hold to. Is it true? Is it loving? Is it necessary? The problem is that if people hear you gossiping about others, they may think you are the sort of person that will gossip about them once their back is turned. In a small town or village, this is not a trait that you would like to be associated with and means that people will think twice before confiding you about a personal problem.
There is also a slight problem with the Brits. vs. say Dutch people. Can we detect what the English person is thinking?
“The Dutch are friendly, but crudely direct and outspoken, which is a mixed blessing. Some people love it, some people hate it. The Dutch are loud and may be imposing. In contrast, in the UK people are very polite and mindful of the feelings of others, which is a relief in one way, but it also means it’s impossible to figure out what they think of you and they’re always anxious about embarrassment” From Quiora.com
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say “I wish I had listened to my intuition”. If we are about to say or do something we have a gut feeling that we should not proceed but we ignore it normally because of our needs.
Sometimes, I meet someone who I know has a questionable reputation. In this case it may be a good idea to give them the benefit of the doubt if they are being reasonably polite to you or even if they are not. Just suppose they are trying to turn over a new leaf. You don’t know. Why not treat them as if they were trustworthy? Appeal to the good in them even though it may be buried deep down in the psychology, and you never know what might happen. We cannot harm others with our thoughts without harming ourselves, the dreaded ‘instant karma’. That may sound a bit ‘preachy’ but there is no other way of saying it.
You probably don’t know that I am secretary of the local Allotment Association. I was delighted to offer a vacant plot to a very deserving lady from Poland who had been living in the area since 2005 but had not been able to find a space which she could call her own and plant Polish type vegetables as well as the standard beans, potatoes etc. I made contact with her at 12.30 today and by 4:30 PM she signed the lease and happily went off to buy some tools. She described the event as a ‘gift from heaven’ and is looking forward to involving her children in cultivating crops. I believe this small unpretentious plot of land will make a huge difference to the family living as they do in a flat.