Friday, April 25, 2014

Contradictory Proverbs - Again?

I had a few other contradictory proverbs handed to me on a platter in the comments to my previous posts. On in-depth analysis (Yes! I know! You think I am incapable of even thinking, leave alone in-depth analysis, but that is your opinion and you know where you can stuff it), most of them actually do not stand the test of contradictoriness, if I may coin such a word.

Take for example, "All good things come to those who wait". If you did not think deeply about it, you may assume that "Time and Tide wait for none" contradicts it. Not so! After all, it only means that Time and Tide are NOT good things, since they do not wait for those who wait. (Yeah!Yeah! I know! Someone also said that "All things - that others do not want - come to those who wait". But, in that case, you would assume that Time and Tide are wanted by others and, presto, the contradiction vanishes. And, if you rid yourself of the foolish notion that what others want is, by definition, a good thing, then it does not even contradict the original version).

Let me prove it the other way. Tide, most certainly, a great majority of the people - who are not sailors - do not want anyway. And, poor sailors like me, positively puke at the very idea of a tide. As for time, I have heard 'I do not know what to do with my time' from more people than those who said the other thing, except when someone else - spouse or office - dictates what needs to be done with it (Make that presentation, I want it yesterday! When are you going to mow that lawn! etc. etc.) And, in the latter case, it is more a question of knowing what you do NOT want to do with your time - whatever you are being told to do, of course - rather than what you WANT to do with it.

So, if you have something but do not know what to do with it, it is useless, isn't it, and how can a useless thing be considered a good thing? (Now, do not throw all that footwear that you bought, but never used, at me - that does not count as a legitimate use of the footwear.) Ergo - Time and Tide are NOT good things and, thus, 'All good things come to those who wait' does not get contradicted. I offer, further, in proof that they also say 'Haste makes Waste' which further reinforces the idea that blissful idleness is best for the soul. And, what about "Don't count your chickens before they are hatched"? That, too, says wait to do things since you may end up doing far more counting than necessary - and who wants to do any more math than is forced on you? - if you started too early.

Bill, as usual, is a pain-in-the-neck. He says, "There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune". One could, of course, assume that you need to just go with the flow, and not be rushing around hither and yon doing things, in which case this one admirably suits the 'waiting' principle and I will have to retract my harsh words about Bill. I think, though, that Bill intended one to BE rushing hither and yon. I hold to my 'waiting' principle still - and offer as proof the fact that this piece of idiocy was uttered by Brutus, and we all know what happened to him at the end of the war with Octavian and Anthony. So much for taking the tide at the flood - and getting drowned in it.

In sum, "All that glitters is not gold" (Bill - again! Though, in this case, he merely popularized it!) OR, in other words, 'All that appears contradictory does not contradict".

P.S: I owe almost all this post to Moonstone and Titli for their comments. The (mis)interpretations are all mine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Discarded proverbs

Talk of proverbs and good old Bill pops up like a bad penny, every time. This time, though, I must admit he popped up as a consequence of that '..to thine own self be true' crack that I quoted in my last post from his 'Hamlet'. Somewhere before that piece of advice, he also said, "Neither a lender nor a borrower be". (I know, two quotes within a space of a few words is a bit too much even for Bill, but then you know the guy. He seems incapable of writing, without scattering around quotes like confetti.)

Unlike most of Bill's quotes, this one about lending and borrowing has been pretty short-lived. I mean, if you started advising your kid this way, he would be on the phone calling for an ambulance from the nearest mental hospital even before you hit the 'be' in it. Just imagine putting an end to lending. Bang goes your entire banking industry and with it a few million jobs. As for putting an end to 'borrowing', what do you think the younger generation would have to live for? Currently, of course, they live to pay their EMIs.

With the 'lending/borrowing" thing dead as a dodo, another proverb also bit the dust. "A penny saved is a penny earned", indeed! That one needs to be kissed goodbye, fondly or otherwise, and replaced with "A penny borrowed is two pennies that have to be earned."

There is yet another proverb that needs discarding because it has failed to move with the times. "Don't look a gift horse in its mouth", they used to say. NOW, if you stopped looking gift horses in the mouth, you will start believing that THAT Nigerian lawyer, offering you a zillion pounds in an unclaimed bank account, deserves to get the complete details of your bank account - PIN, Internet banking passwords and all (Oh! And, by the way, I can quote a contradictory proverb here - "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". THAT gift was a horse, too, although a wooden one and called a Trojan Horse, though the Trojans would have been pleased, in retrospect, to have nothing to do with it). Well, believe in that proverb if you want, but do not ask me to. My gift horses will receive a complete dental examination - from a safe distance of course.

And, no, I am not 'throwing away the baby with the bath-water', even though I am, as yet, undecided about the desirability of babies - since they have this unfortunate and undesirable habit of growing up!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Contradictory proverbs

As though it is not enough that proverbs are difficult to understand, they also turn out to be contradictory on occasion. Then, it is up to you to choose what you believe in. Since you were anyway confused with your choices and did not know which to choose, it is no help for the proverbs to also leave the choice to you. You might as well have played 'Inky Pinky Ponky' to make the choice instead of trying to gain your wisdom from the proverbs.

Take "A rolling stone gathers no moss" for example. I mean, I know there is no real reason why the stone should be happy about gathering moss that we can understand. But, to be honest, the stone would also find it tough to understand why we would put in so much effort into gathering money (as opposed to using it), so it is only fair that we do not make value judgments about the stone's ideas of a happy life (Well! I, myself, do not understand why we collect money, but then people do say that my head is full of clay, instead of brains, so my understanding is probably more at par with the stone than with humans). Let us just assume that gathering moss is something that gives a stone ineffable pleasure and, thus, anything that stops a stone from doing so is undesirable. Which, in effect, means that it is best to stay put instead of rolling around since it is only the former that allows you to gather moss. (WHAT? You mean that it is meant to say that you need to persevere in your efforts in one area rather than flit from one area to another? Well - that may be YOUR idea but...)

So, there we are, deciding that not running around doing things is the best option. Then we run into the proverb that says, "A wandering bee gets the honey." Uhoh! So, now, the best option is to run around and do things? Well, the wandering bee may get the honey but it hardly gets to enjoy the honey or use it, does it? After all, it is us humans who seem to get to eat the honey (not to mention the drones and the Queen bee who get to eat it without troubling to gather it.) It seems like the bee gathers honey (as opposed to just consuming the nectar) like a stone gathers moss - to no purpose to itself that we can understand. (Why would you keep interrupting? I am NOT interested in your opinion that this proverb means that one should put in effort instead of idling.)

Well, the same purpose - or is it non-purpose? - is served for both stone and bee. Unfortunately, the stone has to stay put to collect things that we see as useless for the stone; and the bee has to wander to collect things that we see as useless for that bee. Should we, then, think of ourselves as the stone or the bee? In other words, should we sit at home OR should we run around the place in order to collect things? Me - I believe in 'When in doubt, do nothing."

Willy had different ideas. He says, in one of his wholly tear-filled plays - 'Hamlet', "This, above all, to thine own self be true." Now, go figure - whether you are a stone or a bee, and act accordingly. I think I shall go to sleep now and try figuring out what 'my own self' is, after I wake up - if I am in the mood.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Proverbial Lessons?

One of the main reasons why I never learnt what people chose to call the 'lessons of life' is because people never talk straight when they are giving such advice. That is probably because they find it difficult to string together sentences all by themselves when it comes to abstract ideas. So, they dip into a pool of what people from before had said, in similar circumstances, and, apparently, in the days of yore, people believed in not saying anything unless it could be said with a metaphor, however obscure the metaphor made the meaning.

The first time I ran into these proverbs was when a friend said, "The early bird catches the worm." Considering that we were talking of how I had missed the school bus by a whisker AND that I had made no query about the breakfast habits of birds, I could not understand why he thought that this bit of ornithological information would brighten my day. Upon stringent cross-examination, he revealed that THAT was a proverb meaning that if you needed to get something, you ought to be early. I really did not get the point, still. I mean, if I were a bird it is all right since I would get the worm to eat. BUT, the worm was early too and I could not see that it benefited greatly by being early. If it had lazily yawned its head off, stretched its body and crawled out, well after the birds had done with breakfast, it would have been the better for it. When I questioned my friend on the applicability of the proverb, on these grounds, he glared at me and departed in a huff.

There is this other proverb, also meant to push the message of timeliness. "A stitch in time saves nine", is what it says apparently. Of course, with my 'acute' intelligence, my first confusion about it was the fact that it seemed incomplete. It is all very well saying, "..saves nine" but it left me asking 'Nine what?' Apparently, it means '...saves nine stitches later' and whoever wrote the proverb decided to save a couple of words, even if it left the meaning a shade ambiguous to people of 'acute' intelligence like me. What with this confusion and all, the proverb left me feeling that I should be perpetually moving around with a threaded needle in hand, an eye to the clock in order to be in time, and an ear keyed to the sound of tearing. The very thought was so fatiguing that I gave up any idea of taking up stitching. (WHAT? You mean it was meant to say that action should be timely in any endeavor and not only in stitching? I don't believe you. If that was what was meant, why not say so in so many words instead of giving tailoring lessons?)

Anyway, I found myself unable to understand most of what people tried to teach me. I bemoaned the fact to another friend and he says, "You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink." Huh! What the hell sort of reaction is that? Who wanted to know anything about the drinking habits of horses anyway?