I recently invented a new catchphrase for myself. I’m rather pleased with it, and it seems to fit my current state of mind well. It also started a chain of thought about the sorts of things that people would really rather face up to if it meant avoiding a real-world problem or concern that they’re having.
“I’d rather face a grue.” When I said that, I was met with a confused look and a question mark. First, I had to explain what a grue was. (For those of you unfamiliar with old gaming terminology, a grue is a creature that lurks in darkness, waiting to devour hapless adventurers who don’t know any better than to blunder about a dark cave without a light. The use of the grue was first seen in Zork, one of the first interactive computer games, in the late 1970s.) Secondly, I had to explain the sentiment that I was trying to convey by invoking the name of the almighty grue. Oddly, the latter attempt was more difficult than the first.
If grues were real, they wouldn’t be the type of creature that you would willingly face if given a choice. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the late Steve Irwin wouldn’t even have dared enter a known grue haunt without a light source, the only way to repel a grue. So, my intent with regards to my newly invented expression was to describe how much I really didn’t want to deal with the things I had to deal with at the moment.
I don’t believe this is a phrase that should be used lightly or frequently, and if you do feel the need to use it frequently and you really mean it, you should seek professional help. Just because grues don’t really exist doesn’t mean that the meaning behind the expression shouldn’t be taken seriously. The idea of overusing the phrase makes me think of Godwin’s Law, which basically states that if an expression or argument is used too much, it loses its power and meaning. (It refers specifically to making a comparison between your opponent in an argument and the Nazis, but that’s an entirely different story.)
Basically, the grue, in this instance, represents anything terrifying, monstrous, repulsive, and bloodthirsty that you might want to avoid in favor of living. Suffice to say that I don’t think my new catchphrase should be uttered unless you really and truly mean it and understand the gravity of it. There are few things in the real world that should make you want to face a grue. If you find yourself running into a great many things that fall into this category for you, like I said, you might want to seek professional help, whether it’s because you’ve seen too many tragedies in your life or because you take things too seriously.
I guess in that respect, I’m more normal than I used to think; there aren’t many things in my life that would make me prefer an encounter with a grue, anymore. At the particular moment that I came up with this witty expression of mine, I was thinking about the possible decline in health and subsequent death of my 15-year-old cat, who has been my best friend since I was 10. If it meant an instant healing for him or simply an avoidance of the inevitable, I would gladly face a grue.
There are other things that I would face a grue in order to fix or avoid. The loss of my own vision comes to mind, the irony of which is not lost on me since one must face a grue in pitch blackness. The death or debilitation of a close family member is another. At this time of year, it might be tempting to add dealing with the frustrations of taxation to the list, but I think I’ll actually stick it out with the IRS. They can bite and leave you feeling as if you’re groping about in darkness, but they can’t rip you to shreds and swallow the pieces – then they wouldn’t get paid. Besides, numbers and rules may give me a headache, but they don’t literally make me wish I were never born; very few things have that sort of serious effect on me these days.
So what would make you prefer to face a grue? The death of a loved one? The loss of a limb? A general sense of helplessness? Okay, those last two might be a bit pointless to even consider, as facing a grue would leave one feeling quite helpless and would likely result in the loss of a limb, if not more than that. It’s an interesting question, nonetheless. People often think to themselves that they would rather be someplace else. They daydream about movies and books, thinking about how much easier their lives would be if they lived in a world without pain or emotion or taxes.
They think things like “I would rather fight a fire-breathing dragon right now than be here in this office meeting.” They may even think that they really mean it. But if they were actually in that fantastic situation, they would likely be wishing that they were in some safe, cozy office meeting, or at least someplace more boring that didn’t have fire-breathing dragons. But most people don’t think about what it would really be like to be in that situation since they know that it couldn’t possibly happen.
It might help to visualize the situation somewhat differently by putting it into terms that everyone is familiar with. Considering the statistics on car accidents, it’s safe to assume that most of you have been in at least one minor fender-bender. Think about driving down a road, knowing for certain that you were going to be involved in a major wreck with maybe a slim chance of surviving, if any chance at all. And your seatbelt and airbag are both busted. Now imagine that you also know with absolute certainty that if you proceed to that accident and allow it to happen, something particular in your life is going to be repaired or avoided, through fate, destiny, or divine intervention. Your wife is going to pull through that surgery she’s having today or maybe not have to have the surgery at all, or the world’s nations will come together in peace and harmony – whatever it is that you want most to happen. Would you face the grue, or car accident (or hungry lion or bungee jump with a broken cord, as two more examples), in order to make it happen?
I’ve started using this question as a measure of the importance of a situation or dilemma. If I say to myself “yes, I would rather face a grue,” then I know that the thing that concerns me at that moment is of life-or-death importance to me. If I think “yes, but only if I know that I’m going to survive the encounter, with or without all of my limbs,” then I know that the situation is desperate but not to the point of madness. And if I say, “no, I would not face a grue in this situation,” then this particular problem is one that I would be better off putting my brain to work on a solution for than wasting my energy on wishing that I were somewhere else. It may sound silly, but gauging the importance and/or desperation of a problem in such a methodical way can lead to calmer and more logical thoughts and, perhaps, a quicker solution. It certainly helps to realize what you would, and would not, face a grue in order to avoid. What would be your grue? And what would make you so desperate that you would be willing to face it?