I often wonder what it is about us humans that compels us to give a piece of advice. It is the one thing that people – even the most shrivelled up, decrepit of soul, withered old misers – are eagerly willing to share.
Think about it: we all know that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but there will always be a plethora of well-meaning friends, queuing up to reveal their pearls of wisdom on how best to navigate the tricky, emotional maze which we call life. You may be a jilted, mawkish mess, slowly sobbing yourself into a puddle on the floor, but as surely as night follows day, you will have a veritable army telling you that “This, too, will pass”. And, of course, it will. But the last time someone told me that, I believe I responded with, “Well until it does, I’m going to live on F*ck Off Island and get blitzed every night on Prosecco and Piña Colada!”
To turn on any computer these days is to be swept away by a deluge of memes telling us to be strong, or kind, or positive, or comparing your friends to the contents of your knicker drawer. And believe me, I’ve met my fair share of Granny Pants and Butt Flossers in my time!
Some advice is great. I distinctly remember being told that if I ever felt like writing an explosive letter or email, to absolutely go ahead and write it…but then to save it, leave it overnight and then read it through in the morning. Nine times out of ten I’ve ended up not sending it. I also love the piece of advice to “Go to bed and sleep on it. You’ll have a different perspective in the morning.” To me, this is the human equivalent of “Try turning it off, leave it ten seconds and then turn it on again.”
Yet, it strikes me as rather odd that, despite the fact that we all love to give advice, few of us will ever ask for it. Even fewer will actually take it and act on it. Why is that? Perhaps it is because in giving advice, we feel we are somehow imparting knowledge, while simultaneously helping a soul in need. Whereas, to ask for advice could be seen as actually being a soul in need, something that isn’t always easily admitted. Then again, perhaps the 1997 movie, Devil’s Advocate, had it right when Al Pacino’s character, John Milton says, “The worst vice is advice.”
Of all the advice I’ve ever heard though, something my granddad used to say has stayed with me, and seems ever more true as I get older. My granddad was a hard working miner. He never had much, but he did have a wife and children who adored him, and that was everything to him. He could never understand why people are so intent on accumulating stuff, always eager to have the next big thing, or to make and save as much money as they can. His motto was that so long as your bills were paid and there was food on the table, anything left over was to have a good time with. “You can’t take it with you” he used to say “I mean, have you ever seen an angel with pockets?”