Archive | December 7, 2006

Wind-Egg of Wisdom

You can tell you’ve stumbled across a bit of pseudo-wisdom when its negation makes just as much sense as its affirmation.

EVIL CLOWNS NEED LOVE TOOFor example, I just saw a greeting card that said, “Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.” (A quick websearch reveals that this saying is all over the internet, and originated with the least remembered member of the Edna Ferber/Fannie Hurst/Rose Franken triumvirate.)

Well, slide that past your mind without thinking about it, and it sounds vaguely plausible. But slide the opposite claim past your mind without thinking about it – “Anyone can be silly, but it takes real lovers to be passionate” – and that sounds vaguely plausible too.

Inspect the two claims in a more attentive frame of mind, and suddenly neither one seems especially plausible. I suspect each gets its superficial plausibility from its resemblance to one of its much more reasonable cousins, namely, “Silliness is important between lovers” and “Passion is important between lovers.”

I also suspect that the original version was intended to have the charm of a Chestertonian paradox – but, well, it doesn’t. Perhaps it had more of that quality in the 30s or 40s, when it originated, than it does today, when it seems more bromidic; but it could never have had much.

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