“Remember, you’re always free to say something stupid, and if you don’t say stupid things people won’t correct you. Don’t be afraid of being wrong; be afraid of being quiet.”
Penn Jillette, spoken on Penn Radio, March 31st 2006
I didn’t initially put an attribution to the quote under the title of this blog. And it wasn’t just because I was afraid of being wrong (although that was part of it- I’ve found other people quoted with the part about being wrong, but the internet has not revealed anyone else tacking the quiet part on, so I’m going to go with my attribution as correct). It was also because I was afraid of coming off as a fan (which I am), and being judged.
As if hiding anything had ever stopped me from judging myself.
I had made a habit of listening to the Bob and Tom show on the radio every morning at work. It was a fun thing to listen to and helped pass the mornings quickly. Sometimes there were guests that I was especially interested to hear for one reason or another and sometimes there were guests that I wanted to hear more of after their interviews. Penn Jillette was one of the latter.
It was sometime last November, just before Every Day is an Atheist Holiday came out. Penn was shilling the book on that radio show, and, I imagine, many others. In the course of the interview, I learned about Penn’s podcast, Penn’s Sunday School, and resolved to check it out. Why? Because Penn was highly entertaining and amusing to me in the interview, and I thought that, surely, even though Sunday school was in the title, this could be another amusing thing to listen to while working.
I went to the website, and listened to the most recent episode, also named “Every Day is an Atheist Holiday.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Sure, at first I tried to contain myself, but it was too much. Little snorts escaped me and then single barks of laughter, before I gave in and just laughed, leaking tears from the effort of holding it in so long. I laughed enough that my co-worked asked what I was listening to, and when I told her, she checked it out and also ended up laughing out loud.
We still each listen to the new episodes as they come out. I’ve gone back and listened to every single one. I’ve also found a place online that has archived episodes of Penn Radio from 2006 and 2007. I’ve been working my way through those. I told my co-worker about them, but she’s not interested. She’s found other things to listen to.
I watched a couple seasons of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit when it first came out, when I was in college and a friend with money brought them into the dorm. I’ve watched more since on YouTube, because I don’t have the money to buy the DVDs and for some reason the library doesn’t carry them. I bought an electronic copy of God, No! and devoured it. I’m stingily holding out on buying Everyday is an Atheist Holiday until the price goes down, but I’m not sure I’ll win that battle with myself.
I even, in a move very much at odds with my television viewing habits, watched a few episodes of The Celebrity Apprentice when Penn was on it. Including the drawn out boredom of the All Stars live finale.
There are other celebrities that I would prefer to dream about, if it were up to me, but instead, since that interview on the Bob and Tom show, I’ve had three dreams, that I remember, featuring Penn (only one was mildly sexy; the others involved sports). I think I’ve become somewhat of a Penn Jillette fan-girl, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. There’s a part of me that is embarrassed to be a fan of anything, while another part reminds me that it isn’t like I’ve become a stalker. ‘I’m just highly interested and engaged’, I say to myself, and I nod back, ‘uh-huh, whatever, fan-girl!’
There’s a possibility that I’ll be in Las Vegas next March, and I find myself hoping that I’ll get to see the Penn and Teller show. I’ll wait in line to meet Penn afterward, and I’ll leave without saying a word, crying with anger at how I let my fear get in the way of what I want, again.
Because I’m more afraid of being wrong than being quiet. Wrong about facts, wrong about feelings, wrong about actions and wrong about social interactions. Better to stay quiet and never find out if the what-ifs in my head are the worst that could happen or the best.
I’ll wait in line to meet Penn afterward, and I’ll be a dork and ask if I can have my picture taken with him, and I’ll know that he wants to say no just to be contrary, but that he won’t. I’ll offer my admiration for the show and his other creations and leave with a silly grin plastered on my face.
Because I’m afraid of missing out by being quiet.
Because I refuse to stay quiet, even though I might still be afraid.