Chiro-Picker’s Fresh Pick — Another Look at BJ’s Epigrams: the writing behind the writing

Updated Picker Imageby  Todd Waters, aka “The Chiro-Picker” – SpinalColumnRadio featured blogger

As we were wrapping up production on our “Epigram Show” (Spinal Column Radio 169) the Chiropicker filed this article with some additional information to share regarding BJ’s Epigrams.  It’s funny how things work out, because much of what he found was information that I was finding out as the show was coming together.  The great thing is that not only do his findings further strengthen my own, but we both bring to the table additional information that supplement one another’s. — TL

Elbert Hubbard

BJ Palmer’s mentor and friend, Elbert Hubbard — American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher

If “Nothing succeeds like Success” then Elbert Hubbard was the ideal candidate for BJ’s imitation. 

Hubbard owned Roycrofters, a fine maker of furniture and books. Each creation was a work of art. Roycrofter books were made of hand-cut paper and were renown for their wonderful artwork. Hubbard was a philosopher and authored many of the books himself. One in particular “A Message to Garcia” was a favorite of BJ’s who made it required reading of all his employees.

Another book published by Hubbard was entitled “Mottos: Being a Collection of Epigrams.” This book was a collection of cleaver quotations selected and penned by Hubbard.  A quick thumbing of the book reveals some oft-quoted BJ sayings such as “I love you because you love the things I love.” BJ changed the wording of this to reflect him and his Innate:

“We love you because you love the things we love.”

Another Hubbard Epigram read: “The love you liberate in your work is the only love you keep.”  BJ simplified this to:

“The love you give away is the love you keep.”

BJ loved HAs a Man Thinkethubbard-style quotations so much he had the epigrams painted on the walls all throughout the Palmer School.  One could not help but take notice and perhaps learn from them.  That was the idea.

In 1923 BJ published a book that collected all the epigram quotations entitled “As a Man Thinketh.”  It is perhaps from this book of collected sayings, published by Palmer, that we incorrectly assume he wrote each.  It is now apparent that he borrowed many of the quotations and put his own spin on them.

Hubbard, who died in 1915 from the sinking of the Lusitania ship, wouldn’t mind though.  He would smile, knowing that because of BJ’s knack of marketing BIG IDEAS, his words would be kept alive.

‘Til next time.  — CP

P.S. Check out my other Epigram article that tells the story of their resurrection at Palmer Davenport.

The DC Angle:

Thomas Lamar, DC

“Deliver Your Message to Garcia”

Deliver Your Message to GarciaI must admit, it is a bit ironic that I’ve now authored two “DC Angles” in a row that talk about writing on the bathroom wall — but I guess things could be stranger.

There was a time that I too assumed BJ’s epigrams were attributed to him — and, indeed, some were. But, as I started studying them, and especially as our Epigram Show (SCR 169) started to “build itself” (all my shows tend to do this, I just guide them), it became very apparent to me that MANY of BJ’s epigrams were not his.  But in a way they were.  …Because, as Todd correctly pointed out: “It is now apparent that he borrowed many of the quotations and put his own spin on them.” (emphasis mine)

Largely because of his involvement with Radio, BJ was very much into, and became very skilled at, stripping down sentences and phrases to reveal their very essence, eliminating surplus words —”goat feathers” as he called them. This was not only necessary from an economical standpoint (words cost money in Radio), but rewriting allowed for, as he explained in Radio Salesmanship, “boiling essence of thot and expression.” He was also into “positivizing” copy — cutting out negatives. This practice of goat-feather-editing while avoiding negatives was something he became very good at — not mention proud of. He offered his services to radio stations world-wide to revise, brief, and positivize their sales copy.

Indeed, even upon his walls, he showed off his editing prowess in action. The well-known phrase of the day (I found it printed in a 1910 Egg Reporter):

“Don’t let a little reverse trouble you.  Remember, a worm is the only thing that can’t fall down.”

…took its place among the many other epigrams at the PSC after undergoing BJ’s special revision process:

Don’t let a little Do reverses trouble you?  Remember, A worm is the only thing that can’t fall down.

So, in a sense, BJ collected quotes — as any of us would — that rang true in his heart and mind. The difference was that he would boil down their “essence of thot and expression” by revising them — making them his own — and then would display them for all to see.  These epigrams represented fundamental principles that described his character — or the character he ascribed to attain.  Ultimately, they worked to define him.

Why these epigrams?

What is before you, is seen.
What is being seen, is read.
What is being read, is thot.
What is being thot, is acted.

What is acted, is YOU.

— BJ Palmer
As a Man Thinketh

So what’s with the epigram “Deliver Your Message to Garcia”?

When I first read this epigram it seemed obscure and cryptic, like “The Crow Flies at Midnight.”

What “message” was he talking about, and who the heck was Garcia???

…And yet, knowing BJ’s obtuse humor, it also seemed perfectly “BJ.” After all it was scribed above the toilet in his employee bathroom. But something within me wasn’t satisfied with its apparent nonsensical nature.

I wanted to understand its significance. I wanted to know more.

Googling the epigram with quotations around it returned just a handful of results — all using the phrase in a way that was no more helpful to me than the way BJ was using it.  What intrigued me, however, was the result for a 1908 senior class year book from Stevens Point State Normal School (pg 136 on the pdf). On a page entitled “By These Words Ye Shall Know Them” was a listing of oft-used phrases these college-aged adults would be remembered for uttering — and among them was (you guessed it) “Deliver Your Message to Garcia.”

Another result I pursued on that list was a newspaper article from 1932 talking about forest fires and cigarettes.  In the article it said to “never permit a cigarette to deliver your message to Garcia.”  What???

I then Googled the Garcia phrase to include “cigarette” and was lead to a pipe smokers’ forum where they were touting the virtues of pipe smoke over ciggy.  And then beneath the haze I saw it. In the signature line of one of the postings was a quote extracted out of a literary piece stating, “Carrying a message to Garcia” with the citation: “A Message to Garcia” … authored by, none other than, Elbert Hubbard!!!

My jaw dropped to the floor. It wasn’t long until I had found and was reading the full-text of this amazing essay penned in 1899 by BJ Palmer’s mentor.

What was it that inspired, not only BJ, but a nation — if not the world — to adopt this allusion: “Deliver Your Message to Garcia”?

Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher — and we know, friend and mentor to BJ. He would chalk the popularity of his “A Message to Garcia” — over 40 million sold with translations in all written languages — to a “series of lucky accidents.” It was written nearly 115 years ago in an hour’s time following dinner one evening.  Hubbard described it as a “literary trifle” meant to act as filler for his Philistine magazine as they readied the press for the latest edition.

But when orders for reprints of the March mag began streaming in — a dozen, fifty, a hundred, then a thousand — all because of the “stuff about Garcia,” Hubbard knew he had underestimated his “literary trifle.”  Perhaps it was the telegram from New York Central Railroad requesting 100,000 copies that convinced Hubbard that the essay needed a title. No matter though, because it was the meaning behind the inspiring story that people were connecting with — a story that became a seemingly overnight success imprinting its “message” upon American popular, business, and military culture for decades to come.

Hubbard’s story told of an obscure but important event surrounding the 1898 Spanish-American War.  With tensions mounting between the United States and Spain (which ruled Cuba at the time), President McKinley saw strategic value in establishing rapport with Cuban rebels should war with Spain ensue. Communication needed to be established posthaste. As such, McKinley called for someone to quickly deliver a message to Insurgent General Garcia whose post was somewhere deep in the jungled mountains of the foreign land. Captain Andrew Rowan was recommended for the task: “…Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.” And so the Commander-in-Chief of our powerful nation handed this army officer a letter with instruction for it to be “delivered to Garcia.”

“How ‘the fellow by name of Rowan’ took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, ‘Where is he at?’

“By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the thing – ‘carry a message to Garcia!’”

The message this literary classic “delivered” over a century ago, more than ever, still rings true today.  In a world where  “slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule,” we need “Rowans” that are willing to stand up and take the initiative, to “Just Do It!” and “Git-R-Done!” with loyalty to themselves, their bosses, and their organizations.

In fact, as our ChiroPicker tells, “A Message to Garcia” was required reading for all of Palmer’s employees — likely because it was from Hubbard …but also likely because of the inspirational lesson it told of the “indomitable pluck,” as the publisher editorialized, “of a young American who was determined to do his duty.”

And so as Palmer’s employees invariably found themselves taking time out in the lavatory each and everyday, there before them, inscribed on the wall, was the message to “do the thing“:

To “do the thing” to perpetuate in their students the principle and practice of chiropractic “unadulterated and unmixed.”

To “do the thing” to teach their students to “better serve mankind,” “relieving suffering and adding millions of years to lives of millions.”

To “do the thing” to implore their students to “guard well,” “the sacred trust placed in their possession.”

To “do the thing” — “DELIVER YOUR MESSAGE TO GARCIA.”-– TL

Dr. Thomas Lamar  loves chiropracTIC and its associated history.  He “Delivers him message to Garcia” as he podcasts, with the assistance of his audio-engineer son, Logan, on SpinalColumnRadio.com from his home studio in Kingston, WA; and practices chiropractic in Kingston with an emphasis on family wellness.

PS. Tune in to SCR 169 to hear Dr. Lamar read the essay that inspired BJ’s bathroom wall writing.
PPS. Read the Goat-Feather-Plucked version of the Message Above the Toilet at SpinalColumnBlog.com.

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