I Probably Shouldn't Reread "A Modest Proposal"

I'm reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams. I'm on Life, the Universe and Everything, and last night I stumbled across a quotation so apt to this blog that it is now affixed right smack dab in the right-hand column, in place of the Anatole France quotation, which no one probably bothered to translate anyway. (That one said, "It is human nature to think wisely and to act foolishly.")

How I went 28 years without actually reading any Douglas Adams I will never know, particularly since my sphere of acquaintance is liberally littered with Adams fans of all stripes. Anyway, the books are fantastic, they're weird, they're a bit frustrating, and I can't recommend them enough. Also, they contain excellent life lessons such as, "It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problem just with potatoes." That line starts out one of the chapters in Life..., and when I came to it my jaw dropped and I laughed out loud.

What is an eating disorder (or any addictive behavior) other than the attempt to solve major problems just with potatoes? (Or just with lack of potatoes. Or just with alcohol. Or cocaine. Or gambling. Or cutting.) I already knew this, of course, and have paid lots of money over lots of years to learn it over and over and over again so I could try to translate the intellectual knowledge to lasting behavioral changes. That lack of transfer is the single most frustrating hurdle for me, being a reasonably intelligent person. How can you know something for a fact, like, really know it backwards and forwards, and yet you can't bring yourself to know it in the only way that counts? Reading a one-liner in a satirical book isn't really going to change anything (otherwise everyone would have read Jonathan Swift and Ireland and England would have had nary a problem again), but gah. I just love it.

"It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problem just with potatoes."

Yes, yes it is.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you enjoyed it, and I knew the Anatole France comment. Then there's that ever splendid Blaise Pascal that explains exactly how we often end up with the potatoes as an attempted solution: Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaƮt point. On le sent en mille choses.

    I'm sure the government in my state would be happy to substitute injured Haitian children for hungry Irish ones if you decide to go all Swift on us.


Get rude, get deleted.