Clichés like “words to live by,” “truer words were never spoken,” and “you said a mouthful” are used to affirm the veracity of something just said. Clichés though they may be, statements that can summarize a situation so completely that every fiber resonates with the ring of truth are powerful. Life is complicated, and we can use as many guideposts as we can find.
Often, summaries that are this effective become clichés themselves, as will almost anything that is repeated widely and frequently. But sometimes expressions like “a penny saved is a penny earned” or (to continue the monetary theme) “penny wise and pound foolish” don't adequately ring the bell of truth for a situation at hand. When that happens, creativity jumps in and new homilies are devised that do the job. Many wonderful regional expressions, such as the Southern “that dog won't hunt,” undoubtedly came about this way.
For years I've invented my own homilies, some of which I'd like to share in hopes that they might make sense to some of you in a way that transcends the analytical and tickles the wisdom bone.
“Most things in life fall into one of two categories: either they would be funny if they weren't so darned tragic or they would be tragic if they weren't so darned funny.” In our business, it's not at all unusual to see people operate in such mind-numbingly stupid ways that it's impossible to decide whether to laugh or cry about it. The most interesting part of that for me is deciding which category an event belongs in.
“The price of ‘free’ is hassle.” This is an offshoot of “you get what you pay for,” but one much needed in our world. If someone works cheaply or for free as a favor, there will be a cost, even if isn't monetary. If a person doesn't do a job the way you wanted, how much room do you have to complain if it was done for free? Maybe someone agrees to loan you a vital piece of equipment but you must drive 150 miles to pick it up between 3:00 and 3:30 Wednesday afternoon. Whenever you're offered something free, be prepared to pay for it in one way or another.
“Even if you get what you pay for, it's not a bargain if you can't afford it.” How often have you been tempted by a good value that is beyond your means? The fact is, it matters not how much of a steal it is if it's more than you can pay.
“Drummers and bass players are Siamese twins joined at the beat.” And if they're not they should be.
“A person has control over nothing in his or her life, only varying degrees of influence.” When you think that the way anything in your life will turn out is entirely yours to determine, the universe will manifest a way to show you otherwise. By acknowledging from the get-go that there's only so much you can do to bring about a particular outcome, you'll be frustrated a lot less often and be less likely to be caught at a disadvantage.
“The technician's first creed is ‘take no one's word for it.’ The technician's second creed is ‘when all else fails, try violence.’” The first creed applies widely, the second deals only with gear. Amusingly, when it comes to hardware, the second creed is often literally true.
“Half of every story is food.” I never quite understood the profundity of this, but I uttered it, and a close friend immediately seized on it as having great meaning. Not that I would argue the point — I'm just not sure I fully understand it. Such is the nature of wisdom, I guess.
Finally, the homily that probably best describes my view of the bizarre and sometimes downright perverse world in which I dwell: “Given what passes for ‘normal’ in this society, I'm very glad to be considered ‘weird.’” I mean, really! People playing life-or-death polo on the highways, treating people that serve them (whether in restaurants, studios, or elsewhere) as objects unworthy of basic human respect and consideration…. I could go on but, for better or worse, I'm out of space.
Hmm. “For better or worse, I'm out of space.”… Does that have the ring of … naaaah.