Fresh ideas: Don’t believe everything you hear
April 24, 2002
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We parrot this saying as children and assume it must be true. However, as we grow older, we learn that words can be terribly hurtful … that this saying is a total myth.
“Nice guys finish last,” is another saying that holds no water. Nice guys, by virtue of their sterling character, have won before they even begin!
Another myth is: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Yet a study in Denmark (circa 1976) showed that violent attacks, whether through premeditation or in the heat of passion, resulted in fatalities more than 70 percent of the time when a gun was present. Baseball bats, knives and fists didn’t begin to measure up as lethal weapons. Guns, in the hands of people, are by far the winner in the game of fatalities.
I’m reminded of the verity of “a stitch in time saves nine” at least once a week! The intended meaning must be that if I darn a hole when it first appears, I’ll save myself having to mend a much larger hole later. This leads me to yanking holey socks directly off my husband’s feet from time to time. I’ve toyed with another meaning, which is, “If I would only slow down and do the job right the first time, it would save me from having to do the job again later!”
“Behind every complex question is a simple answer, and it’s usually wrong,” is a remark made by H.L. Mencken and echoed by Bernard Shaw. We see the truth of this saying as Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel, addresses the extraordinarily complex situation in the Middle East with the simple answer of military might (his lifelong pattern).
Meanwhile, President Bush, lover of moral imperatives and moral judgment, engages in “white hat-black hat” rhetoric, calling North Korea, Iraq and China the “Axis of Evil” and undoing decades of painstaking diplomatic effort. In this writer’s view, it’s hard to measure what’s worse, Bush’s stupidity or moral arrogance.
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On a less angry note, an eternal verity is that of Polonius to Laertes (his son) in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: To thine own self be true … and thou canst not be false to any man.” I’ve found that this saying emboldens me to say “no” to doing things that would stretch me too thin or somehow compromise my values.
Polonius also admonished his son thus as he was leaving for a school of higher learning: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Since money affairs between friends and relatives can get touchy, I applaud the wisdom of Shakespeare in helping us avoid money pitfalls!
On the lightest note of all, I can recall a wonderful saying of my great-grandmother who raised her family of four children in Oshkosh, Wis., in the latter half of the 19th century.
While raising these four children, who invariably spilled milk, water and other sundry items, she invented the saying: “You’ve spilled that all over everywhere and part of Oshkosh!”
Meanwhile guarding against the deceit of false sayings, it’s helpful to remember the true ones. They can guide and enrich us abundantly.
Susan Paslov is a retired attorney who is married with three children and two grandchildren.
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