I've been down this road before, and I know how it ends. I see a quote on Facebook or on some random site, and it's misattributed to The Buddha, The Dalai Lama, or George Carlin (my holy trinity, by the way). I gently explain that, perhaps - just perhaps - the person is in error with their attribution. After all, why would George Carlin say we "pray too seldom" when he was a pretty confident atheist?
And that quote from John Lennon about being asked by his teacher what he wanted to be, to which he responded "happy", and then a bit of a witty exchange began? Yeah, that never happened. Ever.
Remember when Albert Einstein laid the truth out on the table for all to see when he uttered those immortal words, "I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots." Yeah, me either, because there's no compelling evidence he ever said this.
By the way, there's an entire website devoted to quotes sloppily attributed to the Buddha himself
fakebuddhaquotes.com, where some poor guys stays busy trying to separate wisdom transcribed in 500 B.C. from the latest utterances heard at the end of hot yoga class.
But if you find that too much homework, , here's someone who cared enough about the whole misquote phenomenon to produce a hilarious short film on the issue, starring a wistful seeker and a Buddha who pretty much said everything ever:
Facebook Quote Buddha - YouTube
Then there's the even more heinous movement of people purposefully making up quotes to drop into memes next to images of people - usually politicians - to make them look stupid, petty, or evil. As much as I *wish* Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin had said some of the things credited to them on the internet, I know better in most cases, and when I don't, well, Google is your friend. Most politicians, on either side of the ledger, say plenty of legitimately moronic things in their fevered attempt to appease their constituents and donors. They don't need the help of maligning internet trolls to help them find the tipping point.
And yet, given the fact that most EVERYONE can now create memes, contribute to social media, or log an entry into Wikipedia, can the misinformation and misquoting be reined in?
Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself, IS this even an issue for the general populace? Maybe it's just me. Maybe I've got my hackles raised over something that is unworthy of concern, and I should have my hackles surgically lowered.
I've mostly been told to lighten up by contrarians because, "if it's true, does it truly matter who said it?" After someone says this to me, there's usually a pause long enough to make Harold Pinter uncomfortable before I respond, but it's not for dramatic effect. It's me re-channeling a whole bunch of really horrible shit I want to say to them before I speak. My polite answer is a simple, "Yes, it does."
It does, because words matter. Who said which words in which order under what circumstances matters. Content + Context = Meaning. But my soapbox on this issue is plain worn through from the stomping of my splinter-ridden soles and the weight of the fallen utterances that I've employed to convey my take on this growing trend. And so, today, for at least a moment, I surrender. I surrender and fall blissfully into the great futon of apathy that is American sentiment around such things as words, meaning, and attribution. I am so unburdened by my conscience on these matters for the next few moments that you might mistake me for the Fox News logo if you saw me on the street.
I'm temporarily free of the fetters of respect for women and men whose character was shaped by the language they used to convey ideas, principles, and philosophies. I am, for the remainder of this blog post, a rapscallion, a cyber-hooligan with a can of spray paint let loose in the Louvre. My mantra? Another grand American sentiment: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Let's get busy, shall we?
"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." - Malcolm X
"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." - Jesus of Nazareth
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." - Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead.
"I don't know if 'Exile on Main Street' was perfect, but it's the closest we likely came." - Keith Moon
"Feminism is doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature." - Meryl Streep
"George Bush doesn't care about black people." - Barack Obama
"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth." - Thomas Kincade
"Only the Good Die Young." - Elton John
"Stupid is as stupid does." - Mark Twain
"If you love something, set it free." - Thomas Jefferson
"Shoot all the bluejays you want, but remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." - Stephenie Meyer, Twilight
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world shall know peace." - Joseph Stalin
"Speak softly, and carry a bit stick." - Helen Keller
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Bear Bryant, Auburn coach
"It's always Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!" - Greg Brady, The Brady Bunch
"Keep calm and know thyself." - Pythagorus
"I wanna be your sledgehammer." - the Apostle Peter, to the angel Gabriel
"I'm just a simple monk. Now go home and get your shine box!" - Donald Trump
By now, you've hopefully been angered, amused, and downright flustered by some of these. I know it was painful to write them. My left eye may actually be twitching. Not actually much fun at all, to be quite honest. Some were made up, some misattributed, and many went against things I hold rather dear. But if my point was made, it was worth the brief wave of terror that swept across my soul. Ironically, I feel like I should ask for forgiveness, even though I explained the exercise and its purpose on the front end. But I shan't, because as Angie Dickenson once said, "Forgiveness is a thing with feathers…"
So, I think I'm going to keep calling these things out, at least in the minuscule circle of contact I have with such occurrences. Why? Because Einstein asks us to do so. I remember his request as if he inscribed it on our collective karmic chalkboard just yesterday: