Tuning out what most people say can be a full-time job, but most days it’s easy if only because they don’t actually say anything anyway. I’ve talked with you about “I know, right?” and “It is what it is.” I’ve been noticing for about a year now that many people, mostly millennials, apparently find it impossible to make any kind of statement without beginning it with, “I feel like….” Which is unfortunate for them if they are talking to me simply because I don’t give a rat’s about how anyone feels about anything…I want to know what they think.
But even if I’m fortunate enough to find people who aren’t guilty of the linguistic atrocities cited supra, they still seem to reflexively spout platitudes at any opportunity, often so enthusiastically that it seems as if they have just been waiting for the opportunity to repeat some meaningless saying, because, I suppose, they think it makes them sound wiser than they actually are. I don’t know. What I do know is that most of these platitudes are patently ridiculous. One example that I hear two or three times a day is “Everything happens for a reason.” Horseshit. Utter nonsense. Try feeding that pablum to a mother who has suffered a second-trimester miscarriage, or a father whose baby is born severely deformed, or with extreme brain defects. Thinking ANYTHING happens for some divinely ordained reason is complete twaddle espoused by average humans who cannot deal with the brutal truths of chaos and random chance, which is the real reason most things happen.
There are, however, some platitudes that have managed to hold up well, largely because they actually are true. Here is my personal favorite:
It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission: I’m admittedly quite Machiavellian, so my personality and philosophy would of course embrace this idea. But it is true: asking someone permission automatically involves them in whatever it is that’s being discussed. If someone gives you permission to do something, they are tacitly endorsing it. And they are thus partially (and usually significantly) culpable it the idea doesn’t work out and the shit hits the jet engine. Asking forgiveness automatically declares that the person being asked not only had no involvement with whatever happened, but they would have likely responded negatively had their permission been solicited. Finding oneself completely immune to prosecution, consciously or otherwise, makes people in good moods, and makes them much more likely to accept an apology and forgive transgression.
A sort of corollary to the above is: It’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done. It’s similar to that forgiveness/permission business, but significantly different mostly in that this one is self-directed, the other has to do with dealing with others. But it is just as true: we all know, fundamentally, as mortals, that not only do we have one shot at this life, but that the opportunities that arise during this life will not arise again. Because of that, we understand that while there are many opportunities that not only must we pass up but would be wise to completely avoid, most of the situations we’re going to stumble upon during our furloughs on this particular plane will be rather murky on the old good/bad scale. And we’re only human, and here we are facing situations almost daily where we are given maybe a matter of seconds to decide to do something or not, and if we choose to not, accept that we will likely never have that particular opportunity again. So if you took a chance on an uncertain situation and it didn’t pay off, you’ll likely find people fairly forgiving when it comes to being judged. Because we all know that it will really suck to find ourselves at the end of our days, horizontal with a tube in our nose (or worse), and thinking about something (or a bunch of somethings) that we really, really regret not doing. Because that’s what people think about in that moment: what they didn’t do. I’ve never heard of anyone spending much of their dying time fretting over all of the awful things they did, but rather, all of the things they didn’t do, of all of the time wasted…oh yes. Don’t let too many opportunities pass you by. Just saying.
N.P.: “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” – Warren Zevon