Sunday, March 26, 2023

Shades of Grey (The New Non-Fiction)

Advice is easy to give, which is why I try not to give it!

I mentioned before that I am not Ann Landers or Dear Abby - I don't answer reader questions, for the most part, and I am not an "advice" columnist, influencer, or Sooze Norman.

Years ago, at the Birchmere, we saw Susan Werner warming up for Madeline Peroux, and she nearly overshadowed the main act.  She has released a number of albums, but the one that really stuck was "The New Non-Fiction" (as well as "I Can't Be New") which is chock full of interesting songs and thoughtful lyrics.   The other day, I was listening to "Shades of Grey" and forgot how insightful it was.

Some of her songs seem to hint at a conservative bent, but since I don't want to know the name of her cat, I will not investigate further - that would destroy the buzz.

God forbid you ever mention that you're looking for love
Mention it to anyone
And you'll be gettin' more advice than you could ever dream of
Cheap advice, ain't it fun
Hey, let everybody have their say
And at the end of the day
All you really get's another shade of grey
Interesting comment - "relationship advice" is one of the biggest topics on advice columns and the Internet - the latter being the worst source of information.  People go online and ask total strangers (often teenagers) for relationship advice, detailing scenarios that may or may not be true.  For some reason, some folks crave relationship advice from strangers rather than just talking to their partner.

Of course, the flip side is true - if you mention you are dating, your parents and grandparents will have all sorts of helpful "advice" - much of it unhelpful.  And I described before how women will subsconsciously sabatoge relationships by telling their "BFF!" that her new boyfriend is probably cheating, as he was seen reading a copy of Playboy magazine.  Case closed!
And everybody's gonna tell you 'xactly what you oughta do
If you're thinking 'bout a family
Have a baby, don't have any, really gotta have two
If you wanna live happily
Hey, let everybody have their say
And at the end of the day
All you really get's another shade of grey
And time just ticks away
With the whole world holding sway
While the sun goes down on one more twenty-four hours
I've seen this in action - particularly with parents and grandparents.  "Oh, you should try for a boy!" (if they already had a girl).  Or they tell you to have two kids, so they will keep each other company (they say the same thing about house pets!).  Everyone has advice!
Everybody yippin' yappin' in the interview chair
Hawking their philosophy
Be a Christian, be a Buddhist, be a billionaire
Be like me, can't you see
Hey, let everybody have their say
And at the end of the day
All you really get's another shade of grey
So get up and walk away
Walk away
This goes back to I don't want to know the name of your cat.  People become celebrities and they go on talk shows and act like what they have to say - outside of their sphere of celebrity - has some deep meaning, whether it is their neo-Buddhist philosophies or some sort of pseudo-science medical beliefs.  And we all listen to it, too!  Because what Cher thinks of the plight of children in Sudan is more important than what we think....
So don't tell me the answers
I'd rather learn them for myself
And don't sell me your answers
Put your book back on the shelf
With the new non-fiction
Well, it is true, that the answers you learn yourself - the hard way - are the best lessons in life.  Education is painful, which is why so many people eschew it.  You learn more from putting your hand on a hot stove than you do from reading 100 books about hot stoves.  And if someone tells you not to put your hand on the hot stove, odds are, you'll ignore that good advice.  "Don't tell me what to do!  Free-Dum!"   Irony Alert: The "Free-Dum" crowd lets anonymous people on "Qanon" tell them exactly what to do, starting with emptying their checking account and ending with going to jail.

And that right there is why people want to give helpful advice - they want you to avoid all the painful experiences you will go through in life, and it pains them (a second time) to see you struggle with the same stupid things they struggled with as a youth ("New credit card!  I'm rich!  Whoo-wee!").

But then again, there are also bad actors out there, particularly these days on social media, intentionally giving bad advice because it profits them.  Buy this accessory for your car!  Buy a stock that I am shorting!  Buy a fancy new product that you don't need!  And since their "advice" is candy-coated and flashy, people tend to follow that more than Grandma's admonition that she wished she saved more money over the years.

Of course, things have changed since they were your age - and  much has stayed the same, despite outward appearances and the glitz and glamour of the modern age.  In fact, one way you can tell if someone is lying to you, is if they say, "All that has changed!  The world is different today!"   And I say this because back in the "dot-com" era (before the social networking era) the liars said that, claiming "profits and losses are a thing of the past!  It's a new paradigm!"   And thus went

So yea, you have to take advice with a grain of salt.  Read it all and think about how it applies in your own life, but don't fall victim to the trap of "Oh, that doesn't apply to me because Grandma didn't have smart phones when she was my age!" - or because the "advice" online amounts to convenient thinking. Much has changed, but most things stay the same - relationships, bank accounts, making a living, getting ahead, saving money.  You can't "modernize" your way out of the basic facts of life.

I write stuff in this blog, mostly so I can get my own head in shape and think about things.  If someone gets something out of that, fine.  If not, fine also.  But it pays to learn from the mistakes of others and the mistakes of the past.  History never repeats exactly the same, but gee-whiz, there are pretty predictable patterns, if you know what to look for.

And sometimes, asking Grandma might tip you off to them.....