Brevity is the soul of wit. Which is why, as anyone can see, it’s so important to pare down (remove) every extraneous bit you can to the core, essential, and ultimately most important insight.

I love boiling life down to simple axioms, finding the pithy proverbs that summarize everything neatly and wittily. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” It’s all part of my search for a Grand Unified Theory of WTF?

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The trouble is, more often than not, they’re overly simplistic, if not blatantly ridiculous. Life will never be wholly contained in a string of words (even if the universe is shown to be wholly comprised of vibrating strings).

Further reflection on the quotes above quickly reveals their inanity. Persistence in the face of failure is often required to succeed. And sometimes the true friend is the only one who won’t stand by and watch you self-destruct.

On the other hand, not all epigrams are as trite. Chesteron had an uncanny knack for distilling truth into a few words:”Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” “Love means loving the unlovable – or it is no virtue at all.”

Perhaps the difference between the platitudes and the aphorisms is this: while platitudes mean less the more you think about them, the aphorisms mean more.