Australian General Semantics Society Inc.





Saturday 16th March 2019
Martin Levinson's "Practical Fairy Tales for Everyday Living"

A fairy tale is a fictitious, highly fanciful story.
Can such a narrative furnish pragmatic advice on important topics
like sound thinking, overcoming indecisiveness, stress reduction,
emotional self-menagement and getting along better with others?
Marty Levinson shows that it can.
Let's see how it's done!

Presented by Robert James.

Our Seminar:
was graciously hosted at Gav & Pauline's beautiful Towradgi home - Thank you both!

Catching Up
Sharing of triumphs and tragedies and miscellaneous yarns.

GS Diary
In the spirit of "applying general semantics principles" to our lives, as opposed to dwelling in theory, we considered members' accounts of observations and applications relating to the principles and formulations of our discipline.

1. Homework:

We had a nice three-fold exercise for consideration, in preparation for this event:

a. Write a TRUE story (a sentence or longer) of how you you have applied one or more principles of general semantics “successfully”, ie with some beneficial outcome!

b. Write a TRUE story of how an un-beneficial event in your life could perhaps have been improved by your better application of general semantics principles.
Please relate this to your decision-making and behaviour, ie not a judgement / criticism / complaint about someone-else’s behaviour!

c. Write a FANCIFUL / IMAGINARY story, nay a “FAIRY TALE” about how the application of general semantics “saved the day”.

Note: These literary masterpieces/claims/secret confessions are for sharing on Saturday, but will not be published on the AGS website (or elsewhere) without your specific consent  :-)

This assignment produced some wonderfully creative responses, which are not available for publication at this stage, but which generated some real interest in following-up.  So there may be some particulalry juicy AGS fairy tales available for publication before long.


2.Fairy Tales - Introductory Thoughts:

We studied some materials on the origin, development and significance of fairytales, and why we can maintain an interest in them over the generations.

We remembered the general semantics caution about "the ís of identity", saying something like "Fairytales are ... such-and-such ... ", but how we could still identfy some of their typical attributes.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term “fairy tale” as a fictitious, highly fanciful story or explanation.

There is lots of material on this, but we looked in particular at this one:

3. Fairy Tales in the Service of General Semantics:

Our Robert James was most fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Dr Martin Levinson and many others, at the   Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture in New York City, USA, in October 2012.  He brought back a copy of Martin's first edition "Practical Fairy Tales for Everyday Living" which was of great interest. 

Martin H. Levinson brings over 40 years of experience in general semantics, counseling, administration, and education, to his teaching, writing, and international consulting work. He worked in the field of drug prevention for 35 years and has taught many college courses in diverse areas. He is president of the Institute of General Semantics and book editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics, and is the author of nine previous books. He holds a PhD from NYU.

Martin kindly supplied us with a copy of the 2018 Second Edition recently, so we thought that it deserved a focus at our Sydney Seminar in March 2019.

               *** * ***

In the Introduction, Martin says:
Can [the fairy tale] narrative furnish useful advice on important topics like sound thinking, smart decision-making, stress reduction, emotional self-management, and getting along better with others? This book answers in the affirmative.​

Practical Fairy Tales for Everyday Living provides twenty-four whimsical stories featuring characters who successfully battle a variety of personal problems and mishaps through the formulations of general semantics (GS), a science-based “self-help” system designed to assist individuals to better evaluate and solve everyday difficulties and gain a more accurate picture of themselves and the world in which they live.1 While the stories are not true in the literal sense of that word, the British writer G.K. Chesterton observed, “Fairy tales are more than true—not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”​

Some of the stories you will find here contain plot elements from familiar literary classics and children’s fairy tales. Others offer completely original scenarios. All the stories have in common a desire to inform and entertain with a bit of humor. That was my purpose in writing these tales and I hope that is your experience in reading them.​
               *** * ***
We saw Martin discussing his new edition of the book and reading a couple of the stories on his YouTube presentation, which brought the gentleman and his work wonderfully to life for us across the globe.

               *** * ***
We considered several of the 24 stories in detail, admiring the entertaining presentation, engaging language, and the important general semantics principle in each.  For example, from the first little story relating to beaver dam-building, we heard that "Alfred Korzybski, the originator of general semantics, said humans are a time-binding class of life. Time-binders use language and other symbols to transmit information across time, which enables each generation to start where the last one left off. He labeled animals a space-binding class of life. Space-binders transform energy into movement through space. Space-binders can’t convey information over time because they lack language and other forms of communication ... ".

The applicable lessons from each of these stories were pretty familiar ​to us "seasoned general semanticists", but the Levinson fairy tales brought them to life in an attractive, engaging fashion that was rather new for us.

               *** * ***

The Contents of Practical Fairy Tales for Everyday Living
provides a glimpse of, yes, "The Contents":

 Preface to the Second Edition

 1. Bucky the Time-Binding Beaver: Human progress comes from knowledge passed across generations.

 2. Lear with a Schmear: To avoid being fooled, check the map against the territory.

 3. Cindy and the Dating Life: Change is inevitable.

 4. Amanda and the Good-Looking Plumber: Acting on inferences can be risky.

 5. Who’s the Smartest One of All: No two things are identical.

 6. The Wisdom of Delay: Delayed reactions in situations are usually a smart idea.

 7. Einstein and Elmer the Elementalist: Causation is typically multifaceted

 8. A Know-It-All’s Transformation: No one can know all about anything.

 9. Frieda and the IFD Disease: Setting impossible goals can result in frustration and despair.

 10. Sam and the Strange Bird: The scientific method can help us to solve problems of everyday living.

 11. The Wizard of “Is”: The word is can lead people to confuse opinions with facts.

 12. The Tale of the Greedy Wisher: Words cannot completely describe anything.

 13. Flo Wright and the Merry Dwarf: In life, uncertainty is the norm.

 14. A Royal Revelation: Consequences follow assumptions.

 15. Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Realistic goals + hard work = happiness.

 16. Charlie and the Reality Fairy: To better know reality, focus on the details.

 17. Professor Postman Brings Home the Bacon: Ill-chosen words can harm healthy relationships.

 18. The Meaning of Words: Strictly speaking, words don’t mean, people do.

 19. All That Jazz: Negative self-thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

 20. Alfred’s Reality Map: There is more to your world than you think.

 21. Nathan’s Nebulous Questions: For success, ask questions that involve taking constructive action.

 22. The Way to San Jose: Difference is part of the human condition.

 23. Faith in Frankland: When it comes to effective human relations, small talk can be big

 24. Debbie’s Extraterrestrial Adventure: To not be bored, treat the familiar as unfamiliar.

               *** * ***

We certainly recommend Martin's book as a fresh new approach to the challenge of presenting general semantics anew. 

                 *** * ***

Have a look at Martin Levinson's website and blog (amazing archives!)

"Practical Fairy tales for Everyday Living"
can be purchased from the Institute for General Semantics, New York.


Next meeting:
Saturday 25th May
"How Lose Weight and Keep it Off!"

While many people can lose some weight,
about 95% of people put it back on again. 
About 50% gain even more weight.
We will look at this process, from a scientific viewpoint,
and discuss some solutions to this problem. 
Presented by the trim, taught and terrific Mr David Hewson.

Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.



Updated by Robert James
19 March 2019

For details of our discussion meetings and seminars, locations and membership, Contact AGS