Tag Archives: blog series about wisdom

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 8: Blinded by Science

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Welcome to Day 8!

I like this one,

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
― Isaac Asimov
tags: life, science, wisdom 7417 likes

Isaac Asimov (/ˈaɪzɨk ˈæzɨmɒv/ eye-zək az-ə-mov;[2] born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov; c. January 2, 1920[1] – April 6, 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.[3] His books have been published in nine out of ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.[4] (wikipedia)

90,000 letters and postcards?! Awesome. I haven’t read much science fiction, but I knew he was a big deal when I was a kid. My parents had a lot of his books on our bookshelves. I think my dad read him most; he doesn’t seem my mother’s taste at all.

Asimov died in 1992. Before the Internet. Before MS-Windows was released. Before widespread Starbucks coffee shops dotted the map like confetti.

Here’s what was released in the 1980s:

Personal computers
Graphical user interface
CDs
Walkmans
VCRs
Camcorders
Video game consoles
Cable television
Answering machines
Cell phones
Portable phones
Fax machines

That’s plenty. The 80s were also a big moment for biological engineering, including cancer research in mice and food / agricultural advances which we likely wish hadn’t happened as well.

But this isn’t about science, as much as it is about wisdom.

It seems impossible for mankind to keep up with the breakneck pace of science and I think that’s ok, not sad. But that’s also not what he’s saying. What he is saying, is sad: that society doesn’t gain wisdom as quickly as science does.

But that was before 1992.

I think if Asimov was here to see the social media explosion and how it has ushered civil revolutions, information sharing, blogging, and global awareness, which I think has enhanced wisdom.

On the other hand, social media has also ushered in new ways to bully people, ways for unpleasant people to be incredibly unkind to one another in hateful and spiteful ways and been a great way for anonymous people to be completely awful to people who dare to have a contrary opinion.

I guess the heart of this quote is true — that societal wisdom is slower than the pace of science. But I think that’s what happens when science advances, which can be more easily quantified, than societal wisdom, which can take generations to assess. I do feel as though society is advancing in its widsom.

We have more awareness about:

the ecology
war
social injustice
disease and cures
ancestry
art
education
nutrition
health
spirituality
religion
equal rights
peace
meditation
compassion
politics
finances
news
bullying
music and so much more.

I don’t think it’s sad that society’s wisdom isn’t as speedy as science. It’s human.

Thank you.

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 2: Who is Maurice Switzer?

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Hi there, welcome to 30 Days of quotes on wisdom as ranked by Goodreads. If you’re new here, this is what I do when I can’t think of anything to write about; if you’re old here… you know the drill.

Let’s go. Here’s the quote:

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”
― Maurice Switzer
tags: misattributed-to-abraham-lincoln, remaining-silent, wisdom — 36732 likes

Great quote. I’ll get to it in a minute. In the meantime, who the who is Maurice Switzer and how the how did he get 36,732 likes on his comment about being silent?

I looked him up. He’s listed on Goodreads as an author of two books, Letters of a Self-Made Failure and Trying It on the Dog. Both internationally acclaimed best-selling tomes.

I guess. His quote outranks SHAKESPEARE and TWAIN! SOCRATES!

I suppose I should follow his advice. Remain silent lest anything I say could be used against me. Did he pen the Miranda right? Mmmmmmnope.

Ok. Back to the quote.

I dated lots of guys like the people he refers to in the latter half of his famous, more popular than John Lennon, misattributed-to-Abraham-Lincoln quote. They were great until they opened their mouths, then it was all, “No. No… give us a kiss, dear.”

My husband is a strong, silent type. Not because he’s dense or a fool, but because he doesn’t bother throwing his pearls before swine. Me? I throw my pearls, fake diamonds, and crappy gemstones all over the place. To anyone who’ll listen, obviously. I have no problem not staying quiet. What I am though, is wiling to learn if I don’t know what I’m talking about.

NnnnNnnnn. He used “talk” in his quote. Should’ve been “speak.”

No. This slice of eloquence more popular than a line from Socrates can’t be from this guy that no one (me) has heard of. I am going to just ascribe it to my beloved, General George Washington, first president of these United States.

Seeing as how George said it, I know it means something. I can respect this quote now.

George was a man of great integrity. He turned down the opportunity to be made king of the United States. He was a silent and judicious type too. He also had red hair; did you know that?

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m confusing silence with intelligence. There are plenty of times I don’t say a syllable. It’s usually because I don’t want the conversation to go on, because it’s absurd, not because I don’t know the answer or that I risk sounding like a fool if I reply.

I learned a long time ago that not having an opinion or not sharing my opinion was probably one of the most liberating things I could do for myself.

There are people in this world who are quite hell-bent on stirring a pot, just because they are bitter about something else but want the attention that being a pot stirrer garners. I have witnessed full-blown adults, who are feeling invisible about … oh, geraniums, start conversations about controversial topics like the NSA scandal just because no one cares about their thoughts on geraniums. I have even gotten ensnared in such dialogues. These people just want to fight. In these situations, it has to be avoided at all costs lest you be proclaimed a geranium hater. (You ever type “geranium”? It’s hard! The -nium is all counter-intuitive. Let’s see uranium, planetarium, titanium. I don’t like those words. They slow me down.)

Onward.

Here’s me: I could be humming along in the kitchen simmering my gazpacho over a hot stove (shh!) and along comes your ex-step-veterinarian who is pissy and cold acting. He wants to talk to you about illegal Barbie smuggling. We all know that Barbie smuggling is a heinous crime, even treasonous, but we don’t talk about such things in polite company; any time gazpacho is being cooked, it’s polite company. The question is open-ended.

“Say, Molly… what do you think of the illegal Barbie-smuggling scandals?”

There’s no way out. I am trapped. “Uh, I think it’s … scandalous?”

Nothing can save me. Not the dryer buzzing (because I blew off doing the laundry) or the phone ringing (because no one ever calls me anymore) or even Murphy needing a walk (because I left him on the deck and he’s sunning). And that answer, the one I gave above, is pathetic. What I should have said was,

“I’m not sure where I am on it; what are your thoughts?” and then my rabid ex-step-veterinarian could have Gone Off! with his sentiment and I could just go about my way.

It used to be like that with me and Mom. She would have a burr in her bonnet and I’d simply not know how to deal. After a long time, I figured out that no answer other than an “Oh yeah?” was the best answer. Sometimes, it’s simply better to be silent. Some people can’t be placated though — they can’t help themselves and they just keep blathering on likely from feeling inferior and then what? It’s a hornet’s nest of misdirected whatchamacallit.

Regarding the quote, it’s all a matter of context. If you know your material, then talk all you want. If you don’t know your material, then keep your pie hole shut or simply claim ignorance. Learn from the people who know what they’re talking about. Lots of times though, silence can be misconstrued for complicity or allegiance.

“… Oh. We see now… you’re FOR Barbie smuggling. YOU THINK IT’S OK!!”

I’d rather be considered under-aware on a topic than wrongly aligned with a sentiment. Why, some of our past presidents and members of congress have even managed to come up with that dainty little blurb: “I have no recollection of that,” than risk complete ignorance.

I’m on the fence about this quote even though I think George Washington said it. I don’t know the context of the material. Maybe it was written as a character’s quote or maybe it was autobiographical. It would help to know more about it, but my off-the-cuff opinion is that it’s cowardly. The concept of risk of being considered a fool (by others) from simply speaking connotes cowardice. It’s not what we’re about here on Grass Oil blog, what with our Jung and Brown series and deep introspection sprinkled with humor.

We are all about risk here.

So long as it matters.

Thank you.

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 1: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Oft-Misquoted Line about Permission

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Hiya! Welcome to 2014!

I am embarking on a new series today. I’m thinking that soon I’m going to commit to a plan (isn’t that conveniently vague?) for the whole year to write a series per month — I need to write something every day that is public so I can write more that is private. That doesn’t sound very sensical, but it makes sense if you’re avoiding working on a memoir.

Here is today’s quote:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story
tags: confidence, inspirational, wisdom 53755 likes

I’m glad to have this cleared up. For years, I operated under the presumption that the quote was “No one can take advantage of you without your permission” which is an important concept, but it’s nothing like what Roosevelt actually said.

Inferiority. That’s deep. It taps the nerves of Brené Brown’s stuff I covered last month and I guess, judging by the way my body is reacting right now as I type, it really still hits my nerves, despite my insistence that I do my best to not feel inferior. What is the opposite of inferior? Superior. I don’t think that’s where I’m wanting to go either because both of those self-concepts are sort of delusional.

Which is better: A superiority complex or an inferiority complex? Both of them can lead to personal disaster: depression, addiction, self-harm, isolation. Feelings of inferiority stem from deep stuff that didn’t come from nowhere; the problems arise when those feelings go unchecked.

Feelings of inferiority in all people are created by other people. People who tell other people they are no good; that they are failures; that they will always be failures. Those feelings also come from nothing being said at all: being ignored, being cast aside, being emotionally abandoned or discarded in preference for something else. Those feelings of inferiority are so unbearable by the projector of those feelings that they have to be spewed upon someone, anyone, with a pulse.

Roosevelt is expressing the confident notion that we can reject these feelings; that we can refuse to take another person’s crap just because they’re leaking self-loathing and they want the company.

An adequacy complex seems to be the best route: to be enough, but make it run on a law of averages: that sometimes we are amazingly adept and other times we fall spectacularly short. This to me is more like life. The trick is to not let those highs and lows so get to us that we lose our perspective of the importance of the notion.

I just saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” while in Buffalo visiting family. It was a “B” movie’s take on an “A+” short story by James Thurber. While Ben Stiller brilliantly endowed it with breathtaking cinematography and he captured the spirit of Mitty’s fantasies. I’ve always loved Walter Mitty; his is a caricature of all our less-than moments and the escapism we all concoct in order to deal with it all.

Whatever way you’ve grown familiar with Roosevelt’s quote (inferiority or being taken advantage of), it’s safe to say it’s a very popular quote with the self-improvement and self-help set. “Be your own person and reject the silly notions of others” is what it’s all about. It’s also (to me) rife with controversy though and here I go stepping into it on a very controversial topic: victimhood. Who hates the notion of victimhood more than the perpetrator (who would rather think s/he has done nothing wrong)? The victim. It’s all about righteously rejecting feelings of being taken advantage of or being led down a path that is not yours, which is more in line with how I’d continuously mistaken the quote. I’m about to reference a blog post that confuses me; my friend posted it on her Facebook wall and it’s title immediately offended me, which probably led me to dislike it right off the bat:

“14 Fucks I refuse to Give in 2014.”

I am uncomfortable sharing it because I have a Big Thing about swearing just for shocks. People can be just as influential and thoughtful without abusing other people with their vitriol and the referenced post just makes me think that the writer is desperately fighting her own self-imposed inferiority complex by being crass and what I consider to be unnecessarily ugly just to get her point across. It’s like “I LOVE ME, BUT I’M NOT ENTIRELY COMFORTABLE WITH THE CONCEPT, NOR AM I GOING TO BE NICE ABOUT IT.” I have suspected since reading it that the writer is much younger than I am. So that makes her about 90. I’m interested in hearing what you think of her post.

Back to me and Roosevelt: When I was in my raging 20s I was literally on a tear to be no one’s bitch. Being no one’s bitch meant that I was hell-bent to make other people my bitch without ever really wanting them around any way. I would be snarky and sarcastic and incredibly assholic. I was angry. Like most adolescents (even though I was deeply in by this point, but I was delayed) I grew up in a world that was becoming clearer to me day by day that it was completely upside-down. I hated the feeling of my parents’ unwillingness or more perhaps inability to change the circumstances of our lives. My crusade wasn’t about desperation, it was about feeling trapped in a crazy screwed-up world of denial and abdication.

So to differentiate myself, I grew fangs and horns and refused (from what I can see now in retrospect) to be defineable. I became not sullen and deep, but comical, flip, glib and really pissed. On the good side, I earned a high school “most likely to …” out of it, we called them Senior Superlatives. I earned “wittiest,” a moniker which I wear proudly to this day. On the less-good side, I was incredibly needy and available to anyone who would give me the time of day. Angry, self-destructive, sarcastic, manipulatable, an emotional push-over and deluded is no way to go through life.

So that was my personal interpretation of that world — here’s the reality though: no one actually tried to make me feel inferior. It was all my reactivity; it was all my doing. I made myself inferior without my own consent. I subjected myself to personalities and situations which were detrimental but familiar. Eventually, I figured it out, but it took finding a mate who wouldn’t exploit me, and creating a family that I could be proud of and focus my energies on first.

In the meantime, I let myself be a doormat and felt like crap about any decision I made. I was full of doubt, even though I possessed the intellect and energy to move beyond it all.

Do you do that? Do you pile crap on to yourself when no one has even suggested it? Do you take responsibility for a thunderstorm on a picnic that was planned? Are you Zeus? Do you summon the cold fronts? Are you a meteorologist? Do you say, “Sorry!” if a movie you picked out (which you’d never seen) sucked? Did you direct it? Did you star in it? Did you threaten people if they didn’t go with you? Do you wear other peoples’ shame without being asked to? What if you are asked to? Do you wear it?

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This is the kind of inferiority that Roosevelt is speaking of as well — not just the crap that other people try to foist on to us, but the crap we foist on to ourselves without others even knowing.

Hey! That’s MY CRAP! What are you doing taking it on?! No one takes MY CRAP without MY permission. That’s what the world needs more of.

The creepy underbelly of this inferiority stuff, this taking it on, this stuff we SWEAR we don’t want any part of at all is …. drumroll….

Narcissism.

Do you know how close that behavior is to narcissism? It’s a hair’s breadth away from martyrdom, which is just another form of manipulation and making other people feel as though they are inferior, which then creates more isolation… It’s a slippery slope. I wonder, if Roosevelt’s quote were expanded upon (and I’ll look for the book) there might be more to this line than presented.

The thing is: everyone’s in this freakin’ battle all the time. We all have moments of doubt, moments when we need to eat our fears and poop them out and flush them so they can be recycled into freedom.

Share your moments with me. Let’s beat the crap out of inferiority complexes. We can do this. I know we can.

Thank you.