Things that I think and do
Something I’ve noticed this summer at work is the omnipresence of posters, usually featuring inspirational slogans or ‘life-lesson’ maxims. I don’t remember having many of these at my school but I suppose a private prep school deep in the Sussex countryside is slightly different to a town-centre state grammar.
Two of my particular favourites –not because I actually like them, but in that they are the cheesiest ones around – are in the classroom next to mine, which I think might be used to teach younger children about religion.
The first one reads
Plan ahead – it wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
Now, I would be the first to admit that my Biblical knowledge isn’t all that strong. I could give you a rough sketch of Genesis and competently describe what went down when Jesus died and then un-died, but apart from that I’d be fairly useless in the “Bible study” section of a pub quiz.
However, my (rather pedantic) concern with this aphorism is that the whole point of the flood for which Noah built the Ark was that no-one was supposed to plan ahead for it. Noah himself only knew he should get cracking on a waterproof ship because God told him to, and he was told to get it done a week before the flood. It wasn’t raining when he built it because 1) he had to get it done well in advance and 2) if it were raining everyone else would have been a bit suspicious and the local Ark timber shops would have been flooded (ha) with customers.
So while the advice is fundamentally solid, the logical basis for it is somewhat rocky. It should read more like:
Plan ahead – God didn’t flood the world until Noah had finished building the Ark.
A second poster informs the younglings that
If you want a friend, be a friend.
This is also admirable, but again lacks clarity and logic. If you’re being a friend, you must have someone to be a friend to – viz., a friend. It’s basically saying, “if you want a friend, make friends”. Or perhaps it means that you need to keep being friendly if you want to keep your existing friends (that you’ve inevitably got through your state of being a friend).
So this is another poster that needs clarification. If we are to assume that it is encouraging you to make new friends rather than retain friends you currently have, a clearer dictum would be:
If you want a friend, display friendly characteristics to attract others into a friendship with you.
The basic problem with both of these posters is that they’re trying to be too clever. In future we should be putting up signs with adages such as “If you want a friend, don’t be a dick”. And my favourite choice for an alternative to the Noah poster is this: