Ah, that wondrous word ‘stupidity’, we know it when we see it (or maybe not); we call it out when we experience it (or maybe not), and we recognize it when it smacks us (or maybe not). It’s ubiquitous in scope and far-reaching in scale. It lurks in all shapes, sizes and forms, sometimes disguised and sometimes not. It’s the back side of a job well done; it’s the negation of a positive, and lest we lead a path of self-destruction, it’s the downside up of life.
If the Oxford Dictionary defines stupidity as “behavior that shows a lack of good sense or judgement,” then it’s without wonder that we sometimes feel engulfed by it. Our modern-day phone-addicted, reality-TV based society teems with it. Whether in politics, government, or business, a day doesn’t go by when we don’t shake our heads in bewilderment. Where does it all come from?
Even famed physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) notoriously quipped, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”
Obviously, from time to time, all of us are guilty of misjudgments and lack of prudence in our own decisions. We’re only human after all. However, make it an ongoing ritual and the Goddess of Mania will soon be climbing our doorsteps. Stupidity repeated is stupidity incarnate!
What can we then do to minimize it? Perhaps the first step isn’t to step at all, but moreover to take a pause. Break to think things through, figure the consequences and reflect upon the desired results. Sleep a night on it as many fathers would advise. Granted we don’t always have the luxury of time, as some decisions require prompt and immediate action. Miss it and the opportunity disappears, and depending upon the situation disaster may be the outcome (see When Thought is Not Enough…). But even in times of high pressure, it’s the well-prepared person that rarely fails the task at hand.
Perhaps the second mitigating factor is a recognition that life is nothing more than an onslaught of daily problems. In the words of renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), “It is the growth of consciousness which we must thank for problems; they are the dubious gift of civilization.” Awakening to this we must refrain from replicating Chicken Little and screaming “the sky is falling” each time something besets us. Problems are a natural ongoing part of existence. Once accepted, we enhance our ability to deal with them, thereby helping to avoid many an erroneous decision.
And finally, and perhaps the greatest of all, is a healthy dose of modesty to keep us grounded. Pride goeth before the fall is the oft-recited Biblical proverb written thousands of years ago. Needless to say, the ancients knew a thing or two about the colossal and stupendous mistake of arrogance that we often don’t pay heed to. History is filled with a repertoire of blundering events in all facets of life, whether they be war, commerce or society. Civilizations have come and gone and yet we humans never seem to overcome the proclivity towards arrogance when the going is good. And it’s exactly then that the seeds for the next disaster are firmly planted. Our personal lives are no different.
So as we live each day, let us remember that stupidity is but a blink away. Ready to cause havoc, it visits at its own behest. And it’s a short journey from there to the downside up of life…
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