Never Get Your Proverbs From A Cookie

by Kevin Burton

   Got two fortune cookies with my latest order from my favorite Chinese restaurant. 

   The first fortune cookie had no fortune in it. Have you ever in all your life had a fortune cookie without a fortune? I had not. I guess there is a first time for everything.

   When I saw there was no slip of paper protruding from the second half of the cookie, I spat out the first half into my left hand to make sure I was not about to ingest my fortune. 

   I know, eeew!

   No fortune.

    It wasn’t in my mind to eat both cookies, but I did just for research purposes, just to see if the second one had a fortune or if fortunes perhaps had gone the way of prizes in cracker jacks, namely into history.

   There was a fortune. It reads, “Enjoy life! It is better to be happy than wise.”

   OK, first, if you have spent any time reading Page 7, you know I would never take stock in anything as ridiculous as a fortune from a cookie.  But I always read them.

   I’ve had fortunes before that left me flat, that made me think the fortune writer was out of ideas or distracted by life events.

   But I have never seen a fortune that was this drink your bathwater, spit in the wind stupid.

   A proverb from a fool. The writer is probably happy though because he or she sure isn’t wise.

   Tell you what, I’d much rather swallow that slip of paper than the message it carried.

   This episode sent me back to my days as a Sunday School teacher in Washington State.  From my notes it appears I only taught for two months before I moved.

   I had a lesson I called “counsel” and another called “the company we keep” that are probably relevant here. 

   I was teaching junior high and high school aged kids. What I wanted to get from them was who they took advice from and who they ignored. 

   I was genuinely curious about what they would say because it was not a group that would hold back. 

   Unfortunately I didn’t record the students’ responses.  I wrote them on a white board but didn’t get them on paper. 

   Message bombard us all from every conceivable angle. This class I taught was in 1995. In the (can it be?) 26 years since, how much louder has the din of information grown?

    I talked to the class about the attribution line from journalism, “according to.” It’s a great tool and necessary for me as a reader. I have to know who is saying something before I decide the source is trustworthy.

   When you hear small children ask “who says?” you can read that as a challenge to authority if you want, but that is really an excellent question.

   The scripture I used for the class was 1 Kings 12:1-17.  That’s the account of Rehoboam becoming king of Israel after the death of Solomon.

   The people ask him to lighten the burdens put on them by King Solomon. Rehoboam gets advice from the elders who served Solomon. They said in verse 7, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

   But Rehoboam rejected that advice, listened rather to the advice of his younger contemporaries and told the people in verse 11, “And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!”

   The people of Israel basically said we’re outa here. This is the point where Israel is split into two nations. Rehoboam, who took the bad advice was left with the smaller kingdom, called Judah.

   Sometimes it’s about who you listen to.  

   On further reflection, maybe I should not have been surprised by that fortune in the cookie.  Think of it this way: If you are watching television and a commercial for a luxury car comes on, is that car maker not giving you the same message only not coming out and saying it?

   “Buy this car, this experience. Enjoy life! It is better to be happy than wise.”

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