Tea Bag Wisdom

5 Jan

Maybe the words of the prophets ARE written on the subway walls… and tenement halls? After all, the quality of fortunes in fortune cookies have gone down, let’s look to tea bags for pithy sayings!

I will endeavor to keep my snark level at a minimum for this post. However, after looking at a particular New Year’s post, this reminded me of a particular brand of (really good) tea that puts these sayings on their tea bags, most of which are about the level of the fortune cookie. Not particularly useful, rather obvious, and mostly not helping your daily life. After all, “Let your energy be used to build, not destroy,” could mean anything, but means nothing. It’s not like I was going to create a spreadsheet today, but I decide, “Screw it, I’m going to defenestrate Prague!”

This particular saying reminds me of a tradition told about the Buddha — that after he was born, he said to his parents, “There has been no one like me before me, there will no like me after me.” Upon reflection, this is what every child tells their parent… because they don’t know any better. 🙂

This tea bag conveys the Wheaton Principle: “Don’t be a dick.” Despite the triteness of this saying, it’s actually good advice. It’s so easy to be mean, it’s much harder to be good. However, one action follows another. If you’re good to one person, that person is actually more likely to be good to another, because you’ve put them in a positive mood. Moods are infectious and do create a sequence based on the initial moment.

However, most tea bag wisdom is pretty bad writing. “Your strength is your own belief” – seriously? “Your overconfidence is your weakness.” “Your faith in your friends is yours.” Sure, if I had the faith the size of a mustard seed, I could move mountains, but if I did have that power, I wouldn’t need to. It’s important to believe in something and draw strength from that belief… but this advice doesn’t help anyone.

Okay, let me REALLY tell you what I think about you! 🙂 Saying what you mean is often the WORST advice you can give someone. As I said at the beginning, I’m going to keep the snark down, but if the snark is strong in me, imagine how strong it is in other people! We train ourselves at an early age NOT to say what we mean, despite the consequences to ourselves, because of the previous tea bag wisdom–“create the sequence of goodness.” Politeness is the sign of an advanced society; does it mean we hide our true feelings, sure, but we do it for the benefit of others.

Now I know what you’re thinking–you have a kid studying to be a dentist?! No, I was working at UConn Medicine and needed a coffee mug. That happened to be the one on sale. However, the tea was really good–I go with the Triple Ginger to get me through the Connecticut snowy winter.

I think in the end, the tea manufacturer has its heart in the right place. Sometimes the right saying at the right time can really change someone’s heart for the good. I was about to quit student teaching when I heard the words “Don’t Quit” twice in one morning; during a school announcement and a silly sign on the wall. But much like missionaries, you have to hit people at the right time.

Do you find wisdom in the tea bags, fortune cookies, and pithy signs of the world? Or is there a more sinister element to it? Or is it harmless fun to add to the spice of life? Let me know in the comments below!

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