Unsolicited Advice for Living in the End Times, Vol. 23

As time goes by, knowledge grows and we have to grow with it

It seems to me that this might be the prudent time to advise you to question whether you should be listening to my or any advice, let alone taking it.

First, we need to ask ourselves, Is there a sell-by date for gu idance? Words of wisdom can certainly wither. Although it might take a while, the usefulness of some council can diminish like bone density, and before you know it, there is a break in the smooth flow of your life. The shock of the newly old—I just want you to have some cushioning. That’s all I ever wanted. In fact, I see this column as a plumping up of the pillows of your life.

As time goes by, knowledge grows and we have to grow with it. In the 1960s, British schools advised students in the event of a nuclear attack to put a paper bag over their heads. Now science has taught us that is just not enough. We need to check that the bag is gluten-free, and if it turns out that mercury is in retrograde at the time of this attack, then just grab a beer and some sunglasses and enjoy the light show.

We learn as we go on, and sometimes it takes years before we really know the truth of a thing. We all remember when former president Bush the younger creeped us all out by giving a back massage to German chancellor Angela Merkel. When he groped her at that G8 summit in St. Petersburg, we all cringed with a superior sense of right and wrong. Well, who’s laughing now? We thought he was making the ultimate frat boy move on Ms. Merkel when actually he was subtly planting a listening device on her. Be chagrinned, be very chagrinned.

There also seems to be a tsunami of lifestyle tips floating through social networks, and we don’t want to drown in a sea of suggestions. We should be able to filter out our uninvited guides while we troll for cute animal videos, but the prophylactic device has not been built that can protect you from the virus of advice. Sure, it seems helpful and harmless when your internet friends tell you how great your bangs look or how brilliant your latest cultural gift to world was. Yes, I can see myself in your shiny bangs, and I will read your life-altering manifesto, but if all this was true, then we’d be living in a new age of enlightenment and it would be hawt.

It’s not just the where and when of taking advice that I’m questioning but also the offering of it. It’s not like I always want to be handing out polite pointers and spewing helpful hints. Especially when I have a toothache, which is what I’ve had for a week. I went to see my dentist, and he was baffled by my pain. He saw no reason for it and said, “Let’s see where it goes.” What did I think the end of times was gonna be like?

This is why I suggest a periodic re-evaluation: lifestyle tune-ups to see what needs tweaking and what needs tossing. Some might think it’s a sign of weakness to change your opinions or change your feelings about others’ opinions, but remember, the Empire State Building stands tall, but only because it sways.