Friday, December 30, 2011
Messages on the slips of paper inside fortune cookies you get with your bill at Chinese restaurants come in three varieties:1. Some bland comment about you. "You are fair in all your dealings." "You are kind to animals." "You show signs of integrity."
These are not fortunes, good or bad.
2. Some bland general comment. "Life is full of surprises." "Always look for the positive." "It is better to sing than to cry."
These are not fortunes either.
If I were in charge of making fortune cookies, I would decree that every crisp cookie must contain a fortune, something that indicates to the recipient what lies ahead in life. I would insist that these predictions, on the whole, be positive, uplifting, full of promise, sure to please.
I would, in short, prefer that Chinese fortune cookies tell us, as best they can, what to expect.
Fortune cookies and New Year's resolutions seem to me to have a good deal in common.
Resolutions tend to strive for something positive. The usual stop smoking, lose weight, be kind to others type of resolutions anticipate a good outcome: better health and more friends.
If you haven't made your resolutions for 2012, I suggest you give some thought to any recent Chinese fortune cookies you've received. Were they uplifting? Did they make you look forward to the future? Did you receive a shred of inspiration?
If not -- and you have to pick your Chinese restaurants carefully to get a decent fortune cookie -- then you can make up for it with first-rate New Year's resolutions.
Which leads me to the third variety of fortune cookie, the ones that appear to actually foresee your future:
"Prepare for unexpected wealth."
There's a proper fortune if ever I saw one.
But don't be confused. Such a fortune on a piece of paper tucked into a crisp, folded cookie should not be mistaken for a prediction of monetary riches. "Wealth" comes in all shapes and sizes. Good health (perhaps brought on by stopping smoking and losing weight) is a wealth beyond any monetary gain. Good relationships with your family or having good friends is a kind of wealth that I hope will enrich all of us.
"You will soon depart on an exciting voyage."
I like that fortune too. Keep in mind that the voyage may not be aboard a sailing vessel. It may be a journey along the path to better understanding of others or a willingness to learn what others think instead of spouting your own one-sided views.
If you only make one resolution this year, consider this as a possibility: I will smile at everyone I meet. I think more smiling will change the world. Other things will change the world too, but smiling is easy and cost-effective. Try it.
Finally, make a resolution, in the coming Year of Political Duress, to hug a Democrat. Goodness knows they need it. And smile at Republicans too. Some of my best friends are Republicans. Yours too.
Have a wonderful New Year.
Hey, that sounds like a dandy fortune for a cookie.
Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.