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What a harsh word, stupidity.  Yet it's a word that almost all of us use on a regular basis, in one form or another.  Unfortunately, we tend to use the word "stupid" to apply to people, rather than the actions that truly deserve the label.  But that's another story.

We all do stupid things.  And while there are many people out there who would prefer words such as "misguided" or "ill-advised" or "inappropriate," I prefer to call a spade a spade (sorry for the cliche!) and call my stupid actions just what they are:  stupid.  Usually, when I find myself in a situation in which I've just done something stupid, I knew before I ever did that something that it was stupid.  It was stupid to think of it, it was stupid to do it--it was just plain stupid.

To give you examples would be embarrassing to me and would bring up a lot of painful memories, so I'll try to think of a rather innocuous example of what I'm talking about.  I do remember one time when I got a phone call offering to sell me a water filter for a few hundred dollars.  The great thing about it, though, was that they were also going to send me plane tickets to Hawaii for a vacation, and something else that I can't remember.  The voice inside of me that we all know so well was saying "No--don't do it, it's a scam," but my logical voice was saying "Compare the prices of the tickets to the price of the filter, and you end up with a filter and a trip to Hawaii."  In the end, I gave them my credit card number and ordered the filter.  (This was in the days before the Internet, so I couldn't look them up.)

Here's where stupidity as an obstacle comes in.  For the rest of that day, I was miserable.  All I could think about was how stupid I had been, how ridiculous it had been for me to bite on such a scam when I KNEW it was the wrong thing to do.  I lost focus on everything else that afternoon, and I wasn't able to be present in any of the moments I passed through that day.  I was mentally beating myself up, regretting my stupid action of giving my credit card number over the phone to telemarketers.  And that afternoon I called them back and cancelled the order.

The miserable day was my penalty for a stupid act.  But if I hadn't called them, I would have ended up suffering a great deal when the tickets came and I found out I would have had to fork out a great deal more money probably for the flights and for hotels and food in Hawaii.  I've read enough about such scams since to realize that most of the people who fall for them end up feeling bitter, angry, resentful, abused--you name it--because they had stupidly trusted someone on the phone who just wanted their money.

Another way that stupidity has affected me has been when I've said rude or ignorant or obnoxious things about other human beings who haven't deserved my rudeness or ignorance or obnoxiousness.  When I've been stupid enough to say such things, I've paid for it with the shame I've felt when I've been called on it, when I've been around that person later.  I do try to forgive myself and move on with my life, and I always apologize when i should, but that doesn't change my stupid act.  This is something I almost never do any more, for I've learned a few very valuable, very painful lessons. 

Stupidity as an obstacle pertains to our acts, those acts which we know we shouldn't do before we do them.  We ignore that beautiful gift that God has given us--our conscience--and we do something that goes against all we stand for, all we feel.  Stupidity does not refer to limited mental capacity or ability.  Being bad at math or science isn't stupidity--it's being bad at math or science.  We all have our gifts, and we all have our weak areas.  Stupidity is doing something that we know is wrong and that we know can harm another person.  Stupidity is an obstacle to living life fully because we pay for our actions in regret or anger at ourselves.  Some people live their lives committing stupid acts without feeling the least bit of regret (those Russell mentions below), but those people pay in other ways.

But wait, you're saying--what about those things that people who act stupidly do to us?  Aren't those obstacles, too?  And the answer is, absolutely.  The person who makes a stupid comment about you has hurt you, just as the person who has stupidly cut you off in traffic has put your life in danger.  The clerk at the store who insulted you has done something stupid, and the person in the cash only express lane with twenty items and who's writing a check is doing something stupid.

But other people's actions affect us only to the degree that we allow them to affect us.  It sounds so simple, but it's not easy to let things go by that are very stupid.  But we have to, if we're going to get on with the business of living a full life.  Our own actions are more important, for we'll never advance as human beings, never become more loving creatures who are helping the world to be a kinder place, if we don't examine our selves and our actions.  Let people do what they will, and move on.  Complain about what they did, take legal action against them, whatever it takes, but don't let that action bother you so much.  Live your life, or that person has gotten the better of you, and you'll be acting stupid by letting someone else's stupid action take away your peace of mind and peace of heart.

Don't be stupid.  Be loving and caring and kind.  Let these characteristics rule your thoughts and actions, and you'll avoid the aftermath of stupid actions.  Believe me, doing the right thing is worth it, even if it's just to spare yourself the feelings that follow doing something stupid.


The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that
the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell

There is no sin except stupidity.

Oscar Wilde

I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.

Edith Sitwell

A stupid person's report of what a clever person says can never
be accurate, because one unconsciously translates what
one hears into something one can understand.

Bertrand Russell


Life is tough, but itís tougher when youíre stupid.

John Wayne


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As Albert Einstein once said to me:  "Two things are infinite:  the universe
and human stupidity."  But what is much more widespread than the actual
stupidity is the playing stupid, turning off your ear, not listening,
not seeing. . . playing helpless.

Fritz Perls

There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Here's one thing I never say anymore:
"These people can't be that stupid, can they?"

George Vecsey


Stupidity makes you dangerous--to yourself and everyone around you.

Jennifer Lee Carrell
Interred with Their Bones

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human
stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein


Anger makes us all stupid.

Johanna Spyri


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.



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