First Universal Law: Do Nothing Stupid!
Clip Art: Example of a Stupid Act: Holding the Target
For years, I’ve been collecting Rules and Laws and Truisms to help guide the young, and the not-so-young, through this quagmire we call Life. There are many such helpful collections of useful aphorisms available in libraries and on-line. The book stores are jammed with them, ranging from the occasional deep insight into the human experience, to once-over-lightly philosophical rehashes. It’s not easy to stand out in the crowd today as a wise person, let alone a philosopher-in-training. First, there’s not much of a demand. Second, there are too many of us are trying to do the same thing. Third, some of us are stupid.
Then, I read about Hippocrates, the first physician, and so-called Father of Medicine. He famously told his students that the First Rule of Medicine is: “Do no harm.” I thought that was beautiful. If you cannot make it better, leave it alone. If you can’t cure it, at least don’t make it worse.
I thought about that for quite a while, turning it over in my mind, and trying to make it general enough to apply to a broader spectrum of Life’s experiences and challenges. It took time, but I came up with the ultimate guideline and the title of this piece:
“Do nothing stupid.”
Consider that thought for a moment: How many times have we tried to explain away a mistake or a lack of action by saying to ourselves, and others: “I didn’t know what was the right thing to do.” I can understand that. Knowing the right thing to do in so many different Life circumstances can be nearly impossible; but, somehow, we always know what is the stupid thing to do. Stupid is stupid. It is universal. It is recognized around the world, in every culture, for what it is: Stupid. Some even say stupidity is not curable. Ignorance is curable, through education, but Stupid is forever.
Examples abound: I read about a protester who sat on the railroad tracks in front of an approaching train. That was Stupid. Running naked through the snow in Antarctica is Stupid. Recreational drugs are Stupid. Saying or doing something that you know will needlessly upset or offend another person is (all together, Class): Stupid! Holding up a bank with umpteen TV cameras trained on you and trying to get away with a money bag containing a GPS chip and an exploding red dye is Stupid. And, the list goes on. I’m sure you have amassed a lifetime’s collection of stupid things you have seen, and maybe even a few that you have done. Don’t feel badly: It’s a universal condition that occasionally touches us all. I believe it was Forrest Gump who said: “Stupid is as Stupid does.”
This will be my First Rule. If we don’t do anything Stupid, we won’t get in trouble, no one will get hurt, and nothing will be started which might later, at great pain and expense, have to be stopped.
Furthermore, over time, we may learn that in so many cases, the opposite of Stupid is Smart. We might start to think: “I don’t know what’s Smart in this case, but I certainly know what Stupid is. What’s the opposite of the Stupid thing? Hey, maybe that’s the Smart thing!”
And we’re on our way to Wisdom.
It is my hope that, in years to come, people may speak of me and say: “He always seemed to know the Smart thing to do.” I fervently hope that the worst response they receive is from one who says: “Well, I don’t know if he always did the Smart thing, but I’ll give him this: I never saw him do anything Stupid.”