After we had known each other about two years my husband David and I were talking about some minor news item and he commented, “I’ve ceased to care.” That sounded familiar to me and I must have looked puzzled because he smiled and added, “You say that all the time.” Hmm. That must be why it sounded familiar.
Since then I have noticed myself using it more and more, and it’s a handy little phrase to have at the ready whenever you realized you’re involved in something that’s a waste of time, no matter how promisingly it started. Mutter “I’ve ceased to care” to yourself and you suddenly have the freedom to move on to something worth exploring.
The problem is that in the 21st century we’re constantly pounded by a blizzard of information in the form of social media, television, apps, news, printing on boxes, music, phone calls—the list is endless. Much of this is fascinating and addictive. Facebook, for example, which I used to scorn, can now reel me in like a fish, and hours later I look up and realize I’ve looked at one too many fascinating videos or discussions or startling ideas. Sure there’s a lot of meaningless crap, but also the wonders of our civilization are presented seriatim until the brain rebels. I find it very useful to blow the whistle on this by announcing to myself that I’ve ceased to care, at which point I rise stiffly from my current position and see whether my blood still knows how to flow.
But this experience is not limited to the internet. I’m a longtime subscriber to Time Magazine, and I still find it informative. But when I start into pithy articles and then realize that the article is going to go on for more pages than I want to read, the words “I’ve ceased to care” give me permission to skip to the next article. Extending this idea I’ve learned to snap off TV programs and even walk out of movies.
We only have so much time on the planet, and we should harvest that time so it is as productive and entertaining as we can make it. Allowing ourselves to wade knee deep in trivia is messy, tedious, and embarrassing.
Of course you could say a number of other things other than “I’ve ceased to care.” Some people routinely exclaim, “I couldn’t care less,” which is fine (I suspect it arose as a way of dressing up the simple comment of “I don’t care”). The problem is that many people—even, alas, learned people—have shortened the phrase to “I could care less,” which means the opposite of what they intend (and annoys listeners who care about the English language). [I’ve complained about this before; see “Picking Your Battles: The Meaning of Words”; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2011/07/picking-your-battles-meaning-of-words.html] The image below explains the difficulty.
I was playing bridge at a tournament recently and Jane Witherspoon, a terrific partner whom I haven’t known long, between rounds was sitting with two men who were arguing in an animated fashion. Seeing me coming, she rose to join me. “What was that about?” I asked her. “Oh,” she responded, “it was a disagreement on the origin of religion—but I’ve ceased to care.” Then she smiled at me and we went off to play the next hand.
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-guide-to-best-of-my-blog.html
“Picking Your Battles: The Meaning of Words,” July 3, 2011; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2011/07/picking-your-battles-meaning-of-words.html
“Pronouncing ‘2012’,” December 31, 2011; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2011/12/pronouncing-2012.html
“How To Stop Saying ‘You Know’,” April 28, 2012; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2012/04/how-to-stop-saying-you-know.html
“Is It Okay Not To Use Proper English?” August 10, 2013; http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/08/is-it-okay-not-to-use-proper-english.html
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