Many old maxims lack ring of truth

Every so often, I will hear someone say, "Everything happens for the best."

No matter how many times I've heard this little gem, I still flinch (which beats the cringing I used to do).

Anyhow, sparked by a short jolt of inspiration I began to jot down questionable maxims I've heard over a lifetime. Feel free to disagree with my small list, but experience tells me you'll do that without my suggestion.

What I would really be interested in are those dippy maxims I've missed.

• Everything happens for the best. I wouldn't urge this platitude on parents who have just lost a small child – or anyone who has suffered a tough personal loss. No matter how positive your intentions, it won't help the person in pain.

• Every cloud has a silver lining. An obvious alternative to the one above, this one has become a useless cliché that people don't repeat with the frequency of the first one. Thank goodness!

• You can't tell a book by its cover. Well, I think you can if you read the dust-jacket. But, taking the maxim more seriously, I believe a person with only a moderate grasp of what makes people tick can tell a great deal about a person on first impression. Not everyone needs to examine the contents!

• Experience is the best teacher. Frankly, I've met a number of individuals who haven't learned squat from their experience. They keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. Everybody has experience; it's what you do with it that counts.

• You can't change human nature. Nonsense! I've seen people rise to the fullness of their potential and I've seen others move south to join their ancestors who still swing from the trees. Education, perseverance and motivation are the critical factors.

• A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. This one won't be a winner with investment counselors. Many wise folk prefer to present pleasures or short-term gains for future advantages or profit.

• Eat, drink and be merry. This may make sense to an adolescent but has little appeal to anyone who cares about their health or hopes to live to a ripe old age. I don't think I've ever been acquainted with an elderly sensualist!

• Where there's smoke, there's fire. Here's a perennial favorite of gossips. It's also a dangerous assumption to make. How does one know who or what started the fire?

• Necessity is the mother of invention. Whoa! Most creative acts and inventions occur long before there is a need for them. And many inventors do their best work when they have the leisure to think, contemplate and explore alternatives without feeling the pressure of time constraints.

(Ron Barnes is a longtime Prescott resident and a semi-retired educator and businessman.)