Jonas Jonasson is the author of many true and funny quotes, and this is one of my favorites, particularly given the current state of humanity:
…if there was one thing he had learned it was that the very biggest and apparently most impossible conflicts on earth were based on the dialogue: “You are stupid, no, it’s you who are stupid, no, it’s you who are stupid.”
Yup, that’s a fact. I’ve spent lots of time with all sorts of people, both as a social worker and on a personal level, and I can tell you this – everyone, even the dumbest person on the planet, thinks other people are stupid. It’s amazing. And it’s also a problem.
See, this is what humans do: when it comes to poor behaviors, we interpret other people’s as indicative of their personality traits but make situationally-based excuses for our own. In other words, if someone does something we perceive as stupid, we think, That person is stupid, but if we do something stupid, we think, That was an anomaly. I just don’t feel well. Must be coming down with something. Or maybe it’s because I skipped breakfast. Or I didn’t get enough sleep. Or I’m stressed about work. Or…
The strategy of being overly generous with ourselves and overly critical of others creates a maelstrom of overblown and irrational discord. Doing something stupid doesn’t make you a wholly stupid person. We all make errors in judgment, and while that is a part of who we are, it’s not all of who we are.
Perhaps if people were more candid about their foibles, it would help us to be more honest with ourselves and forgiving of others. In that vein, I will now share a handful of stupid things I’ve done in my life. Please know that I am in no way implying this is a comprehensive list. Over the past four decades, I’ve done thousands of stupid things. Here are five:
#1: I bit a baby at a baseball game. I already wrote about that mortifying event several years ago and cannot bring myself to do so again. If you really need the details, you can find them here.
#2: I threw a marshmallow at a raccoon. This was in an effort to frighten it away, which obviously did not work. In my defense, I was young and hadn’t yet learned that raccoons are totally badass and laugh in the face of airborne confections. In fact, the one at whom I threw the marshmallow caught it in midair, then stared at me like, Wow. Just wow, human. For those of you who haven’t had a similar experience, I can tell you it’s pretty humiliating to be shamed by a raccoon.
#3: I got a tattoo in the dead of summer, two days before a planned lake trip. New tattoos = no sun exposure and no swimming, so I clearly didn’t think this through. Also, we planned to paddleboard on the lake, and I forgot my paddle. So I ended up having to wear sleeves on a 90-degree day and paddle around with a broom.
#4: I embarked on a 15-mile hike with no provisions besides a cup of coffee and two mini muffins. Over the years, my outdoor adventures have included hundreds of stupid acts like this one. Here’s another: I once coaxed my dog to charge down a long, steep hill, and as a result, we both almost fell backwards off a cliff. I swear, it’s kind of a miracle I’m still alive.
#5: I bonked myself in the head with a mallet. One evening, after downing a few cocktails, I thought it would be a good idea to build a bamboo fence. I knelt down, placed a stalk of bamboo where it needed to go, and hit the end soundly with a rubber mallet, which then bounced back and clocked me right in the forehead. It was my very own slapstick comedy moment. It was also incredibly painful.
All right, that’s enough. This is getting embarrassing. But the point is this: we all have strengths, and we all do stupid things. We need to stop making excuses for ourselves while we globalize other people’s blunders as indicative of their character. Until we get to that point, we may never move forward as a species, and forward is the direction we really need to go.
(P.S. – I also may have looked directly at the sun during the eclipse. But only a little.)