Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thought for today

I heard this quotation ages and ages ago in English, but I now understand enough German to see it in the original:

"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."

Schiller, of course, from his play "The Maid of Orleans," and apparently the quotation is not something that means something different "taken out of context*"

A simpler American translation is "You can't fix stupid."

I need to remember that. Because these days it seems we're trapped in a lot of stupid things: bureaucratic rules that seem like Joseph Heller wrote at his most sadistically ironic, people who double down on bad behavior when someone calls them out, people who talk about how everyone needs to be "better" while misbehaving terribly themselves. 

(*And yes, that's another bit of my frustration: someone saying something that is really rather unhelpful to a situation, and then later, when "called" on it, complains, "But you took what I said OUT OF CONTEXT")

There is a.....I see it as a millwheel of sorts, you know, those big heavy sandstone wheels that used to be used to grind wheat or corn?...a millwheel of stupid in our culture right now grinding away. The trick is not to be crushed by it.

Some days I am. When I have someone drop a pile of collaborative work on my desk at 3 pm and say "See if you can do something with this" and then they walk out the door to go home (and I have been there since 7 am, when they rolled in around 10). Or when a student skips class multiple times and then complains they didn't know a particular topic was going to be on the exam (I announced it and...oh, you weren't there. And you weren't there the other time I announced it. And I guess you didn't read the review sheet I posted?). Or someone gets annoyed/hurt at something someone else did, but instead of confronting the person, they dump on everyone else and then flounce.

Again: "People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered: love them anyway"

But yeah. I ran across this essay on the Schiller quotation. I liked it. I especially liked the Tina Fey advice about trying to ignore the people who are irritating you unless they are directly in your way (though I suppose, you could argue: if you are in a position where you can put a stop to whatever harmful -ism they are doing, it's your duty to, for those younger and more vulnerable than you. Though I admit I am getting old and tired and I have fewer "spoons" for that sort of thing than I did in the past, and most days the best I can manage is a sort of passive resistance - not rising to bait, not laughing at unfunny jokes, excusing myself from some conversations, and generally just keeping on keeping on at whatever I'm doing. I don't know).

The thing is, though: there is a lot in day to day life that just is stupid. Because stupid rules get made because rule-makers are lazy or petty or think that ever-more-restrictive rules will rein in the rule-breakers, when all it really does is antagonize the rule-keepers. And there are an awful, awful lot of people who seem to be stuck on stupid, or really more, I think, stuck on selfish (as the news this week has shown us).

And as much as I'd like to fix it, I can't. I can't fix much in this life. I need to get better at accepting that, and seeing when something is, as I said "stuck on stupid," not to get out a metaphorical rubber mallet and bang away at it, trying to unstick it, until I exhaust myself.

I need to get better at just walking away from some situations and not feeling obligated to try to do something to fix it. I have always had a bad habit of taking responsibility for things that aren't my responsibility.

(Example: this Sunday at church, one of the elders was absent. Not the one who was SUPPOSED to read the announcements, but the other elder is fairly new and I guess he didn't know it was his job....I ALMOST jumped up and did it, but then thought, "No, you don't want to step on his toes if he's going up..." but then no one got up and the minister had to read them. And I ALMOST apologized to the minister after the service for not doing it....and then I realized: it wasn't my job this week. I wasn't the one who forgot. And I did have to fill in for the absent person. (And I'm on this week, and next week, and probably the last week as one of the people I've slotted in there seems to be someone who can never make it their week. I am just hoping I keep having the right words to say and don't run out.)

But yeah. There seem to be a lot of things that are just stuck on stupid, and I suppose the "New Normal*" is that I just try to tolerate it instead of wearing myself out trying to fix it.

(*I still hate that phrase.)

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I have always wished I had a withering stare. You know, when someone does or says something stupid you just stare at them with that special look until they start to squirm or realize, "Oops, I did something bad," but I don't have that talent.