Tahoe Pine Nuts: Am I becoming a curmudgeon?
I’ve never read a self-help book, probably because I’m beyond help, but I do take friends’ criticisms to heart, and I was told today by a trusted friend that I am becoming a curmudgeon.
Of course I objected strenuously, insisting I am no W.C. Fields, who would sign an autograph for a 13 year old and say, “There you go, Sonny, you little son of a b____!”
But my friend asserted that America needs curmudgeons to keep us from becoming complacent. The curmudgeon keeps a critical eye on society, and by mixing sarcasm with humor, makes us smile at our shortcomings. And just here my friend cited the testy Phyllis Diller: “Never go to bed mad … stay up and fight!”
This sent me in search of examples of curmudgeonly observations, and I didn’t have to go far. My favorite guy, Mark Twain, who was limitlessly human, quipped, “Fewer things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
And, “At fifty a man can be an ass without being an optimist, but he cannot be an optimist without being an ass.” If you count Mark Twain as a curmudgeon, then I guess I am one, as a true curmudgeon has the greater good at heart.
My second favorite curmudgeon would have to be H.L. Mencken, who to my mind was about as crusty and as American as an apple pie.
“On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” And, of course, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”
Curmudgeondom is not the exclusive purview of older men. Dorothy Parker ranks in the annals of crumudgeonettes, and she had an elegant touch when phrasing her curmudgeonollogy: “Now I know the things I know, and I do the things I do; and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you!”
Playwright Oscar Wilde died too young to gain the status of curmudgeon, but he was well on his way to understanding what it takes: “A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Purportedly, Wilde’s last words from his death bed were, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.”
Would you consider the Dalai Lama a curmudgeon? When asked what surprised him most, the Dalai Lama had this to say: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Alright, if the Dalai Lama and Mark Twain are curmudgeons, then I am proud to be called, on occasion, a curmudgeon.
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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