Open Your Mouth and Remove All Doubt
Ingmar Bergman's thoroughly enjoyable 1975 movie version of Mozart's The Magic Flute is in Swedish and necessary takes liberties with the German libretto. Further liberties are taken with the English subtitles. In the first act, when the Three Ladies cut Papageno some slack and unlock his lying mouth, the subtitles have them singing this:
The strong are different than the weak, in that they think before they speak.
Quite true. Look, everyone has Microsoft moments when their brain experiences the blue screen/red ring of death and shuts down. The difference between people who avoid (on the petty scale) embarrassing themselves or (on the large scale) getting themselves into bad trouble is that sensible people shut up until their brain reboots. This is part of the sensibility informing my favorite advice to clients, which is: when in doubt or confusion or stress or trouble, shut up.
Amusing case in point: yesterday Katrina was at a book fair with the kids. A mother meets her, and asks which kids are hers. Katrina points out Abby, who is obviously Asian. Other Mother looks perplexed; you can see the Microsoft Blue Screen of Death reflected in her eyes. Is she Korean, she asks? Yes, says Katrina. Is your husband Asian, she inquires? No, says Katrina, thus ignoring my standing offer (diamond tennis bracelet if she answers that question "I don't know, it was dark"). Further confusion on expression of Other Mother, who then ignores my advice and keeps talking through the brain freeze — looking at my very white, very Northern-European-origin wife, she asks "are YOU Korean?"
Katrina was very polite to her and explained at this point that Abby was adopted. The brain rebooted. Katrina scrupulously avoided eye-rolling or laughter, displaying merely one of the traits that makes her a better person than I.
So: shutting up, it's not just for clients any more.
[Note that I am fully aware I routinely fail to follow my own advice.]
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Follow-Up: U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Right This Time - September 12th, 2014
- The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained, But It May Have A Litmus Test - September 11th, 2014
- [Rerun from 2011] Ten Things I Want My Kids To Learn From 9/11 - September 11th, 2014
- Yale Might Want To Look Into Some Sort of Basic Civic Literacy Course - September 10th, 2014
- U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Very Wrong - September 6th, 2014