May You Live In Interesting Times

 May You Live In Interesting Times

Mark Twain once said, “It’s not what you don’t know that will get you, it’s what you know for sure.”

I’ve always liked that quote — a caution to constantly do a self-check on my knowledge.  I love quotes, and those that know me will agree I collect them like a kid does baseball cards.  Come to think of it, I just started this post with one, didn’t I?

This week I experienced Mark Twain’s caution first hand.  You see, I had always thought that the saying, “May you live in interesting times,” was a Russian curse.  I wouldn’t have sworn to it, mind you.  There are few things I’m totally certain of because I understand, in part, the fallacy of human nature — mine included.  But I felt reasonably sure of it.

Then, this week, I noticed a very credible reader of the WoodChips (Peter) ended a post with the following … I am reminded of the old Chinese salutation, “May you live in interesting times.”   So I thought, hmmmm … guess I was wrong on that and wrote it the way Peter had said it in my post If Ignorance Is Bliss.

Fair enough.  I had learned something and corrected an error in my knowledge.  All is good with the world, I thought.  I have fixed a mind thing.

The following day I showed the post to an equally credible associate in the office (George).  He said he liked it and asked me, “So why didn’t you say, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ was an old Chinese greeting instead of a salutation.”

Okay, so now I really was perplexed.  So I told George I called it a salutation because apparently I didn’t know better.

Then I did the thing of last resort.  I did some research to fix this mind thing.  And what I found out, about what we all thought, was that no one really knows for sure where this came from or when.  It could be a curse, it may be a salutation, it possibly is Chinese or it could be American.  Interesting.

About all I can say is that we all were kind of right, but nobody really knows for sure.  Indeed, the Yale Book of Quotations states that “No authentic Chinese saying to this effect has ever been found.”  But there are other indications it might have been Chinese, like the one pictured at the top of this post (for those of you that read Chinese).  I eventually settled on it being a Chinese curse and updated the article accordingly.

That said, the purpose of this post is not to prove anyone right or wrong.  Rather, the point is to always question what we know.  And to really question what we know for sure.

Watching the news these days, it seems to me there are pockets of people in America that should really question what “they know for sure” (no doubt all of us, really).  I could name a bunch of these groups, and no doubt you could too.  But in the interest of brevity, I’ll just illustrate this point with a theoretical, made-up group.

Let’s say, hmmm, it’s a small but vocal minority in Kansas — they’re always vocal, aren’t they.  Anyhow, speaking to them here, I’ll say, “Hey, I’ve got the perfect mind thing for you to examine.”

You still believe the earth is flat, don’t you.  And God knows, you are surrounded by miles and miles of “flat” as supporting evidence.  I know this – I’ve driven across Kansas.  I’ve lived in Kansas. 

But I want you to question the thought that the earth is flat this week.  I’m not going to come right out and tell you the answer to this.  I want you to research it on your own and question your belief based on the NEW evidence you uncover.

Now, I’m not going to leave you twisting in the wind on this, so here are some helpful hints. 

1) Go to Google and search on the number 1492.  That’s the first big hint. 

2) Then maybe look up the holiday celebrated on October 10th.  It’s called Columbus Day.  Find out why people in America celebrate this day this every year.

3) Final hint.  Columbus liked boats, like to sail, and didn’t like Leif Erikson or Amerigo Vespucci so much (hmmm … Amerigo sounds a lot like America, doesn’t it).

Let me know what you find out about your Kansan Flat Earth Theory.  Just click the title of this post and write your research results in the comments box that black-magically appears at the bottom of the page.

And have a mind-thing day – J. Daniel

P.S. At the risk of giving the answer away, for you round-earthers out there, mounting evidence suggests the Chinese discovered America as much as a thousand years before anyone (three thousand if you count the Kansan Flat Earthers). 

Truly, we live in interesting times.

P.P.S. Here is more information you will like about all the Confucian (confusion) on this subject.  You can read it by clicking here at Wikipedia’s May You Live In Interesting Times.

4 Responses to “May You Live In Interesting Times”

  1. Peter Wright says:

    I have just been catching up on your last few intriguing posts so this is a sort of composite comment which you may want to consign straight to the woodchips burn pile.

    My apologies in advance for a long totally irrelevant comment, but your posts have a knack of getting the imagination to run amok!

    Firstly, I was quite concerned to hear that the Kansan Flat Earthers have been discredited. I had assumed them to be the American offshoot of the European Flat Earth Society. A serious scientific body – who if my memory serves me correctly – regularly supported a candidate in the British elections who went by the name “Screaming Lord Sutch”.

    His other claim to fame was as a failed rock star.

    Which brings me to your idea of supporting the “Homeblessed”. Instead of breaking down the surplus houses and then trying to dispose of the rubble, why not involve the Matter Transfer and Time Travel believers (cousins of the Flat Earthers) who could just “beam” the surplus houses to those parts of the world where they are needed.

    This would free up valuable prime real estate for new houses to be built. We are frequently told that new house sales are more important than existing home sales, the economy would take off and all would be well.

    Truly interesting times, whether a Chinese greeting, salutation or not.

    As for exploding eucalyptus, well that’s for another time.

  2. J. Daniel says:

    All great thoughts, Peter. I particularly like the one on just simply beaming the excess houses to where they are really needed — and the side benefits that you outline.

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