Wisdom is to be sought above all things. But to become wise, one must follow good advice.
This is not always easy. Good advice is sometimes contradictory.
For example, when it comes time to make an important decision, which advice do you follow: “He who hesitates is lost” or “Look before you leap”?
Have you noticed how many pieces of advice have animals in them? To wit:
Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.
Don’t put the cart before the horse.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Don’t jab a big ape with a short stick.
Some of today’s children don’t understand such sayings. Modern kids seldom see a horse, except on television. As for carts, forget it. Today if you asked a modern 10-year-old to draw a cart, they wouldn’t know how.
I’m not sure I would either. I haven’t seen a cart in ages.
In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Polonius gives his nephew Laertes a ton of advice. One particular kernel has been giving nightmares to bankers for 400 years. It is this: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
When I was a child my mother advised me, “When in doubt, don’t.” That’s why I have never done much. I have always been in doubt.
The most important piece of advice my grandfather ever set forth to me was this: “Avoid incest and folk dancing.”
What he may have meant was “Avoid incest WHILE folk dancing.”
Would you like another piece of advice? If universally adhered to, this one would save people a lot of grief. However, it would also wipe out romance, marriage and eventually the human race.
The advice is this: “Never go to bed with anyone who has more troubles than you do.”
This is absurd, of course. Take any two people, and one of them is sure to have more troubles than the other. Which means that the less-troubled partner should refuse to hit the sack with the more-troubled one, right?
And then what? Nothing, that’s what.
In my later years — roughly between the Spanish-American War and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak — I dropped out of the advice business. Today, I neither ask for nor offer advice.
When you offer unsolicited advice, it’s like delivering a luncheon speech to a service club. Nobody is really listening.
Instead they are thinking about one of five things: food, money, sports, TV or venery.
I hope this column helps to carry you onward to where you want to be. Please let me know.
Bob Driver’s email address is email@example.com.