Recently, I opened a fortune cookie after eating Chinese food and was oddly confused by the quote that was inside. It read as follows: “It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.” Reading it at the time, I had to look at it a few times before I could have an inkling of its significance. However, after putting it away for a few days and coming back to it, I was able to have a better idea of what the simple quotation had to do with life wisdom.
If you really think about it, being “critical” and finding faults with people or ideas can be much easier than actually finding the “correct” words for what is really in front of you. Sometimes you just have to set aside your judgments to truly get a sense of what is “right” or “correct” for the particular situation. While many people do not taking fortune cookies seriously, since many of them have similar sentiments stuffed in them, I have always been one of those people who takes any sort of wisdom to heart. It made me wonder, though, why are certain quotations so hard to understand at first glance? Is it the wording that gets muddled or the idea that it takes time to come to terms with particular concepts? Perhaps I had never thought about what it meant to be “critical” as opposed to “correct,” at least in those words. Everyone has their own definition or perceived ideas about what certain words or phrases mean, which is why it is so important to be well-versed on language. Language is contextual, however, and no two people have the same understanding of everything they read. With these ideas in mind, what is it about the written word that has such resonance in our lives and has the ability to transcend cultures?
One reason that this idea interests me is that I am a huge fan of song lyrics. Music has a different feeling when there are words and particular ideas involved which can shape the song as a piece of commentary. If you were to compare fortune cookie quotations and song lyrics, the two can go hand and hand due to the memorable quality that particular ideas can have. Sometimes, song lyrics can be as quotable as fortune cookies, since particularly radio friendly tunes have lines that are repeated, therefore stored in the consciousness of those listening. Lyrics have always been a refuge for me when I need guidance, just as people quoting common witticisms can give people hope at their lowest points. Fortune cookies and song lyrics bring logical ideas into the world through different mediums, yet sometimes have the similar aim of giving people knowledge of themselves and others that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
Words of wisdom can come in many forms, but many times it is the wording and categorization of these quotes that has the strongest effect on the reader. Perhaps if “critical” or “correct” had been replaced with a different word, the quote would have a completely different meaning. That is why a thesaurus is so important to have knowledge of, since anyone can have a handle on wording if they know what choices they have at their disposal. The written word is so diverse, as there are many different languages, lingo, and ideas that have varied definitions depending on the culture. Quotations, such as the ones used in fortune cookies, are short and t0-the-point with their wording, which can be interpreted differently based on your own experiences and mindset. No definition is completely set in stone, especially if you have a particular dialect or upbringing that predisposed you of a different way of thinking. Words are subjective in their presence, which makes relate-able quotes from songs and novels, for example, inspirations to people based on their ideals.
While talking to people when you are down or need advice can be the best medicine for a particular time, it can sometimes be that a quote from your favorite song, a fortune cookie, or even a line from an intriguing book can end up being the pick-me-up that you need. Instead of having a long-winded conversation with someone about a topic, a short and simple line about being “critical” versus being “correct” can have a strong effect on you due to its straight and to-the-point path. Being short on words does not always mean that there isn’t something important being said. More often than not, it is the subtleties of a tightened up quotation that end up being the real wisdom of the line. Words can have a strong impact on people’s opinions and way of life in general, since many people have particular quotes that they live by. Words can even be associated with symbols, as the word I live by is “balance” and I associate that with the sign of the yin-yang. In general, keeping strong morals and optimism in life is important, so words can be the catalysts that people need to be who they want to be. Never give up the words that mean something to you, as they can be constant reminders as to how you want to live your life!