No seriously, falling is bad.

30 Jul

There are some things that people love for reasons that are hard to justify. EL James books, The Big Bang Theory (the TV show, not the actual Big Bang), Kardashian-West… that sort of thing.

One such that is suddenly and irrationally attracting my ire is an inspirational quote doing the internet rounds.

whatif

Though the whole poem probably fits on twitter and is much better as a unit, the bit that is circulating just reads, ‘What if I fall?’ ‘Oh but my darling, what if you fly?’

It is agitating–most specifically in its short form–because it is really terrible advice. Here’s a gif of a guy who is taking this advice:

trucksurfingfail

In the poem, we are listening in on a conversation between (presumably) an awful parent and its child. It’s hard to tell whether these are normally flightless creatures or if there is a reasonable expectation of flight.

Either way, it captures a risk-reward calculation that counter-balances the risk of falling and painful impact (which is pretty certain given gravity) against the hey-who-knows? of unexpectedly mastering flight. Who tests whether they’re able to fly by jumping from a height and hoping the ability kicks in sometime on the way down? Shouldn’t you just, you know, check if you can fly from not-a-height?

People tend to be really bad at working out whether the reward that they’re chasing is worth the risk. All of Twilight depends on bad decision-making in this regard (both for the main character, and for prospective movie-goers). This is the kind of advice that underwrites teen pregnancy and the Darwin Awards and Madea movies.

There are many other excellent possibilities for spin-off aphorisms though.

  • What if I catch on fire? Oh but my darling what if you’re actually a phoenix?
  • What if I drown? Oh but my darling what if you sprout fins and become queen of Atlantis?
  • What if my internet beau is actually a balding rapist? Oh but my darling what if it really is Harry Styles?
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