13 December 2007

A little less conversation, a little more . . . .

It’s the thought that counts.

Or is it?

Now, I do not know the origin of this phrase so I went where I always go when I don’t know something, the Internet. Because if you see it on the Internet, it must be true. Strangely enough, I couldn’t find it anywhere. There are thousands of web pages where the phrase is used but of the five I clicked to, there was not one where the phrase is explained.

So as everyone knows, when you can’t find it on the Internet, you call your trusty, friendly reference librarian (and I totally have one.) Unfortunately, the one reference librarian I know that is trusty AND friendly was not on duty. (Maybe I need to get him a beeper.) This is indeed unfortunate as I am now forced to proceed unenlightened and run a very high risk of shoving my foot directly down my throat.

Well, I tried. It’s the thought that counts, right?

No. I disagree. In fact, I’m not sure I could disagree more. Now, it’s not that I think “the thought” is without value. I see the value, really I do. Of course, “the thought” must come first. You must first think of taking flowers to a sick friend before you will ever find yourself taking actual flowers to an actual sick friend. The thought of going back to college to finish that degree must happen before you will step in to the registrar’s office. It must first occur to you that you’ve always wanted to be a major league ballplayer before you’re likely to start taking steroids.

This is all a given. Or in this case, three givens. But “It’s the thought that counts” implies that simply having the noble, inspired, generous, life-changing thought is what ‘counts.’ In what universe? Having the thought is only the first step, and in my opinion worth very little if left at that.

If I think about calling my philosophy teacher from high school to tell him what a difference he made in my life, how I stayed in school and went on to college because of his extra efforts and honest friendship but I never make that call and then hear that he has passed away, does that thought ‘count?’

In my opinion not only is it not the thought that counts, even the intention after the thought is worth very little unless action follows. I can intend to do anything: climb Everest, run for office, adopt a puppy, cure cancer, cross the street. The sky’s the limit if it is indeed the thought (or intention) that counts, but it isn’t. If I never move forward then none of it ‘counts.’

If I have all my inspired thoughts packed and on board, my noble intentions in my sights, what good does it do me? It’s the action that counts; it’s what I do with my thoughts and intentions. I can mean to do something all day long, all year long but if I never get around to it and try to pacify myself with “it’s the thought that counts,” I’m an idiot. In fact, it may be a special type of sin against one’s soul to mean to do something and fail to do it. If my heart tugs at me but I stand still, then I’ve failed my heart. My self.

Don’t kid yourself, it is not the thought that counts. The thought is required to start the process but it’s the action, the effort, the tenacity, the determination supporting the thought that counts.