Alas the eye that closes for sleep, when it should remain awake and vigilant.
vahi ayhn ahchkeen vor guhlah koun, meenchtehr muhnahl behdkeh ahrtoun
Also it is said, “Alas the mouth that speaks instead of remaining silent.”
(Vahi ahyn pehrneen vor luhrehlou degh guh khohsee)
Don’t place your living head under the Bible
voghchuh keloughut ahvedaraanee duhg mee tuhneer
Literally this proverb says “Don’t place your living head under the Bible.”
It means “Don’t put your life in harm’s way” or more exactly “Be careful of adventurous or risky endeavors.”
Before you enter, think how you will get out
Ners mudnelen ararch mudadzeh yellalhut
This is a shrewd proverb that teaches us to carefully consider all possibilities before entering into a situation or obligation whatever it may be. An exit policy must be part of any plan.
There was once a monkey who was dying of thirst. He found a pristine lake and began to approach it. He noticed something strange about the lake. There were many footprints entering the lake, but no footprints exiting the lake. Although he was dying of thirst, he quickly ran back and hid in a tree.
After some time a giant monster rose out of the lake and spoke to the monkey, “You are the wisest animal in the whole jungle. How did you understand that I was waiting to kill you?” The Monkey was frightened out of its wits, but managed to answer: “I saw many footprints entering the lake, but none leaving.”
Similarly in life there are many situations where people enter with such great expectations that they forget to consider what they will do if the experience is unpleasant. There is an English proverb that says, “Trust no future, however bright.” Therefore, “Before you enter, think how you will get out.”
Don’t stretch your foot beyond your blanket.
Vodked vermugit chup yergantzour
There was once an evil king who thought of novel ways to kill his subjects. He devised a diabolical plan to kill all the carpenters in his kingdom. A royal announcement was made that the king desired to have a perfect bed that fit his body length, not too long and not too short. He issued a caveat that if the bed was not the right size he would execute the carpenter. The king sent invitations to carpenters to come and make the measurements.
Many carpenters came and measured. When they presented the bed to the king, he would lie down and get under the blanket and purposely stick his foot out by stretching it beyond it. He very cruelly would execute the carpenters one by one. There was a young carpenter who was respectful of his father and cared for him in his old age. This carpenter received a summons from the king to appear in the palace to make measurements for a bed. He became morose for several days before his court appearance. After returning from the palace with the measurements his father finally asked him what was troubling him. The boy reluctantly told his father about the evil king’s plan to kill him.
The father smiled and said, “My dear son, you have always been respectful to me. Even though I am old and sick, you have faithfully cared for me. It is my duty to help you.” The boy said, “Father how can you help me when so many other carpenters have been killed by the king. He purposely sticks his foot out and claims the bed is not made to the right dimensions.”
His father reassured him that he could easily protect his son. He asked the boy to find a branch of a tree about two feet long and one inch in diameter. He instructed him to shave off the bark and sand it smooth. The father told his son, “When the king sticks his foot out smack his foot with the stick and shout out this old Armenian proverb. The boy followed his father’s advice. When the king stuck his foot out with an evil smile, the boy struck his foot with his stick and shouted, “Vermugit chup vodkhed yergantzour – “Don’t stretch your foot beyond your blanket.”
The king was shocked and chagrined. He jumped out of the bed and asked the boy, “Who taught you this saying? Do you, by chance, have a father or elder who you respect? Did he teach you this?”
The boy explained that his father instructed him. The king summoned the father and congratulated him. “You have trained your boy very astutely. I see that he is very respectful to you and follows your advice faithfully. I shall reward you and your loyal son handsomely for such good behavior.” The father saved his faithful son with good advice, although the situation seemed hopeless. Rather than being killed, the boy was rewarded. (As the father and mother, so the children)
When children are trained to be respectful of their parents and elders, they are blessed with practical knowledge of life and survival in this world. Respect for parents naturally evolves to respect for elders, teachers and ultimately God.
There is another sense to this proverb that my Uncle Kevork used. Don’t stretch your foot beyond your blanket also is a statement of recognizing your limits in life. My Uncle Kevork always chose the path of discretion and moderation in life. He never tried to extend himself beyond his natural limits. He always fixed his attention on achieving what was attainable to his abilities without unrealistically stretching himself beyond such limits. This is in contrast to “Aim for the moon, and jump over the fence.”
Uncle Kevork once lost three hundred dollars speculating on stocks in the 1930s. He never invested in stocks again. (Khelkis chi bargeerah -
It doesn’t sleep well in my mind) However, he invested in US Government bonds. Vermugit chup vodked yergantzour. He decided never to stretch himself beyond the comfort zone of US Government-backed bonds. He developed wealth over the years my prudence and discipline.