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‘May You Live In Interesting Times’ — Explained and Updated

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Surely you have heard or even uttered the phrase, “May you live in interesting times.” Sometimes it is used as a departure salutation when life's circumstances are outrageous, zany, abnormal, or weird. 


But you might be surprised to learn its real meaning, which, according to phrases.org, is “May you experience much disorder and trouble in your life.” 

The UK based website explains: “While purporting to be a blessing, this is in fact a curse. The expression is always used ironically, with the clear implication that 'uninteresting times', of peace and tranquility, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones.”

Furthermore, while widely considered an ancient Chinese proverb, the phrase is of 20th century British origin.

I was surprised to learn its true meaning since I occasionally used the phrase as either a written or verbal sign-off reflecting the unsettled times in which we live. Now I have discontinued its use; but also attempting to educate readers about the real meaning of the phrase leads me to note it could be mischievously hurled at the “other side of the aisle,” given our hyper-divisive “us vs. them,” “red vs. blue,” angry political environment. 

One can only imagine the environment that will exist a year from now at the presidential inauguration after our nation has weathered a hairpulling schoolyard fistfight costing over $2 billion — otherwise known as the presidential election campaign. Then, with an even more fractured national psyche, Americans will either celebrate or bemoan the second inauguration of the 45th president, or the 46th.


Win or lose, the re-election campaign of an impeached president (assuming the Senate acquits Mr. Trump) is more akin to a Hollywood mini-series than real life.  Equally entertaining is the Democratic Party. Its purported “brand” of racial diversity, feminist power, and disgruntled youth longing for more socialistic policies have as its leading presidential nominees two white male senior citizens. That is, former Vice President Joe Biden born in 1942, and Sen. Bernie Sanders born in 1941 — three months before the U.S. entered the Second World War!  Does that mean the 2020 Democrats are going back to the future?

Moreover, standing tall on his billions and waiting to make a splash is former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also a 1942 war baby. These “poster child” seniors representing a longer, healthier life through advances in drugs and medicine don’t even qualify as “washed up” or “irrelevant” baby boomers since they all were born before 1946. ("OK Boomer" figure that one out.) For the record, Trump is a first-year 1946 boomer as were Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Even more confounding is the media environment. Every day, after reading and watching a variety of political sources and cable channels spouting diametrically opposing views of the same news events, I think to myself, nothing makes any sense. What is the truth? How can we handle the truth if we don’t know the truth? More specifically, Trump is either the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln, or the downfall of our nation is at hand.  America is either “great again,” or our greatest days are behind us.


And that is why when friends ask me how the 2020 election is going to turn out, I tell them, “due to my global humiliation, I am out of the prediction business.” (That is how I describe Politico’s ranking my January 2019 prediction that Kamala Harris would win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination as the tenth worst of last year.)

No one can predict what “interesting times” may befall our nation and the world, but we are all keenly aware that at any minute, on any day, there could be an event  — national or international, natural or man-made — that could separate time from “before” to “after.”

In my lifetime, I have experienced two such events, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Sept. 11, 2001. Recently, I thought we were on the verge of a war with Iran that could have escalated into World War III, but luckily things seem to have calmed down for now.

But the point is we live our lives glued to our electronic devices, always expecting that something “interesting” is going to happen. No wonder everyone is so stressed out.

Although I have stopped making predictions, I have not stopped giving advice, and here is some about how to cope in these “interesting times”:


Love the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. And, always, always, in all things, trust the Lord because He is in control.

That said, my new favorite salutation is “May you live in blessed times.” 

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