Brilliant. Might even serve as a title for some forthcoming text on sustainability. One could easily do worse.
The first internet mention of this remark I can find occurred in the comments section of the Archdruid Report in July of 2008. The author claims to have been saying this for years. I’ve no reason to doubt him. Him you ask? Couldn’t a female have coined such a phrase? I suppose. But I’ve reason to believe this is a him. His name is Ruben, and he has his own blog (which is where he boasts of original authorship). Now I also have it on fairly sound intel that Mr Ruben is a heterosexual married man. This implies he has a female wife. She may well have influenced and or somehow enabled his epiphany. I don’t doubt that a bit. And we may one day learn the truth of this supposition. And perhaps not.
I wanted to fetch my lance from the barn and have a go ‘tilting’ at this windmill of a phrase. But it was raining at the moment and getting wet in order to go tilting didn’t strike me as all that much fun. So I just sat and pondered it for a bit. Can we do anything? Well, of course not. We can’t stick a thermometer on a spaceship today and measure the temperature of the inside of a black hole tomorrow. But does that really count as something we need to do in the first place?
Is there something serious we can’t currently do that we really should be attempting to do? Why of course there is. If you need some assistance imaging something, anything, that we ought be able to do that we can’t currently do… leave a comment and I’ll leave a hint or two. But at the end of it, is this a sufficient skewering of the sentence? In formal logic, I’d say, yep… kill the predicate and the rest is trash. Was this meant as a logical offering in the first place? I’m not sure. But I’m guessing no.
And what’s all this about “must”? Have we no free will? Couldn’t one be content with a mere “should”? [actually, I am a bit partial to this latter complaint]. In the end, this is not my sentence; not my idea. If Ruben wants to bandy it about as is, he should. From this keyboard all good blessings are wished upon him and those with whom he would share the credit (or blame).
Why have I gone to so much length, been so wordy, ranting over the issue of a ten word sentence? A little back story. Years ago (more than 30, let’s leave it at that) I was younger and more impressionable. I loved to grab onto clever phases and thoughts; things I hadn’t imagined myself and that I considered worth keeping close. I began a collection of these witticisms with a mind to populate a calendar with ‘thought for the day’ quotes. I even asked folks around me if they had any particular favorite quote or line they might share for the project. As it happened there was a young man who worked as a janitor in the building where I was employed at the time. He wasn’t the brightest candle, but he was a very nice person, cheerful and good at his job. He overheard a conversation concerning this quest for favorite quotes and he set down the trash can, turned to us and offered: “There’s a bunch in every crowd”.
I smiled and duly wrote that down on my pad of paper. It was a “Life is like a box of chocolates” moment. I’ve since forgotten his name, which I’m confident I did append to the notion scribbled on my pad… but the pad is likely buried somewhere far afield. I just remember how cleverly simple and almost meaningless the sentence is. Almost meaningless. The logic is impeccable. If you need to know how many are in a crowd, you can do worse. If you are a janitor and you need to clean up behind a crowd, recalling that E=mc2 gives little solace.
Context. Context is key.
Ruben dropped by GP the other day. He left a thought. Short, succinct, perhaps even pithy. He said, “I vote tomatoes”. He can be a wordy guy. But for now, I’m writing him down for 13 words. “We must do less”.