In terms of ups and downs, the past five years has been quite the roller-coaster ride — losing my wife, my house, my friends, my job, my car, etc. And during those downs times, I’ve been given a fair amount of advice. Some of it good and some obviously pulled directly from the asses of people with absolutely no clue what they were talking about.
There should be a saying like, “If the advice you’re about to give is a cliché, shut up.” I think the reason there isn’t, is because over time, most sayings will become cliché. So using this one would eventually, and ironically, be used to advise people not to use it. Then we’d all get stuck in an endless logic loop that would cause our brains to collapse like Carrie White’s house on Prom Night.
Among the useful advice and suggestions, I also heard many quotes and sayings related to taking charge of one’s own life, never giving up and living each day to the fullest. One that most people recognize is carpe diem, Latin for “seize the day.” And, like much of the knowledge taking up space in the average American mind, we learned this inspirational little nugget by watching a movie. Personally, I find the “Oh Captain, my Captain” scene in Dead Poets Society more poignant, but that likely has much to do with Mr. William’s unexpected and early departure. I don’t remember what I thought when I originally saw the movie, except that I was probably grateful I didn’t have to sit through two-hours of the hyper and annoying talk-show version of Robin Williams.
I know, I know … I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. And I’m sure that one day I’ll receive my Karmic Payback; probably in the form of a Dead Poets Society re-make with Adam Sandler as John Keating. It could happen! When the iconic, and under-appreciated, film The Longest Yard was re-made for no discernible reason, Sandler was tapped for the role originally played by Burt Reynolds … Burt Fucking Reynolds! If they even think of re-making Smokey and the Bandit with Sandler as Bandit, I will cut someone. Seriously, look at the travesty that was the re-make of Red Dawn. If Swayze isn’t sacred, then who is?
A couple of other recognizable cliches are get back on the horse and pull yourself up by the bootstraps. I understand that the first one means not quitting after a set-back. What I don’t understand is why anyone would get on a horse in the first place. If I was in charge of sayings and someone got thrown from a horse, I’d come up with something more like “It’s your fault for being up there,” or “Don’t play with animals bigger than you.”
I can’t explain the bootstrap one because I don’t know what a bootstrap is. I googled it, but just got information on some Webernet stuff … and I’m pretty sure you can’t pull yourself up by web development tools. I could be wrong; but since I’ve never been before, it’s not really likely to happen now, either.
I find some of the sayings downright aggressive. I can’t imagine that a practitioner of Hinduism would find it encouraging to be advised to grab the bull by the horns. It’s my understanding that Hindus are primarily peaceful folk with an affinity for all things bovine. So a saying like that might even venture from aggressive to violent in the eyes of Hindus. Then again, the depth of my understanding is terribly shallow and limited, so maybe bulls don’t get the same respect as cows and Hindus have no problem with bull grabbing.
Speaking of grabbing, I’m pretty sure most men (and women who watch funniest video type shows), would agree that grabbing life by the balls would result in life kicking your ass as soon as it was able to stand up again.
And about those balls — why does life have them? Is life male? Is this another testosterone fueled instance of rampant patriarchal oppression aimed at devaluing women and the importance of their lives in our society? Probably not. It probably just means you’re more likely to get life to pay attention to you if you’re squeezing its balls. But that undivided attention comes at a steep price: squeezing balls. Personally, I’m fine with being ignored …
But of all the sayings and advice, the one that makes the least sense to me is live each day as if it were your last.
I try to imagine my reaction if I went to the doctor and was told that I had a rare, fast-moving, terminal ailment, and I’d be dead within 24 hours. But no matter how I set the scene in my mind, or how the doctor might deliver the news, it always ends the same: me curled up on the floor, crying and saying “it’s not fair” over and over again.
There’s just no way I could get that kind of news, immediately think of all the things I ever wanted to do and run around doing as many as I could in the time that I had left. Mostly because I don’t have a bucket list, and if I did it wouldn’t be terribly exciting … at least, not exciting enough to waste my last precious hours on earth checking things off.
Inspirational speaker types even go so far as to encourage everyone to live each day as though there’d be no tomorrow. And I think that’s just awful and irresponsible advice. Raise your hand if you’d skip work because you knew you’d be dead tomorrow. Okay, now put your hand down. You look ridiculous sitting there all by yourself with your hand in the air.
A few people operating from a “fuck the rules” position would impact a few more people. But if everyone just said “fuck it”?? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take more than 15 or 20 minutes before the world went full Lord of the Flies.
I’m not saying that offering advice and being supportive aren’t good things — I think they’re great things. I’m just suggesting that we should all pause to consider what we plan to say. Basically, if you can imagine your words written in a fancy font, overlaid on a slightly blurry nature scene (probably the beach) and posted on Facebook, you should probably stick with giving hugs rather than advice.