May You Live An Interesting Life

I once read of a curse, which is not something I normally do, which says, “May you live an interesting life.” This particular phrase itself has an interesting history. Interesting as a word is a dangerously vague word, and its shades of meaning are so broad so as to render the word almost useless in determining whether something is good or bad. After all, it is often a weasel word used to describe something that has compelling qualities but that cannot exactly qualify as a good thing. After all, if we had praise to give, we would use a better and more complementary word than interesting. Let us first note, therefore, in dealing with this particular quote, that an interesting life is a far cry from a rewarding life or a pleasant life or a beneficial life, but an interesting life means that one will live a life that is full of compelling and arresting events that are thought-provoking, but are not necessarily good. I certainly feel I have lived that kind of life myself, and I cannot exactly wish it on others with a clear conscience.

The phrase itself, or I should say, the family of phrases it comes in, has itself an interesting and somewhat cursed history. It appears to originate in the 1930’s, in discussions among British thinkers before WWII, who were perceptive enough to recognize the trouble on the way and who thought that this particular curse, “May you live in interesting times,” had the feeling of Chinese wisdom. Truth be told, it does have the appearance of some sort of vague pseduo-Confucian wisdom of the kind that may appear on a fortune cookie (which, I must admit, I am fond of eating), but also the sort of wisdom that would make sense to witty and cultured Europeans who were at least sensitive to thinking in such terms. The first time the phrase appears to have been used in its current form happens to be Robert F. Kennedy, in the 1960’s [1], and he too lived in interesting times, until he died, that is.

What makes a life interesting? I happen to find a great deal interesting, but not all of that is very good. I mean, gossip and trainwrecks are certainly interesting, but being gossiped about or slandered, or living a life that has all the appearances of a state of emergency is not something that is enjoyable or pleasant or even immediately rewarding. If such matters are not our fault, but are rather the accidents of time and chance, then we bear no blame for what we have to suffer or endure, but all the same we have to deal with the repercussions of what we have experienced. That is not always a pleasant matter in the least [2]. Why would we ever want to curse others, or ourselves, by wishing an interesting life?

Why should we not rather wish for times that are rewarding? Why should we take pleasure in the sufferings of others, only to find that the troubles that were confined to other areas all so quickly spread and trouble ourselves in turn. Why do we not rather wish for blessings for others, for people to live in a godly and reliable fashion, not causing trouble for themselves or others, nor being troubled either? Is it so hard to wish for good things, and to live in such a way that we may be a blessing in the lives of others, and that we might, at least eventually, enjoy a blessed life ourselves that is full of wit and good humor and love and happiness and that can be described in so many better ways than simply interesting, as if our purpose on this earth was to provide some sort of misery that was of interest to others.


[2] I read a lot of books about this subject, because it’s one I take very personally:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to May You Live An Interesting Life

  1. Pingback: It Sounds More Interesting When You Put It That Way | Edge Induced Cohesion

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