While also attributed to Will Rogers, the quote was reintroduced in the 1997 suspense film The Spanish Prisoner. We might even go one step further by saying it is interest paid on money you never borrowed. And even so, it's also an increasingly common prognosis for Americans.
The only thing bigger than the American debt is the amount of worry that has been levied on its people by politicians, news media, propaganda shills, and everyone else who wants to attract attention. Fear marketing has become the singular biggest influencer of all time.
Looking at the most popular stories parlayed into major news headlines — child abductions, governmental collapse, pandemics, debt default, stock shocks, climate change, health care crisis, economic ruin — it's a wonder more people aren't depressed. By comparison, the children of the 1950s and 1960s felt safer clamoring under desks in preparation for a nuclear war.
That's not to say all these other issues aren't important. Remaining vigilant against such threats can be prudent. But being paralyzed by them is not. Most of the worries people embrace are issues they can do nothing about on the grand scale.
Sure, they can take steps on a small scale: safeguarding children, living within their means, encouraging companies to be green in practice and not public relations, and so on. But beyond what can be done on the small scale, none of these issues are worth the worry. Most are well beyond our control, with the zombie apocalypse outstripping Y2K in eventual likeness.
One small study that reaches further than its intent.
Last week David H. Rosmarin of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital released a study that suggested people who trust in a benevolent God tend to worry less and are more tolerant than those who mistrust an indifferent or punishing God.
At a glance the sampling sizes seemed rather small, but there is something to take away from it regardless. While Rosmarin suggests several applications for his findings, it might be worthwhile to consider something else too. Those people who are more tolerant and less prone to worry are also more comfortable letting the world run and then adapting the best they can.
Whether you accomplish that by placing faith in God or a god or simply recognizing that as individuals we are pretty small specks on a planet hurling itself around a sun that is hurling itself around a galaxy that is hurling itself around a universe, it works out the same. Don't take on worries that you have no control over. Stick to what you can do. Take action, not worrisome non-action.
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
For all the emphasis by the media and other interested parties peddling fear, take some time to turn it off and do something you can do. Or, to illustrate with an old proverb Chinese farmers used to say — forget about the emperor and get down to milking cows. You might be surprised to discover how much cooking a challenging dinner, painting miniature figures, working out, or choosing some other engaging activity can do for your head.
For even that brief period of time, as long as you can focus on whatever task you've picked up without distractions from social networks or the outside world, chances are that all those worries — most of which you can only do a little about — will slip away. And, even better, there is no risk of a hangover (although I understand some people pour on to supplant this intent too).
It's especially critical for creative types to unplug or become otherwise self-engaged for a few hours a day. If you allow too many voices and worries and calls for alarm in your head, you won't hear those sparks of inspiration. So let those who took on the debt worry about how to pay it back for awhile. It's their job for as long as we let them keep it.
The comments are yours. If you have any tips and tricks you use to tune out and then tune back into things closer to home, I'd love to know. They might make a worthwhile post all on their own.