Column: Platitudes and banalities

“He is, you know, amazing!”

In one short sentence I have included the three most frequently used words in most everyone’s vocabulary. I hope I never hear or see them again.

I am so fortunate to have grown up before the words, “you know” replaced commas and the thought process. And before “amazing” became a prime descriptor of individuals and things. Please, folks, can we all try to deep-six these shallow, inconsequential words? Can we agree that when everyone and everything is amazing, no-one and nothing is?

And while I’m in this reflective mood, I may as well share with you a few other pet peeves.

When is the last time you heard someone say, “Everything happens for the best?” Or that companion platitude, “Everything happens for a reason.”

No matter how many times I have heard these little gems, I still flinch — which beats the cringing I used to do. Imagine saying this to someone who lost a family member in the recent Las Vegas shooting!

Anyhow, sparked by a short jolt of inspiration I began to jot down questionable maxims I’ve heard over my lifetime. Feel free to add to my small list. What I would really be interested in are those dippy platitudes I’ve missed.

“Every cloud has a silver lining.” If so, I haven’t found it.

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

“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.

“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 emulate their ancestors who still swing from 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 individuals prefer to forgo present pleasures or short-term gains for future advantages or profits.

“Eat, drink and be merry.” This may make sense to an adolescent but has little appeal to people who care about their health or hope to live to a ripe old age. I don’t believe I’ve ever been acquainted with an elderly sensualist.

“Where there is smoke, there’s fire.” Here’s a perennial favorite of gossips. It’s also a dangerous assumption to make.

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

And finally, several that boggle my mind: “You can be anything you want to be.” “Nice guys finish last.” “Time heals all wounds.” “Good things come to those who wait.” Grrrr!