“If it’s in quotation marks, it means it has to be true, and that somebody very important must have said it.” ~ some important person
How often do we see posted on social media some banal remark or statement, seldom original, but presumed to be significant, that is immediately followed by comments saying: “So true…yes, absolutely true…I agree…OMG, I’m sharing this one…”, and so forth, when in fact you have your doubts about it being true at all? What is it about putting quotation marks around a phrase or sentence that would make them any more believable? The only thing that makes a statement any truer would be…bold type?
Things Mark Twain said have become important to me, and especially so during the last four decades, as I’ve been expected to be able to repeat them. From time to time, I’ve gone even further with that responsibility by adding things he never said at all, but only attributed to him in error. Recently, a friend mentioned a quote of this nature, and asked me who said it. After realizing those same words had appeared in the text of a speech I’d given as Twain himself only to find out later the inaccuracy of it was a huge mistake, I said to my friend: “I did.”
Do you ever get the impression that believability is more the intent of using the quotation marks than it is to give credit to the source? And when credit is given, although often not factual, is the name used just intended to give the platitude some authority? Another thing that helps people to believe almost anything is to attach a photograph of a celebrity, even though that celebrity did not say, or have anything else whatsoever to do with the quote. While it’s a good idea not to believe everything you see on the internet, Abraham Lincoln never declared it to be unwise, and neither did Thomas Jefferson. And it is also correct not to give either credit for saying:
“Haste Makes Waste.”
I’ve seen it attributed to John Ray, Benjamin Franklin, and Sinclair Lewis, but I think it is much older. It could’ve been something Noah was saying to the animals he noticed eating their rations too quickly. However good of a caution it might be for those who tend to be careless, it can be tragic if taken too seriously by firemen, ambulance drivers, and athletes in most sporting events.
The frequency of hijacking names and images of celebrities is that sometimes the quotes would not have any impact if only you or I said them. In fact, if I said some of them that are circulating right now, you would be able to see through it right away. And the point is to not have you see through it. So, if the intent is to motivate the masses, they will use a popular figure. And if the intent is to draw disfavor, they use a despicable one. For example, Niccolo Machiavelli never said:
“The ends justify the means.”
What he actually said was: “One must consider the final result.” I think it reasonable to want to predict the outcome, or to “look before you leap”, so to speak. But to add justification for anything believing the end result might be to your benefit, is perhaps the root of all bandit decisions.
I’m sure you’ve noticed some of these fake postings want to encourage some ideology or other, occasionally including something intended to sound like highly moral instruction. But most seem to hover around religion and politics, as well as other kinds of things that might be considered inappropriate at the dinner table. The reason for such taboos may have to do with the difficulty of getting anyone to pass the biscuits around due to concerns about who among those seated might be worthy of having one. Some of you would have starved to death years ago, were it not for this measure of etiquette.
Now, not all of these fake quotes and misguided philosophies are so full of deceptive intent, nor are they all mean-spirited. Some are just incomplete, and the person posting it is unaware of what might be missing, such as the logic of it that might benefit a sane person. Some are not intending to mislead anybody, but instead are meant to comfort all who might read it. But even that does not guarantee their validity. for example (I’ve said it myself):
“Time heals all wounds.”
It is reasonable to notice some wounds do heal over time, and to the extent that the harm or hurt originally felt by the wound is no longer a problem. But that time would heal all wounds is not true. In fact, scientists in the sub-discipline of anthropology that deals exclusively with mummies have found empirical evidence that would suggest this isn’t true, or at least is not true all the time. As a youth, I broke a few bones. They healed for a while, but now that I’m getting older, time is no longer a benefit, as they all seem to get more aggravating as the years roll by. I think it better to say:
“Wounds that heal usually take time to do so.” and, “Old wounds that have completely healed hurt a lot less than they did at first, until you get old.”
Or, we could say: “Time wounds all heels,” but it doesn’t. And because some wounds do seem to heal in time, a corollary that’s right up there with it is:
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
Oh, really? Well, no. Some injuries and diseases can leave a person forever weaker than they would have been otherwise. And weaker is not the same as stronger, or at least it wasn’t back at Park Hills Elementary School. No, I think there are much better ways to build up strength than just surviving a close call with the Grim Reaper.
But this does not mean we cannot rise above some adversities. In many cases, we can become aware of, or even develop a new passion that leads to our attempting things we would never have thought about trying before. Yes, we can learn from trauma, but not everybody learns something positive from it every time. Living through a collision with a train does not in and of itself improve your chances of future survivals if you continue a habit of running into trains. But even if the statement were some kind of axiom, what else would we learn from it?
“What makes you stronger won’t kill you?” “What does kill you will not make you stronger, and could even weaken you?” “What makes you weaker could be hazardous to your health?” “Is any of this the secret behind Superman’s amazing strength?”
Maybe it would just be better if we were to say:
“What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you.” and,
“What makes you stronger, makes you stronger.” or,
“Hey! Watch me cook on that stove without setting my clothes on fire this time!”
In a world where we are effected by experiences determined by strengths and weaknesses, we learn to temper our impulses. If a seasoned lioness detects a herd of gazelles, she instinctively knows not to run after the first gazelle she sees, but looks to see which one will most likely result in a successful kill. It is natural for her to use strengths and abilities to take advantage of some recognized weakness. And as she moves to improve her position, she has learned that the hunger she feels will best be served if she doesn’t leap out prematurely. So, from that, and from other lessons, we’ve been taught to accept that:
“Good things come to those who wait.”
I’ve known some waiters that said they got good tips. So, sometimes good things do come to those who wait. But when they do, the cause of it may not always have anything to do with the act of being patient. If “those who wait” were the genuine target of good things, you’d expect them to occur more frequently at bus stops, wouldn’t you? That being the case, we could substitute “Buses” for “Good things”, and it should read:
“Buses come to those who wait at the proper bus stop, and have arrived in a timely manner according to the bus schedule, assuming the bus does not break down or become delayed for some other reason.”
More often than not, I suspect a lot of good things happen because folks took action to make them happen. Perhaps it would be better to say some things of value evade those with the character flaw defined as the inability to postpone gratification. That’s why baited traps work. But even that is not always true. Some decisions made in haste do not result in waste: impulses fueled with adrenalin have often saved lives. That being said, good things, then, can also come to those who hurry up a little bit, too.
Often, the encouragement to expect something good if we wait for it comes on the heels of a disappointment. When young couples break up, one or the other might expect to hear: “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” And there may be, but it’s still a good idea to use the right kind of bait and hook, or at least have a good net if you want to catch one.
Patience may be a virtue, but let’s not confuse it with procrastination. We might wait for a good thing, but it is possible to do so beyond the point of diminishing return. That was a point made of Ebenezer Scrooge’s postponing a commitment to the girl that would have been the love of his life to a time when the window of opportunity was not just closed, it was boarded up. So, might it be more honest of us to declare:
“Things happen; some good, and others not so good. They happen while we are doing things, and also while we are just waiting to see what will happen next. And whether it be good or bad, will not be necessarily improved or even determined by the time spent waiting for it to happen.”
While some are on standby in anticipation of a good thing happening along, others accept the call to do quite the opposite, and:
“Strike while the iron is hot.”
In fairness, the intent of that one is to urge us to recognize when an opportunity has reached its greatest potential, and to take advantage of it right then. It’s an old proverb. Some think it was something cowboys said while branding cattle, but that’s not true. Instead, it comes from the idea of a blacksmith working at his forge. If you’re shaping horseshoes, that may be wise. And even so if you’re pounding a piece of steel into the shape of a sword or an ax. But if you want to cut down a tree with that ax, you might wanna let it cool off a bit before striking the tree with it. So can we mix this proverb with the one before it to get some kind of double wisdom out of it?
“Strike while the iron is hot…as long as you wait for the good stuff.”
No, that doesn’t make any sense. I suppose if your business with the iron is some pressing matter, you’ll want to make sure it’s plugged in properly, or if not an electric one, has had ample time on the stove to be ready for service. And for goodness sakes (after all, what are we waiting for?) don’t be late, because:
“The Early Bird Gets The Worm.”
A thing to keep in mind, is that today, competitive compensation packages often include a lot more enticements than worms, and that is true for all kinds of creatures, not just birds. The early cheetah may get the impala, but the hyenas that show up a few minutes later might take it away from her.
I’m not suggesting you not come in early and get started. There are lots of sensible reinforcements for being prompt. I’ve never used them personally, but I’m sure they are out there. Just remember that while Benjamin Franklin was noted for saying: “Early to bed and early to rise…”, he found himself doing business in a French court that got started about mid-day, and carried their business into the wee hours. But if we scroll through our list of platitudes and proverbs with hammer and nails to connect them all together, we might find some weaknesses in our structure:
“The early bird might get the worm, but not necessarily the good worms. Those come to the more patient birds; the ones who wait. Now, the early worms can make you strong if they don’t kill you later. But even if they do, you’ll get over it…in time”
Then comes the promises we’ve made to ourselves and others that there will be some additional leverage to be expected quite above and beyond nature itself, if our intent is selfish enough. For, you see:
“God helps those who help themselves.”
Seems I’ve read somewhere that over 80% of the American people surveyed in one study actually believed this to be a quote from The Bible, although it isn’t. In a conversation I had on that very subject recently, a man did tell me he thought that “…it used to be”, which I found…interesting. Perhaps there was some misunderstanding, and that it should have said: “God helps those who help others?” If that had been the saying, you might be able to find some liturgy to support it.
Observations of the activities leading up to the arrest of some criminals, who “helped themselves” to other people’s property, found no evidence the Deity was cooperating with, or having any complicity to their crimes. This could of course be argued by those who do not believe in free will, but if we’re going after that can of worms, we’ll need a much bigger bird, or at least a bigger can opener than the one I brought with me here, no matter how early we start. But please keep in mind many books have been written giving various deities credit for saying this or that, on the presumption that their authority will carry some weight with those who listen.
But the encouragement to take the initiative in anticipation of help from outside our own strength, is often in harness with another saying that urges us to think positively, and not be held back by the fear of failure. I support that kind of encouragement and for having a positive attitude, as long as it is used with an awareness of what is attainable, and is also realistic. Now, here is an actual quote:
“When there is harmony between mind, heart and resolution, then nothing is impossible.” ~ Ritu Ghatourey
I think it may be a bit unfair to the laws of physics and chemistry to say “nothing is impossible”, unless you are of the opinion alchemists gave up to soon on the prospects of turning lead into gold. But in matters of human endeavors:
“Impossible is a concept. It cannot exist in you as an idea unless you believe something to be impossible. While it may be impossibility in fact, it will not be the fact, but the thinking it is that will keep you from trying.” ~ (things I’ve said before)
More commonly, you more likely have heard people say:
“You can do anything you put your mind to.”
That may be true if you’re very sleepy, and put your mind to a nice enough pillow intending to go to sleep. Still, I would add there are some points that have to be qualified. One of them is that you have to have the ability to do what is required. You can stand on the top of a skyscraper putting your whole mind into believing you can fly like a bird. And with only the use of your naked body, you might jump and flap your arms, but you would be acting on what I believe would be a delusional concept. But if you scramble around, I’m sure you can find a quote to justify your thinking:
“Might as well jump. Jump! Go ahead, jump. Jump! ” ~ Van Halen
The prospects of the results of such an action may be less than satisfactory. I’m sure you can think of other examples of things that would be more than just foolish to attempt under any realistic circumstances. And I’m fairly certain the not knowing you cannot fly like a bird, is not going to result in any long lasting pleasure and joyfulness if you jump from the top of The Empire State Building. So with that, consider that people have often also said:
“Ignorance is bliss.”
Now, it is true that finding out about some truth or reality can take away some previous sense of happiness, if the information proves to be in contrast with some of our sense of well-being, or wishful thinking. For that reason some would prefer to not accept anything as true if it would refute or challenge the way they are hoping things are.
But can we presume it to be an equation? If ignorance is bliss, then bliss is ignorance? If that were true, it would take all the joy out of discovery, wouldn’t it? It would also require that learning anything whatsoever will bring about unhappiness, and that just isn’t true at all, is it? If the Spanish Inquisition had known that what Galileo was telling them was true about the planets orbiting the sun, then the knowledge, and not the prevailing ignorance, might have made for a much happier ending to the story. As it was, he was convicted of heresy, and sentenced to life imprisonment–but only after openly claiming things he knew to be true, were lies.
Bliss is synonymous with joy and happiness. It is not usually considered an insult to say someone is happy, but it regularly is received as such if you call them “ignorant”, even when some other words are used that mean the same thing. You may have said something similar about someone else in the past without for a minute thinking you meant they were “happy”.
Happiness is a by-product of getting something you want, or having something you want to happen occur, isn’t it? And to some degree, it can be keeping something at bay that you don’t want to happen. Even if we allow it to mean “contentment”, and associate it with a state of mind that exists not knowing a tree is about to fall on us, or that a large predator is about to pounce. The tree nor the predator, or our awareness or lack of awareness of them can take credit for any pre-existing happy state we may have been in.
We could have been sitting there completely sad about something, just the same. In fact, a person could be sitting there completely ignorant they had just purchased the winning lottery ticket. A state of being happy or sad could be changed by becoming aware of some pending boon or doom, but the previously held attitude existed because of other things entirely.
No, ignorance in such a sense is at best hapless, or even stupid. The not knowing might leave us still momentarily blissful, but the happiness is being felt due to some other circumstances that had already made us feel happy; some vision, some sound, or smell perhaps. It will not be the ignorance that caused the happiness, but rather we are happy (for some reason) in spite of what we do not know. Also, ignorance is not a quality that would normally lead to being able to accomplish much of anything that you would need to know how to do, that would lead to you being happy about it. Your state of mind could be sad while being ignorant of some pending wonderful thing. But that does not mean ignorance is sadness, does it? Maybe we should say:
“Ignorance is not knowing something, that if you knew, might leave you feeling happy, sad, or just indifferent. The lack of knowledge about anything does not change what it is. And the ignorance of it does not improve the chances that you will deal with whatever it is in any beneficial way. It just means you don’t know any better.”
Or, shall we even consider shuffling the deck again? If we did, might we come up with:
“Blissful we are to Strike without knowing whether the iron is hot or not. For as long as we put our mind to it, God will give us the boost we need every time, assuming our motive is a selfish one. But if not, we should act quickly to be patient, though not too hastily, knowing the best is yet to come, and that we will eventually heal over time, as long as we are the first in line for the worms. And when we feel strengthened by this, we will know with a degree of certainty, that something did not kill us. Amen.”
So just because something is in quotes does not mean it is always true. And if a credit is given after the quote, it does not always mean that person actually said it. Think I’m overstating it, and that you are above being tripped up by such measures? If you participate in social media, I’m sure you’ve seen:
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl G. Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”
However, that statement is nowhere to be found in that book, nor can I find evidence that Jung ever even said such a thing at any time. In fact, I personally doubt he ever did, as it would seem so out of character for him, but I could be wrong. Also, consider this famous statement:
“You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Most people will be absolutely certain they know who said this. In books, speeches, sermons, conversations all over the planet, these words are used and attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Some of you are right now saying: “But he did say it. I know he did.” You think so? You will not find it in any collections of Lincoln’s speeches, nor was it even mentioned by the newspaper covering his speech at the time he was supposed to have said it. In fact, there is no real evidence that he ever said it, though you’ll find credit given to him for it all over the internet.
And before go off trying to find it, you might also want to see if you can find where Thomas Jefferson actually said:
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”