Thursday, November 6, 2014

On Proverbs by Carolyn

Proverb:  "a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated that expresses a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity."

So if proverbs purport to tell the truth, why are so many of them contradictory?

I provide the following evidence to support my claim:

There's no time like the present.     but       Good things come to those who wait.

Which is it? Should I wait for the good things to come to me, or should I jump up and go search for them?  If I search for them, will they not come? Will I scare the good things away?

If you want something done right, do it yourself.     but      Two heads are better than one.

So . . . should I do it myself (because then it will be right), or should I find someone else to contribute their brains to my project (because then it will be better)? What if I pick the wrong person to combine my brains with? Would it then be worse than if I had done it by myself?

Discretion is the better part of valor.     but     Fortune favors the bold.

Discreet or bold?  Discreet or bold?  Discreet or bold?   I can't decide! I read that proverbs are situationally based, so you choose the one that best fits your situation, but I can see this being a problem - what if you are bold when you should be discreet, and discreet when you should be bold? For instance, you discover that your boss is doing something shady. You decide to be bold. You confront your boss. Your boss fails to appreciate your boldness. Now you are jobless. Or possibly, you decide that discretion is the better part of valor. You keep mum about your boss's shady dealings. Unfortunately your boss's boss finds out about the nefarious deeds and that you knew about them. You are jobless again. Bummer.

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

What is the right number? Where is the line that divides "many" from "too many"? I really need to know, because I absolutely do want light work, but definitely not spoiled broth. I wonder if the size of the kitchen has anything to do with how many cooks are just the right amount?

It's the thought that counts.    but     The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Hmmm.  Perhaps you can only get away with good intentions for so long, then you are on the very slippery downhill slope leading to Hades. I hope I haven't worn out my good intentions allotment yet. By the way, people who are self-disciplined enough to regularly follow through with their good intentions really make the rest of us feel inadequate. You know who you are.

And now to totally confuse us, we have tag-team proverb wrestling. In this corner, we have the mighty team of proverbs that admonish us to lose no time in acting:

If you snooze, you lose.     and     He who hesitates is lost.     and     Strike while the iron is hot.

Pretty definitive, right? The advice is very clear - we should act RIGHT NOW!

But wait! In the other corner we have this formidable team that urges us to slow down and be cautious:

Haste makes waste.     and     Look before you leap.     and     Slow and steady wins the race.

Now I'm totally bumfuzzled. So that's it. I've decided that you can't trust a proverb to guide you. You just have to make your own decisions. After all, you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket . . .