October 15, 2005

Talking back to fortune cookies.

Fortune Cookie #1: "Suffering is caused by attachment to impermanent things."

Althouse response: "So is pleasure."

Fortune Cookie #2: "Kind words cost nothing."

Althouse response: "Kind words are worth nothing."

General comment: The fortune cookies did not contain fortunes.

Fortune Cookie #1: "Suffering is caused by attachment to impermanent things."

Translation into a fortune: "You will attach yourself to impermanent things and suffer for it."

Fortune Cookie #2: "Kind words cost nothing."

Translation into a fortune: "Without expending a single dollar, you will achieve your goals through flattery."

27 comments:

Robert said...

Wow! You're so massively wrong about these. I am surprised because you are generally so on-target, even when I disagree with you I find myself questioning my own assumptions to check whether I've made a mistake.

Pleasure is the enjoyment of transient things, not attachment to them. When you become attached, you stop enjoying them. Cf. the person who enjoys a glass of wine and then moves on, vs. the alcoholic who frantically scrabbles through the cabinets looking for juice.

Kind words are worth nothing? On the contrary, kind words are the emoluments of social life. When knowably sincere, they buttress our self-image and give us a positive context in which to operate. When merely polite, they give us the data point that the person giving them at least considers our feelings worthy of a gentle fib.

Bad Ann! No donuts.

Ann Althouse said...

Robert: You've never been in love?

Troy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Troy said...

Ann you sound like Al Capone in The Untouchables... "You can get further with a kind word and a gun, than you can with just a kind word."

Fortune # 1 "You will fall in love with Susan."

Fortune #2: "You will be nice to Dean Newton and he will give you a good job recommendation."

Those are prophecies not fortunes! They need little Delphic oracle cookies at the gyro/falafel shop

Dave Schuler said...

Fisking fortune cookies?

Robert said...

I am in love, and not just with the crispness of my own prose. ;)

I don't take pleasure from the attachment in my love bond; the pleasure comes from the companionship, the support, the hot sex, and all the rest. All of which, however lifelong and unbreakable they may be, are fleeting and impermanent - one out-of-control city bus away from oblivion.

Ann Althouse said...

Robert: Just be careful when you nose that bus into the pre-dawn gloom.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: It was one of those "you should blog that" situations (I keep finding myself in). After each cookie was opened, I said one line in response. I felt the need to talk back to the fortune cookie.

"That cookie is in no position to know," Wally, "My Dinner With Andre."

chuck b. said...

I was young when I got the fortune cookie advising me, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Disquieting knowledge to foist on a clueless teenager, but so very, very true.

downtownlad said...

Ann - You are doing this all wrong. The correct way to handle fortune cookies is to add "in bed" to the end of the fortune. It's much more amusing that way.

Fortune Cookie #1: "Suffering is caused by attachment to impermanent things in bed."

Fortune Cookie #2: "Kind words cost nothing in bed."

Jim H said...

Coincidence. As these comments were being posted I typed a message to a friend about the difficulty I have reconciling the second and third noble truths of Buddhism [the origin of suffering is attachment; the cessation of love is attainable] with romantic love, marriage and family.

Robert, is it possible to enjoy spending your life with someone without forming the kind of attachment that can create suffering? The Jesuit Anthony de Mello suggested that such is attainable, but it's hard for me to imagine. I take it that you acknowledge your attachment, but realize that's not what makes you happy? Would you lose your attachment if you could?

Charlie (Colorado) said...

Fortune Cookie #1: "Suffering is caused by attachment to impermanent things."

Althouse response: "So is pleasure."


Yeah? And?

Robert said...

Jim, I am a student (a very imperfect one) of De Mello.

No, I would not lose the attachment if I could. I will lose it eventually; what purpose, then, in changing the timing?

Ann Althouse said...

"Yeah? And?"

Jeez, how extended a dialogue can a person have with a cookie? You know, the cookie just doesn't hold up its end of the conversation.

OddD said...

Jeez, how extended a dialogue can a person have with a cookie? You know, the cookie just doesn't hold up its end of the conversation.

Try chocolate chip!

Richard said...

What ever happened to fortune cookies that give you an actual fortune? Today's cookies only make silly declarative statements. I don't want to be told that "Kind words cost nothing." I want a bona fide fortune that will tell me what's going to happen a week from Thursday ("You will receive a check for $125,644.60 on the 15th.") Is this asking too much.

vbspurs said...

My my. Shrediting fortune cookies.

It's never dull with Althouse around. :)

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Fortune Cookie #2: "Kind words cost nothing."

Althouse response: "Kind words are worth nothing."

Translation into a fortune: "Without expending a single dollar, you will achieve your goals through flattery."


Until you explained it, I was like: What a cynical biatch!

Then I realised what you were trying to say, and how much you sounded like a Protestant, with your work ethic, your goodness through doing, your put your money where your mouth is philosophy.

Booooring.

Give me the flattery, give me the subterfuge, give me the voluptuousness, give me the hypocrisy of Catholicism any day!

Cheers,
Victoria

ziemer said...

downtownlad,

you understand fortune cookies.

the rest,

go read downtownlad's post over again.

ziemer said...

but if we must discuss these cookies, to say that "kind words cost nothing" translates to "kind words are worth nothing," is just wrong.

saying something kind to someone that you know doesn't smile very often, and bringing a smile to their face, produces benefits (to both the speaker and hearer) that far exceeds the cost (nothing).

even when the recipient knows very well that you're just talking crap.

ziemer said...

ack,

i just violated a cardinal rule of strunk and white's.

i mean "bring a smile to his face"

although, in this particular case, "her" would probably actually be the more appropriate term more often than not.

but that's just me.

Ann Althouse said...

Ziemer: "To say that "kind words cost nothing" translates to "kind words are worth nothing," is just wrong."

Did I ever make that assertion? The first line made me say the next line, but you are left to infer the connection. It could be something like "what the cookie really thinks" (but is putting a false front on) or "what it suggests is also true" or "what a cynic would say in response" or "what Althouse thinks is more accurate" or "how a person could misread the cookie."

ziemer said...

sorry,

i guess i'm not understanding the terms, "althouse responds" and "translation into a fortune."

i thought those were interpretations.

Ann Althouse said...

Ziemer: Think deeply about what "Althouse response" might mean! What is a response, but a reply, the thing said next, prompted by the stimulus, in this case, a fortune cookie? Why a person like Althouse might reply with a complete nonsequitur!

ziemer said...

i get it.

i said i was sorry.

that wasn't how i read it.

Ann Althouse said...

No need to apologize. And don't apologize for apologizing!

Kev said...

This is interesting timing, as I was eating at a new Asian place in my neighborhood (and posting a review thereof) not too long after you wrote the fortune cookie post. I'm happy to say that the two cookies I got both had actual fortunes:

Cookie #1: "Good news of a long-awaited event will soon arrive"

Cookie #2: "Romance comes into your life in a very unusual sort of way."

Kev response: "I sure hope so, on both counts."

(However, my response was done silently, since it was a very crowded restaurant and I didn't want to be perceived as a wacko. I assume Ann carried on her conversation the same way if it took place in public.)

Oh, and I liked downtownlad's take on the whole thing. It reminded me of that comedy routine where every sentence had "in my pants" appended to it.