SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – My wife and I eat out every Saturday night at any one of several restaurants, but Chinese food is our favorite since it’s arguably the most delicious cuisine ever invented by humans, and we have probably consumed more of it than any non-Asian couple who ever raised a chopstick. Not only does it taste good but the variety of dishes seems endless with each one being as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate.
Besides the great aromas and overall pleasant ambiance of the restaurants, each gastronomic experience invariably ends on a happy note with the fortune cookie, a sweet folded wafer containing a prediction of imminent good luck or words of wisdom that are profound, clever, or even funny. While the aphorisms are usually attributed to Confucius, I doubt that he actually made all of those wise observations himself but he gets the credit nonetheless. Sometimes the sayings make no sense and I assume it’s due to the scribe’s inability to properly translate the words into English or perhaps it’s the Chinese people’s famous inscrutability, though no one’s logic could be that difficult to comprehend as in the maxim “The wet owl hears all before he flies.”
Of course I don’t expect the fortunes to actually come true but I always leave the eateries with a smile and in a good frame of mind, the exact effect that the cookies are intended to produce. However, a recent prophecy was so uplifting to read that I kept it and even taped it to my computer work space at home where it raises my spirits whenever it’s read. Who wouldn’t want to be told that “You will stumble into the happiness of your life,” and who wouldn’t be cheered by that message?
No one can actually predict the future no matter how authentic a fortune teller’s crystal ball or deck of tarot cards or horoscopes may appear, but if I was in that business I would make sure to use the above message of hope at the end of every séance or reading. After all, if you’re going to fleece someone out of money, at least leave them with something to smile about. That’s the least you can do, assuming you have a modicum of decency.
In addition to that wonderful fortune pasted above my PC, at the end of another finger-licking-good meal I got a cookie whose slip of paper read “It’s easier to fight for one’s principles than to adhere to them,” not a fortune or something funny but rather serious words to ponder upon. Did Confucius actually say that? I Googled the maxim and it turns out to be a quote from a guy named Alfred Adler (February 7, 1870 – May 28, 1937), who was an Austrian medical doctor and psychotherapist.
So much for Confusius’s sagacity, as the good doctor wasn’t even Chinese. Knowing the truth, it still doesn’t destroy my faith in Chinese insight since who ever heard of Austrian fortune cookies, or tastily exotic food for that matter? By the way, the actual quotation was “It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.” Amen brother. Living up to one’s principals… what a nice New Year’s resolution that would be.