Advice

 I don’t think advice is ever a bad thing. People give advice, generally speaking, because they think the advice they’re giving will improve something in some way. Even if it’s purposefully bad advice, someone is getting a laugh out of it.

I was browsing a used bookstore, and it seems they like to work in all kinds of old literature. What was really cool about this place is how they organized the joint. It was a house, and each room was a separate section for books: the library/office was philosophy, upstairs you could find horror and science fiction in the boys room… Not to mention some dirty mags in a shut cupboard. The basement had mysteries and biographies, the children’s room had Harry Potter novels, and the kitchen had how-to’s and cookbooks. Out front, however, was where the antiques were.

Out in the front area, it’s so packed with books you can barely squeeze through the shelves and rotating displays, or scuttle past the podiums with big, wide open papers. One such podium showcased some pretty interesting newspapers: the New Yorker, from 1940. Articles talked of the war in Europe, which we came to know as World War 2, and how certain presidential candidates would not enter into the war as a positive running platform. Pre-WW2 U.S.A was a funny place: it’s the only time in my memory that the States wanted to stay out of a fight.

I come across one of the columns, where presidential candidate Wendell L. Willkie, or the Man of Many Elles, made that promise. He is also credited with saying the following: “Being a presidential candidate is interesting. One receives a great deal of advice. Most of it is free and some of it is worth just that.”

This coming from a man I have never even heard of before. To think that this guy, a man running to be the leader of one of the most powerful countries on the planet, was never even mentioned to me. I found this by accident, in a used bookstore in Windsor, Ontario. It wasn’t even in the states! I get the feeling that almost no one knows the Man of Many Elles.

Still, this bit about advice is interesting. We give out so much of it, as a people. We scream it at bad drivers, heckles game streamers with it, and offer it to the actors and characters we see on screen. We dole advice out to people who are having problems, and carefully administer advice to friends and family. We give advice out to everyone and everything, whether they ask or not.

So how cheap is advice? Is it worth anything?

I think that advice is what you make of it. This sounds like a cheap cop out; however, if we admit that we, as humans, apply meaning to whatever we want to or whatever we’re told to apply meaning to, then advice is the same. If you trust someone’s word, then their advice means more to you than the rantings of some random white asshole on the internet. That’s because you give that advice meaning by putting your trust in that person’s word.

So here’s a presidential candidate saying that most advice is free, and most is worth just that. This means he looks at most advice as worthless, which is something I find foolhardy. I think all advice is at least worth looking into; sure, internet forums and the advice we find there should be apologizing for being read a lot of the time. But if one assumes that all advice is cheap, then one finds no value in anything or anyone saying anything. That, I think, speaks a lot to you and your character if you expect nothing from most people. Especially for a presidential candidate.

It seems to me there’s little wonder that we, as a society, have mostly – if not completely – forgotten the Man of Many Elles. He expected little of most, and much from few. A lot of people live their lives this way, distrustful and cagey. This serves us well in our every day lives; trust no one while driving. Never trust people with vital information. Expect group projects to suck, hard. Yet, I think that the only way that many of us will be remembered is by how often we expect a lot of people, and how often we can trust other people to help create a better place.

I think that advice is worth a great deal, and it’s a matter of finding the people that are ready to meet expectations. The only way to find these people, is to give people the chance to meet those expectations in the first place; which means you have to expect that people don’t such, at least not all the time.

What do you think?

-P.

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