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Read This Article, Change Your Life

Pre?-?packaged inspirational quotes, like worsening air quality and the Kardashians, are ?everywhere?.?..? ?

Read This Article, Change Your Life
Read This Article, Change Your Life
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

We are all familiar with the story of Robert the Bruce of Scotland — driven to exile after several defeats in battle — was inspired to not give up by seeing a spider try repeatedly to spin a web inside the cave he was taking refuge in. Of course this was possible only because this was the 13th century and society and culture and mass media allowed for the learning of life lessons through arachnids or real life experience. Today, wherever he was — cave or castle or the cyber world, Robert the Bruce would have been thwacked on the head with the pre digested art form known as the inspirational quote instead. ("Failure is the tuition you pay for success" "The one who falls and gets up is much stronger than the one who never fell"....)

That these messages would have inspired King Robert to action is certain — whether that would have been renewing his fight for an independent Scotland or knocking the front teeth out of the idiot from his old high school who had posted them online is debatable.

The truth is that the inspirational message is nothing new. Human beings have always drawn strength and solace from the words of others. This is as true of Nelson Mandela who drew inspiration from the poem Invictus to survive 27 years in jail, as it is for the middle aged man with the generous gut and the psychedelic exercise gear, who wheezes two rounds of his neighbourhood park with Eye of the Tiger ("just a man and his will to survive") on his playlist.

What has changed is that  finding words that are especially meaningful and relevant for one's life or situation is no longer a personal journey. ??Today, pre packaged inspirational quotes, like worsening air quality and the Kardashians, are ubiquitous. What's worse , the encouraging, profound words won't wait for you to find them either, they will hunt you down and ambush you — in social media feeds, in statuses, in lift lobbies, in corporate offices, on coasters at your favourite dive bar, even painted upon restaurant restroom doors.

There's coaching and pep talk coming at you from every where, even when you sit down to pee. There's a quote for every season and every reason including a chipped fingernail. Now you have daily affirmations to heal, to wound, words for strength, for succor, for rainy days and sunny days, sayings in the face of failure or success, to encourage holding on and letting go, words to fall in love to and those to help you struggle through heartbreak with, statements that exhort the strength of crowds and the courage to go it alone, the wisdom of sages and dogs and random life observations from athletes, actresses, comedians and cabbages.

The multitude of platitudes are typically beautifully typeset in cursive fonts, trapped inside a decorative border against stock shots of beaches, sunsets, fields of flowers or soaring mountains. Sometimes, just to break it up, there will be images of people poised mid jump — always fit, lithe attractive people with shiny hair and glossy limbs totally unrepresentative of the 99.999% of humanity for whom leaping is not a good Instagram look. (As an aside — pictures of these types are typically superimposed with words exalting living in the moment — "Today is a gift. that's why it's called the present." "Life is happening now" "Do something new everyday" — rather than the dour but incredibly useful bit of advice that every wannabe soarer should keep in his back pocket —"Look before you leap")

So who exactly are the people who find the fragrance of this eau de philosophy irresistible? Who are those who feel uplifted after pep talks from beermats to chase their passion? The answer is unsurprising — it's everyone. The reason the supply exists is because the demand for life coaching in short profound email sign offs is immense.

That's because in the context of our stressed and pressured lives, these encouraging sayings can sometimes be a soothing balm. In a world of random violence, increasing aspirations, spiralling work stress and worsening quality of life, frankly every appeal sounds seductive. From embracing change to being your best self to a dream of a simpler world where none of this matters (and beaches and forests lie imprisoned within decorative borders) — what's not to like?

Secondly, in a context where success is standardised and measured by material possessions and the number of Instagram followers one has, being "deep" is certainly a unique marker for our times. The appeal of the inspirational quote is exactly that — the more affinity a person has for profundity in pellets, the wiser and more intellectual the image he projects. Don't believe me? The most followed twitter handles spout "a stream of inspirational content" as they say in the trade. The intellectual halo these people get is not the only happy side effect from peddling these feel good mantras and life advice. Instead, by association  it seems that they have successfully understood the essential nature of life, love and material success. Therefore, their life is therefore more fulfilled, more epigrammatic and certainly more photogenic than yours. Again, what's not to like?

If, like me you have begun to get slightly alarmed that while you've been lying on the couch, eating samosas and picking at your zits, everyone else has been taking the exhortations to Live! Love! Laugh! Leap! seriously and is therefore  having an altogether more Pinterest worthy life than you — chill. There is cheering news afoot. Actual scientific research has proven what I suspected all along. People generally find it hard to differentiate randomly generated profound quotes (what the authors of the study called in scientific terms, "bullshit") from actual meaningful wisdom. (People generally gave higher marks on profundity to the randomly generated bullshit statements than those in the control group — taken mostly from Deepak Chopra's twitter handle!)

And people who show an affinity for these quotes (bullshit or otherwise) are generally "less reflective, lower in cognitive ability and more prone to confusion" than those who don't. In other words, a lot of what is being peddled as wisdom isn't by people whose life is a living embodiment of Rudyard Kipling's "If" — it is bullshit posted and liked by idiots.

Mean??while as they say in these inspirational posters — "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." I couldn't agree more and I'm leaping up to get another samosa. You?

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