A lot of us like to let off steam by griping and otherwise talking like a curmudgeon. At our strongest moments, we resist that urge. During our most frustrating moments, we may give in. Since today is National Curmudgeon Day, I think we should celebrate this quirk of our natures.
One of the most famous curmudgeons of the recent past was journalist Andy Rooney. During his life, Rooney had seen a lot of things to justify his acerbic wit. Most people don’t know that Rooney began his news career as a reporter for the Army’s periodical “Stars and Stripes”.
Rooney was one of the first journalists to witness and report about the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. He was hired by CBS in 1948 as a journalist and writer. Of course, he is most famous for the “60 Minutes” show’s “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” that ran from 1978 until his death in 2011.
Rooney loved being a writer; he said he would never retire; he would always be a writer. Since a good writer’s job is to tell the truth, it turned out that Rooney never did retire. This is one of the reasons I admire Rooney and other curmudgeonly famous people.
A lot of us relate to Rooney’s opinions like this one: “The world must be filled with unsuccessful musical careers like mine, and it’s probably a good thing. We don’t need a lot of bad musicians filling the air with unnecessary sounds. Some of the professionals are bad enough.” We smile and know that he said it well.
The ranks of wise curmudgeons throughout history are many. Their pithy thoughts are timeless and deserve our attention. There is the Ancient Greek statesman Demosthenes who famously said, “Beware, lest in your anxiety to avoid war, you obtain a master.”
Demosthenes’ timeless observations are worth remembering. One that strikes close to home today is, “Excessive dealings with tyrants are not good for the security of free states.” A Demosthenes quote that I have posted on the refrigerator is this: “A man is his own, easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true, he generally believes to be true.”
Then there was the Roman slave/philosopher Epictetus. One of his many sayings remains beautifully elegant. “We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk the less.” His statements are short, sweet, and to the point. He wrote, “Only the educated are free.” One of Epictetus’ best is, “No man is free who is not master of himself.”
On those days that I feel especially curmudgeonly, I turn to the pages of Mark Twain for solace and guilty pleasure. Here are a few delicious examples of Twain’s best grousing:
“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”
“All human rules are more or less idiotic, I suppose. It is best so, no doubt. The way it is now, the asylums can hold the sane people, but if we tried to shut up the insane we should run out of building materials.”
Just to show that not all curmudgeons are male, I have a zinger from Shelley Winters.
“I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.”
We don’t want to forget Joan Rivers.
“Nobody wants to hear that you met Harry Truman… I met Harry Truman… But you know what I mean? Nobody’s interested. They want to know you met Rihanna. And that kills me.”
Nearly everyone loved the curmudgeonly Phyllis Diller.
“A stand-up comic is judged by every line. Singers get applause at the end of their song no matter how bad they are.”
“Always be nice to your children because they are the ones who will choose your rest home.”
Finally, one of the smartest curmudgeons was Albert Einstein. Here’s one of his to chew on:
“When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about.”