It Is What It Is

Simply put, it is what it is.

No, it ain’t what it isn’t. It’s not what it is. It isn’t going to be what you thought it was and it’s definitely way beyond the big beyond. What it is isn’t what it isn’t and what it isn’t isn’t what it is. There’s a truly fine line in realizing these facts that I am here today to set the record straight about what is, what isn’t and what couldn’t possibly be.

But, yeah. It is what it is.

People who love to use the phrase “it is what it is” also love to use the phrase “six of one, half a dozen of another” and “well, what can you do” and “eh, fuggedaboutit”. These are people who want you to think that the way life unfolds is the way life unfolds, and since they can’t do anything about it they’re just going to let it happen and see how it all pans out. They are the acceptors of life and as far as they’re concerned, it is what it is.

But is it really what it is?

When I often come in contact with events that are what they are (which is the past tense of the ism we’re currently investigating) I stand up and wonder aloud if what was and what is and what will someday have been, could have possibly been what it was in the heat of the moment. For what moment is ever what it was when you look back at what it was when it actually was an “is” — i.e., happening right then?

It makes me think about the moment when I first saw The Real Genius — the hilarious Val Kilmer movie that co-starred some guy that looked a lot like a girl and to this day I wonder if he ever grew out of it. But besides that fact, when I watched that movie for the first time it WAS what it WAS, damn funny. But today, thinking back to that movie, it wasn’t what it was. Thus, in the heat of the moment (that first viewing) — it is what it is. But today, watching it again, it’s not nearly what it was in my mind from way back when.

It is what it is, but only if you don’t revisit the ism at a later date.

Honestly, let’s be frank. Nothing IS what it IS past the thirty seconds of the original ism. Sure, in that thirty second window, everything is what it is. But go past those thirty seconds, when your opinions may have changed, or your attentions have been misdirected somewhere else and what it once was, is just a memory. Since you have grown and changed and aged in those 30 seconds, so too has your memory of what once was, what it is now and what it will be for you in the future.

Don’t even get me started on things that were once what they were, evolved into being something that isn’t what it was, and now live on in our memories as something that couldn’t possibly have been when it possibly had been nothing like the original ism.

Of course that’s just my opinion, and you’ve got to take that for what it’s worth.

But in this moment, my opinion is what it is.

Isn’t that awesome? Yeah. It is.

In other holiday news, Happy Passover & Happy Easter to everyone.

20 comments on “It Is What It Is

  1. monkeyinabox - April 14, 2006 at 8:25 am -

    Somtimes it may appear to be what it is, when really it is something completely different.

    What if it is what it is to other people and not to you? Then what is it? Is it what it is, or not? Maybe they think it is what it is, but they don’t know better.

    You might think you know what I’m talking about, but then again my reponse is what it is.

  2. Pauly D - April 14, 2006 at 9:03 am -

    Yeah, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  3. susan - April 14, 2006 at 11:14 am -

    Shouldn’t “ism” actually be “is-ism”? How funny you should have a post about that phrase. I had to break someone of that recently because I was forced to interject “No it ISN’T” a bafrickenzillion times per conversation.

  4. Karl - April 14, 2006 at 11:56 am -

    Wow, I thought I was the only one who thought that boy in “Real Genius” looked like Sarah Jessica Parker! Hmmm, maybe I am the only one. I coulda sworn he was her brother, though.

  5. Brandon - April 14, 2006 at 12:00 pm -

    Wow, I think my brain exploded about half way through this post. So much circular logic, so many is’s. I need an Advil.

    Thanks for inspiring the GBBMC, it’s been a lot of fun. I can’t wait to read the book.

  6. amanda - April 14, 2006 at 12:29 pm -

    it is what it is is a lot like take it for what it’s worth. i hate “take it for what it’s worth.” i wrote something about that. happy passover/easter.

  7. Rabbit - April 14, 2006 at 1:47 pm -

    That was NOT the post to read right after a long day at work. My brain hurts.

  8. Ms. Q - April 14, 2006 at 3:02 pm -

    Que sera. To each his own. =)

    Yesterday, my boss asked me if he should take the 405 or the 5 from Ventura to Orange County. I said it’s six of one, half dozen the other… or more accurately, it’s a psychotic break on one a nervous breakdown the other.

    It was funny when I said it.

  9. kartooner - April 14, 2006 at 3:46 pm -

    What is what, is that?

  10. Adri - April 14, 2006 at 5:34 pm -

    Well… Real Genius was what it was at that time. It’s not the same thing later because your perception, and the context changed. But in the moment I think “it is what it is” stands up to examination.

    The thing is, YOU are not what you WERE. But the thing itself remains what it is and was. You change, it doesn’t. And anyway it’s all subjective.

    I do use the phrase “it is what it is” but I don’t think of it as fatalistic, nor do I use it as an excuse not to do anything. For me, it’s just a recognition of the way things are in a particular situation, imperfect as everything is. But that imperfection and our changing perceptions of things, I think, are what make everything so much more interesting.

  11. christie - April 14, 2006 at 7:26 pm -

    Ok…a whole new saying. Let’s call it a Marcyism for my grandma. She died a few years ago. We have quite a few Marcyisms. Here’s one of the classics…way better than the “it is what it is.”

    “Happy as pigs in shit!”

    Your gift from my little Italian grandma Marcy, who made the best damn Matzoball soup ever! (Which I’m really craving right about now) Way off subject…I know.

  12. Jacquie - April 15, 2006 at 4:27 am -

    The really scary thing is… I totally understood this. And I’m feelin you on the whole going back and watching Real Genious years later. I did that a couple years ago and I remember thinking it was like watching a whole new (but old) movie.

    My favorite quote was from the girl that looked like a boy that might have been a boy posing as a girl….. “She jumped you? And you made it with her?” Let’s see. I was like 10 and my sis was 8 and we were quoting this all the time. My mom would yell at us but it was so fun to say, we didn’t care.

    It was what it was! But was it really?

    Batting my eyelashes at you (and not just because Kevin acknowledged it would help my chances in winning a signed copy of your book),



  13. Jennifer Lankenau - April 15, 2006 at 8:44 am -

    So, uh…WHAT is it…?

  14. Lacy - April 15, 2006 at 10:51 am -

    Paul, I love you.

  15. Earl - April 15, 2006 at 1:15 pm -

    I thought something was what it was, but then it morphed into something else — kind of like Kenny Rogers’ new face.

    Now I don’t know what to think because what I thought I knew turned out to be something that I didn’t know. So where does that leave me?

    By the way the young nerd that Kilmer rooms with — who disappeared for like 20 years after that film — he came back as an older NASA nerd in Apollo 13.

  16. The kid from Real Genius - April 28, 2006 at 12:15 pm -

    The kid from the movie that looked like a girl was Gabriel Jarrett, does he still look like a girl? Well, his eyes are kinda pretty:

  17. Gene - October 23, 2006 at 7:22 pm -

    I just had a tatoo on my upper left arm IIWII, in deep green for life, standing for ‘it is what it is’. I love the symmetry of the symbol, the meaning of the words, and far from fatalistic point of view, empowers me to shape and change what I can. I am going through my second divorce and third major relationship break up. I thought this was a perfect image to meditate upon and use as a power symbol for my future.

  18. Gene - October 26, 2006 at 9:31 pm -

    Yes that is my new tatoo I had done a week ago up there as the beginning picture. This idea is so important to me I had it put on my arm permanent in a tatoo. The symetry of the glyph is so appealing as is the concept. Existentialist at heart. Each day brings a new adventure! I don’t lose a moment dwelling on the past, and I waste little energy worrying about the future. It is what it is. Pure and simple. Yes I plan, I hope, I anticipate. Yes I remember, honor, and revere the past. I am not wasting energy compensating for either. I am living in this moment, and this moment is glorious.

  19. Flossie - February 25, 2007 at 12:20 pm -

    Oh, my gosh! The comments are almost as powerful, insightful, and humourous as Paul’s article!!

    My question, who’s the philosopher/writer that coined the phrase?

    Thanks much for the article’s genius and subsequent commentaries.

  20. Tisch - December 14, 2007 at 4:11 am -

    It is what it is (is) the biggest brush off ever. Just accept life and do nothing? I don’t think so! I’m all for the Serenity Prayer, but I won’t ever be a doormat to people’s ignorance, nor accept injustice.

    That’s the way I see “It”.

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