Dueling Proverbs

Actions speak louder than words.
The pen is mightier than the sword.

Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Haste makes waste.
He who hesitates is lost.

And my personal favorite:
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. (Proverbs 26:4)
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:5)

What the last proverb demonstrates is not the hoary New Atheist chestnut “The Bible is full of contradictions!” but rather the more subtle fact that New Atheists are typically flat-footed literalists with a chronic inability to pick up on the subtle social and affective cues normal people can read, and therefore often have a profound inability to perceive what a literary artist is doing. Consequently, New Atheists seize on passages like this, imagine they are 3000 years smarter than the author, and miss the fact that the writer was not a moron who never noticed the “contradiction”, but a skilled artist who very deliberately paired these statements to highlight a paradox.

Any other paired proverbs you can think of?

  • JB

    Not proverbs, but two superficially contradictory statements:

    “He who is not with me is against me”
    “Whoever is not against us is with us”

    Actually those two statements are logically consistent with each other, the difference between them being the emphasis on “for” or “against”. The emphasis depends on the situation. The latter would apply to, for example, Evangelicals or even Muslims who do not directly oppose the Church. The former refers more to the Last Judgment at which there will no longer be any wiggle room.

  • antigon

    Ten billion phrases, usually unctuous, beginning well back in ancient histor, summed perhaps at their pithiest by the (paraphrased) -’better to be thought a fool by saying nothing, than by opening your mouth & proving it.’

    Vs., & of course in all their historical platitudinous glory defeated, by Oscar Wilde, & (no paraphrase) – ‘stupid people never talk, & clever people never listen.’

  • http://hjg.com.ar/ hernan

    In Spanish, we have several:

    “Perro que ladra no muerde. ” “Cuando el río suena, agua trae.”
    “Al que madruga Dios lo ayuda.” “No por mucho madrugar amanece mas temprano.”
    “No hay dos sin tres.” – “La tercera es la vencida.”
    “Haz bien sin mirar a quien” “Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos”
    “Yerba mala nunca muere” “No hay mal que dure cien años”.

    I think it’s right to point that “profound inability to perceive what a literary artist is doing” of militants atheists, but it’s also true (and, perhaps more important for us) that probably they learnt that “literalism” from many christians; the bad “literalist” way of reading the Bible, indeed, not only applies to te Genesis (not only to cosmology, archeology, history) but also to sapiential books – and all.

    PS: This has nothing to do with the post or with anything but… people of Seattle, be aware: it’s a grave sin to miss this: http://www.siff.net/cinema/seriesDetail.aspx?FID=290

  • bob cratchit

    “A foole and his money be soone at debate: which after with sorow repents him too late”
    “For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows.”

  • Deacon Nathan Allen

    “Out of sight, out of mind” and “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”. I’m told, by the way, that if you run the phrase “out of sight out of mind” through a machine translator into Russian and then back into English you get “invisible maniac”.

  • bob cratchit

    ^I hit enter too soon but this was suppose to go with my com:
    “The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”

  • astorian

    1) Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
    Strike while the iron is hot!

    2) Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
    Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

    3) The best things in life are free.
    You get what you pay for.

    4) Opposites attract.
    Birds of a feather flock together.

  • Eric

    Guess which one was used by Pres.Bush in a speech in reference to ‘the war on terror’?

    Then I read the first proverb in the post below yours which reads: “Better to be thought a fool for saying nothing, than by opening your mouth and proving it.”.

  • Ted Seeber

    Every high functioning autistic I know is either an Atheist or what I used to call myself in college “a sensitive old-age guy” because after a year of comparative theology study on my own, I ended up categorically rejecting any religious sect less than 500 years old.

    High funcitoning autistics need either good liturgy or at least concrete materialism; spiritual matters are almost too hard for us.

    The opposite is true with some low functioning autistics- put them in a superficial, music-driven non-demoniational rock and roll church and they’re happy as clams, even if they can’t speak a word.

    • Clare Krishan

      Thanks for noting something I also recognized in Mark’s characterization: “are typically flat-footed [..] with a chronic inability to pick up on the subtle social and affective cues normal people can read” – I am firmly convinced that reformers like Luther and Calvin were afflicted by what we would today call Asperger’s Syndrome, that indeed spectrum disorders are to our times what leprosy was in Jesus’ day. JPII ‘s model of reciprocity in trinitarian love helps us see what our dialog partner may not be capable of, leaving us the responsibility to accomodate for that, not to poke fun at or pour scorn on (as sadly those who fall away into rigorist positions, such as the SSPX for example – will they accept the personal prelature? With lots of prayer for divine intervention, we can hope so, but they actually need the new theological insights to overcome what their dualist-moralist approach is missing, the spirit of communio.

      On a unrelated topic – few American bloggers are taking note of big things happening in Dublin these days – an historic ecumenical service of the word and water on Tuesday led by anglican, methodist and russian orthodox ministers. Video clip here (@ 2 hrs in):
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4S1BacTvPkk#t=7250s
      I was struck by the echoes of the gospel ( from Corpus Christi, 2 days earlier)
      “”Go into the city and a man will meet you,
      carrying a jar of water.
      Follow him.””

      with the mysterious ‘water carrying man’ that has intrigued me in the past whenever I hear this passage proclaimed, now it has much profounder resonance that perhaps those who work in apologetics can make our own – yes baptism makes us part of the body, our separated brethren too, yet in an “apsie” kind of way they only “get” the first part of the message, they’re not inclined to be spiritually curious: who fills the water jugs? Catholics have to patiently (taking Brother Alois’ Taize at the start of the clip linked above as an example) invite such reciprocity. How give thanks for the gift received? (clue: Jesus invites us to celebrate with himself in the Eucharist, absolved of original sin by baptism, and ever regenerated by sacramental absolution – e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKstq6o9siI — Wednesday’s moving reconciliation service, in the wake of the sex abuse crisis)

      • Ted Seeber

        Interesting. A completely unrelated to your unrelated theory, yet still related- is the concept of autistic media. Also known as Turing’s corollary- in a blind terminal system, everybody is an autistic. Text communications largely blocks out the emotions and body language; so getting angry in a flame war for instance is all about what you read into what I say rather than what I actually said.

        While I personally doubt either Calvin or Luther were Aspies (if they had been, they’d have been something more benign, like Cathedral Architects, rather than charismatic reformers), I do think you’ve stumbled on to something true, that most of the reformers had some sort of a social disorder that would place them on the spectrum today (Luthers was actually diagnosed in his lifetime- problems with the symptom of scrupulosity)

      • Eric

        Clare Krishan said: “yet in an “apsie” kind of way they only “get” the first part of the message, they’re not inclined to be spiritually curious: who fills the water jugs?”.

        This problem isn’t unique to autistics, it is quite common in normal people. I almost never attempt to explain matters of personal revelation (spiritual revelation comes from God, I almost never hear it from men). This is because I would probably end up either talking to a wall, or watching someones eyes glaze over. From my own personal experience with God, I know that nobody knows a person better than the Spirit, so I preffer to let the Spirit search out the person and fill the jug.

        I’ve come close in my intereactions with other people before to being able to share in personal revelation, but so far only close enough to understand what Jesus meant when he said “I have come to start a fire, and how I wish it were already ablaze!”

  • deiseach

    Two Irish proverbs:

    (1) “Threatened lives live long”
    (2) “Long runs the fox, but he’s caught at last”

  • Clare Krishan

    …er… still awaiting moderation…
    (does posting URLs doom my reply on the ‘aspie” aspects of classical dualities’ lack of trinitarian transcendence? pls advise)

  • WesleyD

    “Look before you leap” versus “He who hesitates is lost.”
    (This half-duplicates one of yours.)

  • MaryS

    “Install the latest updates.”
    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  • MaryS

    For a righteous man falls seven times
    - Proverbs 24:16

    You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    - Mt 5:48


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X