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.

22 comments:

  1. Now you have brought out valid points.
    I think I am neither the stone nor the wandering me. I think I am cow, sitting idle sometimes and wandering sometimes. Sorry I think my head is full of clay too. :/

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    1. Join the line to the left - of clay-headed people :P

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  2. Proverbs, quotes, anecdotes can be found to justify anything you want to do. That is why there are people who ask for statistical evidence rather than anecdotal evidence. And that is actually even worse as one or two basic hidden assumptions hiding under tons of esoteric jargon, numbers and formulas can give you a false sense of security about the veracity of what essentially is bull crap. Well - in this world nothing is true - everything is maya after all. But proverbs are at least useful for getting good marks for essays in English at school. Beyond that, we can't even use them in blog posts and fiction. Some wise guy is definitely going to pop up and say your writing style is full of cliches if you use them.

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    1. And, now, I am writing a series of cliched posts :P

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  3. Like they say ' too many cooks spoil the broth' and then turn around and you hear ' two heads are better than one' ...wait a minute am I confused? I think I shall take follow your lead and sleep it over.

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  4. My mind is reeling. I am suddenly seeing proverbs in a new light! Yes, now that you mention it, why do we have such weird ones?

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    1. I have been wondering about that as well :)

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  5. hehehehe.....'stone's idea of a happy life'!! LOL!! when in doubt do nothing!!! epic! u make even the simple things sound so funny!!! basically, the world is full of contradictions! first they tell u haste makes waste...and then while you are taking your own sweet time, they tell you that time and tide wait for no one! the guys who said - don't judge a book by its cover, must surely have been at loggerheads with those who said - clothes maketh a man!!

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  6. Aha ! You bit the bait ;)
    The bee and the stone quandary will continue to exist and I would think that we morph into both now and then and when we do, we rely on the corresponding proverb to lend us credence !

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    1. :) If you mean that 'bit the bait' about contradictory proverbs, I had written this before you even wrote the comment on my previous post :) BUT - that bait shall duly be chewed and spewed in the future :P

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  7. You know , we've so many such proverbs even in Bengali...:-(.. your post made me rethink about them too... Now you should write another post on ' old proverbs in new bottles '..:-D

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  8. This one was a gem. You are a funny philosopher. Now I know why. Plato too was bald and bearded. :)

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    1. Thanks Achyut! I will ensure I never take the razor to my chin :P

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  9. Too many cooks spoil the broth but many hands make light work ?

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  10. This reminds me of the early bird that catches the worm but the second mouse who gets the cheese.
    Amazing how you mix philosophy with humour.

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    1. Maybe because most of what passes for philosophy is risible, Alka :)

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  11. I have always misinterpreted the proverbs and that has helped. :)

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