Philosophers used to be guys who wore bedsheets, spoke in complete paragraphs and had only one name, such as Plato, Aristotle or Gandalf. For ages, their wisdom outsold competing deep thoughts for no good reason other than name recognition and popular fashion. Kind of like iPhones.
These days, philosophers are found on that Fountain of Intelligence: YouTube. None has been more strident than Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychology professor whose life advice is aimed at young men, suggesting there might be some problems with that group.
His best-selling book, Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, has piercing insights such as “stand up straight” and “pet a kitten.” Uncool critics suggest his maxims read like church marquee one-liners, only not as funny. But these platitudes are also metaphors for fundamental truths, so the kitten stands for moral purity and petting it is like refreshing your inner pilgrim ... or something. The important thing is the guy has a zillion followers on YouTube, so chew on that, Aristotle.
It dawned on me if philosophers now come from the internet, maybe I could be one. I’ve had thoughts—often more than one a day. There might be some hidden depth to them. No, seriously. For instance:
1. Unwrap some Band-Aids. After several thousand wounds, I realized Band-Aids are to keep blood from smearing clothing, papers and innocent bystanders. The perfect antiseptic-ness of the patch is less important than getting the thing applied promptly. Since the sharp object that perpetrated the cut was probably close to your hands, you might not have 10 functional digits to pick and tear at the impenetrable wrappers, so keep Band-Aids on-hand with just the sticky-protectors. You could be struggling with a strip that sticks best to itself with the thumb and ring finger of your wrong hand. Moral: Obsessive cleanliness reveals lack of faith in your immune system.
2. Turn the horses for home. My father used to recite this so often I researched to see if he had a record for bank robbery. But having gone to a few meetings and tried to get out of an overparked lot simultaneously with other attendees, I’ve realized preparing for a timely exit is never time wasted. Moral: The key to not overstaying your welcome might be a quick getaway.
3. Make two trips. Humans love to be efficient, even when they only imagine it. Packing more stuff than you can safely carry to save a second trip to the car, shop or basement saves time maybe once in 25 attempts. More likely it will mean broken merchandise, missed stairs or familiar despair when you get to the door and can’t grow extra fingers to turn the knob. Moral: Walking around the hill might take more time, but you likely won’t fall off a cliff.
4. Don’t buy batteries at the airport. Beer, however, is a real bargain if you just spend a dollar more. Moral: Whether you’re angry or envious of airport vendors says a lot about your marketing plan.
5. Wear more flannel. Don’t confuse a contempt for plaid with the benefits of soft warmth next to your skin, especially when enduring frozen boredom such as a junior hockey match or loading trucks in winter. Flannel soothes the epidermis enabling your mind to focus on higher thoughts, such as your next meal. Moral: Nobody knows what Plato was wearing under the bedsheets.
6. Expect the expected. Few of us are that good handling the most likely outcomes to worry about long-shot possibilities. Moral: Things are almost always what they seem, and that’s the way to bet.
I know what you’re thinking—for philosophy, these thoughts aren’t very deep. But you have to admit, they are dense.