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…….and it never did me any harm.
Does anyone else get weary from hearing folks say they did not study such and such a subject or learn such and such a skill but “it never did me any harm”. This mantra is usually tossed off as humour. It is very common in Ireland and is intended to diminish those who have a particular knowledge or skill. Why do I feel that this phrase conceals a deep inadequacy and not a little anger? Do these people secretly suspect that they may have missed out on something? Damned if they are going to admit it. Best be a joker and dismiss anything one does not know oneself as irrelevant.
We are all harmed by what we have not learned. We are all more or less imperfect, stumbling along in this vale of tears as best we can. Life is not long enough to learn all that one would wish. We would need several lifetimes to delve into all the lovely activities which exist in this world. To suggest that we are perfect as we are is just plain silly.
I know not a word of classical Greek. How great would it be if I did. How enlightening it would be to make all those etymological connections to English. What fun it would be to be able to read in that alphabet. I know only a few words of German. No hope of reading about young Werther in the original then. I cannot swim. What wondrous splashing have I missed? My musical skills are sadly lacking. Wouldn’t it be great to be the entertainer at the party? I am no singer. That rules out the camaraderie of being a member of a choir. I have learned no Italian at all. I was never an athlete. All these shortcomings have done me irreparable harm. There could have been much more fun. I might have travelled much further down the road of scholarship. I might even be thinner.
So you didn’t do grammar or Latin or French or ballet or Hamlet? So you didn’t learn to play the piano? So you can’t dance a hornpipe? Had you done so you might have been more of a wit and less of a chippy bore. Get over it.

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