Thursday, May 16, 2013

People who throw glass houses shouldn't get stoned.

My brother used to be in a hip hop band. Now that he's in college and playing Division I sports, he has little time for such foolishness. Despite the fact that his group wasn't particularly talented, they got quite a few gigs. I'm not sure why exactly, except that the competition was slim. One thing for which I give them credit is that they performed only original music. Their most-requested local hit was probably People Who Throw Glass Houses Shouldn't Get Stoned. It was, of course, a take-off on the proverb, "People who lived in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."  The song itself made little sense, which was basically the same with all their songs, but their audiences didn't seem to mind.

Proverbs -- not necessarily as in Psalms. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, etc.  -- but those old sayings that have been passed down through generations, are a favorite subject of mine.  Now, if you wonder about the origin of one, you can simply google it and come up with about twenty differing explanations as to the origin of any given proverb, and you can use your powers of reasoning to decide which explanation makes the most sense. Before the Age of Technology, your public library was your only decent source of explanation, and your odds there weren't even all that great. There was always some old geezer who had an answer for your question, but the answer was as likely rooted in the contents of a whiskey bottle as in reality.

My favorite proverb is probably the following: "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."  I haven't yet researched its origin, but it sounds vaguely Asian to me.  In my younger, more angst-ridden days, when I frequently sparred verbally with my father, it was one of my favorite ways to attempt to end an argument. When he claimed that he knew more than I did either due to education or life experience, I'd throw that one out. My dad must have thought it had an Asian ring to it as well, as whenever I said it, he (the King of Political Correctness) would bow his head and press his hands together in what he perceived to be an Asian gesture, and would begin to speak in mock Chinese or Japanese. It didn't sound all that much like either, so it's hard to know which it was supposed to be. One night after I said that, he wore an eye patch to dinner.

We have a smoother relationship now, and if we argue at all, we do so in a rational manner. I no longer figuratively accuse him of being the smartest of the stupid people around him, and he no longer mocks Asians in an attempt to get to me. In an odd way, I sort of miss the old days.

Where do most proverbs have their roots? Many are Biblical in origin, although "Do unto others" supposedly has a paraphrase in every major world religion. "Spare the rod and spoil the child," appears in various Biblical translations beginning in 1377.  "Love they neighbor as thyself " is also obviously Biblical in origin.

I've  wondered about other proverbs for other reasons. "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." Duh. What Einstein wannabe  came up with that one? You can't make boysenberry pie out of cow dung, either. Some things go without saying, and don't merit a proverb.

Ben Franklin can take credit for a few widespread sayings, the most famous of which is probably "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man health and wealthy and wise." My personal favorites from Poor Richard's Almanac are probably  "He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas," and "He's a fool that makes his doctor his heir." That last one hits home a bit. My dad's a doctor now, and I'll presumably inherit a reasonable chunk of the wealth he accrues. Go ahead and make him your heir, leukemia and lymphoma patients, if you want. I won't complain. Likewise, if I survive medial school, patients are welcome to name me in their wills as well, although I would think it could potentially create the very epitome of  "conflict of interest."

Some sayings make perfect sense, but who knows from where they came? "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" is an example of this.  An even better example is "A chain is as strong as is weakest link." The person who came up with that little proverb, however obvious it seems, was  wise indeed.

I like the proverb, "A jack of all trades is a master of none." It reminded me of a music teacher in my former city of residence. He gave lessons in piano, brass and woodwind instruments, and string instruments. The only instrument he played even passably well was the guitar, and he only knew about eight guitar chords and didn't play by note at all. This lends itself to another proverb: "A fool and his money are soon parted."

I'll end with a proverb I just read. I'm quoting it here primarily because I think it's funny, in addition to the fact that it reminds me of some of my classmates, including several with whom I am stuck doing a group project (which will end up being a project done by one [me] because I will not jeopardize my grade in the course just to make a point or to avoid carrying more than my share of the load).  Anyway, the concluding proverb: "A lazy sheep thinks its wool is heavy."

Isn't that incredibly fitting when applied to a few people in all our lives?

Does this guy think his wool is heavy? We'll never know, and he'll be sheared soon enough, anyway.

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