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Life got in the way? 生活所迫

中国日报网 2019-01-08 11:30

Reader question:

Please explain the saying “Life got in the way”.


My comments:

Literally, if something gets in our way, it blocks our path, hence hindering our progress. For example, if you’re walking down a small alley and a loaded tricycle collapses in front of you, you have to stop and lend a helping hand because the alley is so small that a tricycle with its load of goods all over the floor completely blocks the way.

You have to help the cyclist to get back track, so to speak before you and everyone else can all get back on the move again. And if you’re running an important errand and actually are in a hurry, well, you may not be able to complete the task on time.

“Life got in the way”, then, is a general way of speaking in that manner, like, something always happens to knock your big plan or project off the rail. Here, “life” refers to the real life, or the daily challenges of everyday life, challenges, for instance, to put food on the table, to raise a family, etc.

For example, struggling painters and artists who fail to make it – make it big, that is – often say to the effect that they used to have big goals and wanted to become a first rate artist but somehow life got in the way, i.e. they had to spend too much of their time trying to make ends meet.

In other words, as John Lennon sings in Beautiful Boy: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” Aiming at becoming a first rate artist is among the struggling artists’ “other plans”. Earning a living is what really happens to them.

Such is life, as they say.

Anyway, here are media examples of the metaphor of someone or something getting in our way, blocking our path and hindering our progress:


1. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to square an impossible circle on Thursday. It didn’t help that her boss, President Trump, got in her way.

With White House press secretary Sean Spicer sidelined, Sanders, Spicer’s deputy, has spent three days in the barrel trying to explain why the president fired FBI Director James B. Comey.

That’s been no easy task. On Wednesday, Sanders told White House reporters that the president had done so on the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein. Trump himself had claimed as much in a letter to Comey relieving him of his job.

Except then on Thursday, Trump told NBC News that he would have fired Comey “regardless” of the recommendation.

Which forced Sanders to, um, clarify what she’d said the day before. Pressed by ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl whether she was “in the dark” about Trump’s actions, Sanders acknowledged that she might have been. “I think it’s pretty simple,” she said. “I hadn’t had a chance to have the conversation directly with the president. I’d had several conversations with him, but I didn’t ask that question directly, ‘Had you already made that decision?’ ”

- Sarah Huckabee Sanders is suddenly the star of the feel-bad story of the day, WashingtonPost.com, May 11, 2017.


2. For the last couple of years I’ve been banging my spoon on my high chair about how Trumpism isn’t a political or ideological movement so much as a psychological phenomenon.

This was once a controversial position on the right and the left. Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon devoted considerable resources to promoting Trumpist candidates who supposedly shared President Trump’s worldview and parroted his rhetoric, including anti-globalism, economic nationalism, and crude insults of “establishment” politicians. Those schemes largely came to naught.

The intellectual effort to craft or divine a coherent Trumpist ideology didn’t fare much better. Just over a year ago, Julius Krein launched a new journal called American Affairs to “give the Trump movement some intellectual heft,” as Politico put it. As I wrote at the time, American Affairs’ dilemma was that by associating itself with Trump, it would be forced to either defend the incoherence of his behavior or break with him to defend its own consistency.

Six months later, after the debacle of Trump’s response to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., Krein recanted his support for the president.

On the left, there’s an enormous investment in the idea that Trump isn’t a break with conservatism but the apotheosis of it. This is a defensible, or at least understandable, claim if you believe conservatism has always been an intellectually vacuous bundle of racial and cultural resentments. But if that were the case, Commentary magazine’s Noah Rothman recently noted, you would not see so many mainstream and consistent conservatives objecting to Trump’s behavior.

Intellectuals and ideologically committed journalists on the left and right have a natural tendency to see events through the prism of ideas. Trump presents an insurmountable challenge to such approaches because, by his own admission, he doesn’t consult any serious and coherent body of ideas for his decisions. He trusts his instincts.

Trump has said countless times that he thinks his gut is a better guide than the brains of his advisers. He routinely argues that the presidents and policymakers who came before him were all fools and weaklings. That’s narcissism, not ideology, talking.

Even the “ideas” that he has championed consistently — despite countervailing evidence and expertise — are grounded not in arguments but in instincts. He dislikes regulations because, as a businessman, they got in his way. He dislikes trade because he has a childish, narrow understanding of what “winning” means. Foreigners are ripping us off. Other countries are laughing at us. He doesn’t actually care about, let alone understand, the arguments suggesting that protectionism can work. Indeed, he reportedly issued his recent diktat on steel tariffs in a fit of pique over negative media coverage and the investigation into Russian election interference. His administration was wholly unprepared for the announcement.

- Trumpism Is a Psychology, Not an Ideology, NationalReview.com, March 7, 2018.


3. As a small girl in her nightgown, Sally Field would be summoned to walk on her handsome stepfather’s back. As he lay naked under a sheet, the former stuntman for Errol Flynn seemed to want pain relief from the foot pressure of a petite child. “Keep going, Doodle,” he said.

Readers know where this scene is going, feeling the same queasiness Field describes in her memoir, “In Pieces,” which goes on sale Tuesday. She will talk Sept. 21 about her book, a project she worked on for many years, as keynote speaker for BookFest St. Louis.

Field says she didn’t publish the book to expose Hollywood or to reveal aspects of her life: She wrote it for herself.

“I’m really trying to unravel my own childhood survival mechanisms that allowed me to survive as a child but got in my way as an adult,” Field said in a phone interview Tuesday.

“I had nothing to explain or even to tell. It was really my investigation, my exploration, to find pieces of myself.”

But she does look forward to meeting readers:

“I was always thinking to myself, ‘Just write it; you don’t have to publish it.’ (But) there is something in the communication of any of the ‘arts,’ if I can say that in quotes. Acting is that. Whether you are onstage or in front of a camera, it is a communication.

“You are offering yourself up, hoping that in return, you will get the energy of those who are witnessing it, who are reading it. That it will be a human communication between those who are reading and the person who is writing.”

- Sally Field explores her life, reveals surprises in memoir 'In Pieces', STLToday.com, September 15, 2018.

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About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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