Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time Flies When You're Deconstructing Aphorisms

Gunny, who will definitely kill you if given the chance...

I like this article on misapprehending aphorisms. As our sources of information become more diverse, as newer generations chart different courses through life, do we lose the common understanding of sayings familiar to us older people? Like myths and legends and Mother Goose rhymes and Shakespeare, things that once connected us all with common points of reference -- do we still speak the same, common language of these things? Interesting, anyway.

Here's an amusing but trenchant bit from the book:

12. That which does not kill me makes me stronger
Freidrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

An advocate of the fledgling practice of philosophical counseling was once asked what advice he would give a parent whose children were refusing to do their bit to keep the home clean and tidy. He suggested that the parent remind the feckless youths of Nietzsche's maxim, 'That which does not kill me makes me stronger.'

One quick-witted and extremely rude reply a kid could give, if proffered this advice, is 'Why don't you just fuck off? After all, it won't kill you, so it will make you stronger.' Although the politeness of the response is questionable, its logic is impeccable.

Sometimes I'll read an aphorism and realize the writer has used it incorrectly, though sometimes I find out I had taken the saying wrong. The Nietzsche quote is one I always understood as it was meant: a personal challenge, not a fact of life. We know the sayings...and yet do we know them? Time will tell.

"Time Flies When You're Deconstructing Aphorisms"


"Whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you...stranger." -- The Joker

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