NOTICE OF INCOMPETENCE
FREDERICK FORSOOTH N.O.C.
Many anxious people have been asking me for advice about their problems lately. I suppose they have noticed me sitting around pondering all day, so they supposed that I am wise. Yet I am by no means qualified to expertly advise anyone on anything at all. If I am a doctor of anything, it is of incompetence. Therefore I publish this public notice of incompetence in hopes that I shall not have to offend anyone by putting them off personally.
It has been my lot in life to ponder on the meaning of life. I was given a few painful problems to think about at a very young age. I have already dwelled on them at length and I shall continue to do so elsewhere, sparing my present audience the confessional details.
I am a slow thinker, so my problems remain largely unsolved. If I ever wise up it will probably be too late for me to do anything about them, but at least I am hanging around in my own way. Besides, I find some consolation in thinking about my problems instead of losing myself in them, especially when my thoughts lead me to realize that I am not the only one with “my” problems: yes, misery loves company, and even more so at a distance.
Speaking of which, and I should not say this, I think misery loves company because the company is miserable to begin with and always will be. I think people in general are scared to death, and that each personality masks the fear of death in a slightly different way: I mean, the personality is a death mask. I think everybody is suffering and they hate to admit it because nobody wants to hear about it so it is covered up, sometimes so well even the persons suffering are unaware of it. Please excuse me for saying so.
Anyway, part of my basic problem is that I insist on doing things my way: the hard way. I love to painstakingly analyze the complicated complexes I imagine are overwhelming me. The more I struggle with them, the more elaborate they become, the more I think I might be a great novelist if only I could bring other complex characters besides myself into a definite life and death plot.
Someone else’s simple solutions simply will not do unless they serve to confirm what I have already learned for myself after a great deal of agonizing. That is not to say I do not consult other authors about the basic anxiety. Many if not most of them far surpass me in their ability to analyze the problems of human existence and to offer various reasons for living despite life’s predicaments; as if life did not already have reason enough for going on and on until the last gasp! I invariably disagree with their ponderous arguments, and I do so as a matter of habit because, at least in my book, authority is presented as a personal challenge to find an even higher and better authority. Nonetheless, I often wind up concurring with the lesser authorities after beating around the bushes for awhile and flushing out some of the same game they had identified long ago.
Yes, I have bagged a few little truths, but I have no final solution to the population problem in the sense that life itself is a dreadful disease. In fact, it amazes me when someone asks me what they should do in such and such a case. Why ask me? I am not a doer. I prefer the symbolic action of thinking over actual doing any day.
Besides, everything I have done has not been well done at all. Indeed, my life in retrospect is a series of mistakes in comparison to what it should have been. Hence I can only offer advice on what not to do. For instance, do not do drugs including alcohol and nicotine; well, maybe drink two drinks to your health every day, but that’s it. Do not turn on the shower until you put the shower curtain on the inside of the tub; and so on. Of course, many of my negative prohibitions could be converted into positive commandments and marketed as “Just say no to drugs.” and “Always put the shower curtain inside the tub,” and so forth. Still, my advice would be in reference to my errors and omissions and not to successful activities.
If someone has time enough to ask me what they should do, I can only recommend thinking before acting, which they are already doing anyway or they would not be asking. Yes, I can certainly give them more to think about. Whether that helps them or not is debatable; most people who ask for advice are just asking for permission to do what they want to do, or are asking to be told not to do what they do not want to do. All I can do is encourage them to do what they will, or not to do what they do not want to do, and to seek a competent counselor if they are very confused.
Therefore, it should be plain from the foregoing that I am incompetent to advise anyone about their personal problems. For that I do sincerely apologize. I wish I had lived my life better, for then I would be of more use to others.
Frederick Forsooth, LL.D., is a fictional character who took possession of the author for two hours today. His experiences and views are certainly not those of the author.
David Arthur Walters