It Was the Best of Times, It Was…
Stupid Facebook. Yes I suppose I must have told the truth about my birth date when I initially signed on way back when.
But obviously at my age, birthdays don’t carry the sense of accomplishment, maturity and celebration they once did. After a certain number of candles, the date is just so much smoke and icing, the cake underneath, well, it’s been pretty much the same now for quite a few decades and one more slice is okay. But it’s nothing to get up early for.
At this juncture, another year seems both a benign crisis and an opportunity to break new ground–a contrast of opposites–a common language ploy used by motivational speakers, politicians and authors. I speak of the spring of 2002 when my professional life (temporarily) ended and my writing life began as “both crisis and opportunity.”
In fact, I go on to say that those in the audience might have heard as I have that the Chinese character forÂ crisis is composed of the characters for danger combined with the character for opportunity. And I say that I’m not sure it’s true, but would like to think it was, because it is so poetic and handy and works so well in my little speech.
It isn’t true.Â Before I use it again on Monday, I checked this morning. Heck. From wikipedia…
Benjamin Zimmer has traced the history of weiji in English as far back as anonymous editorial in a journal for missionaries in China. The use of the term probably gained momentum when John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in Indianapolis on April 12, 1959.
When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.
Kennedy employed this trope routinely in his speeches, and it was then appropriated by Richard M. Nixon and others. The usage has been adopted by business consultants and motivational speakers and has gained great popularity in universities and in the popular press.
For example, in 2007, Condoleezza Rice repeated the misunderstanding during Middle East peace talks, and Al Gore did so in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, and in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
Some linguists have attributed the appeal of this misinterpretation to its “handiness” as a rhetorical device and an optimistic “call to action.” Because of the attractiveness of this folk etymology, Mair has suggested that its popularity is due in part to “wishful thinking.”
So let this crisis be an opportunity this 62nd spin around the Day Star–another birthday, a call to action, a dangerous opening to boldly go where this boy has never gone before, “without hope and without despair” as writers are said to spend their days.
And I’ll have to tell you, I have been granted the most gorgeous day of the year so far to ponder my longevity while I enjoy this here and this now. Happy Birthday, kiddo!