“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
July 6, 2011

A logical observation for helping someone find their way when they’ve lost it, and what they need to be shown how to use is not their GPS transmitter, but their BS detector.

No job, no money, no place but my parents’ house to live, George sighed to Jerry and Elaine one day. “Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life…has been wrong.” His direct admission led Jerry to this indirect exhortation–Do the opposite–which led George to change everything. Suddenly, life was no longer taking a bite out of George; now it was the other way around.

We, like George, often don’t learn until later that some steps we’ve made in life were the equivalent of stepping in it. We take that job. (Later: “What BS. I should’ve taken a break.”). We dated that person. (Later: “That dating service was BS.”). We pursued that degree. (“Why did I pursue this BS? I should’ve gone for the BA!”) And we should’ve seen it coming. If only we’d had a Jerry initially to point it out–to help us separate the bull from the viable.

When you use a line like this to help a George you know–that project manager, prodigal sibling, or fast-food-drive-thru worker, to name a few candidates–expect that not every one may be as receptive as George, who took to Jerry’s sage-like words like an acolyte to a mantra. (“Jerry,” George said later, euphoric from his opposite successes, “this is my religion.”) For all of its likely rewards, the opposite has its risks of humiliation, retaliation, loss of membership at the health club, etc. And that’s okay, the sage-like smile on your face will say.

You’re okay, that is, with your risk in saying this for their reward, which is that they would actually arrive at something for once in their lives…which explains why you’re quoting Jerry here in the first place.

You had to, or else you were going to lose it just listening to them.

From “The Opposite”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Disc 4, Volume 4
Timecode for the scene: 1:38 (for Jerry telling it like it is); 12:10 (for George taking it as his religion)

“And the heat—my God, the heat!”
July 27, 2010

An upbeat observation to make when someone makes you feel like it’s the end of your world as you know it…but no, you feel fine.

When Elaine confronted boyfriend David Puddy about his religiosity, he waved it in her face like a giant foam finger that said “John 3:16” and “We’re #1!” Taking a line from Puddy’s canon (“Don’t boss me! This is why you’re going to hell”), Elaine went finger-for-a-finger and poked him right back: “You should care that I’m going to hell even though I am not.” She even finger-painted a picture of how rough it was going to be (devils, ragged clothing, etc.)…just to be sure her enlightened man saw her light.

Use Elaine’s frantically silly comment when the heat is on—from the abyss of your job, the purgatory of a relationship, the living hell of that family reunion, etc.—and you will paint this picture: of course you can take it. Yours may be the only laughter here, but since laughter does good like a medicine, that means you’re saving your soul—and they should be losing their religion.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 17:36

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