Saturday, 7 August 2010

When in Doubt

I have a friend whose favourite aphorism is When in doubt, do nothing. At first, it sounds trite and hopelessly passive; even boring and unmanly but just think of all the fools you know who have rushed in "where angels fear to tread". I have to confess that I have often been such a fool myself and, just for the sake of a moment's reflection and clarification,I could have saved myself a whole pile of trouble, expense and worry.

Moreover, this aphorism does not apply just to actions, it applies to words too:

The moving finger writes and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all they Tears wash out a Word of it.

(From Edward FitzGerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.)

Think of all the unintended harm that has been caused in this world by hasty words: from simple punch-ups to broken friendships; fatal duels and even wars.

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