A Little Happier: Can You Call Spirits from the Vasty Deep? Sure, No Problem.

I love to read, and over the years, many passages, situations, and quotations have lodged in my head.

Often, I’ll encounter a situation, and I’ll refer to it in my own mind by a shorthand reference to something I’ve read.

Many situations remind me of my favorite TV show, The Office, for instance, and I’m often reminded of many other works of art.

For example, I sometimes encounter a situation that I think of as a “vasty deep” situation. Maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation.

A “vasty deep” situation is when people make bold claims about the popularity of their products, or arguments about how persuasive they are.

A great example is when someone says, “On my podcast, I plan to interview leaders like Bill Gates, Tom Cook, and Oprah.” The key word is “plan.” Those people haven’t agreed to do the interview.

Or another example might be someone who says, “I gave a talk that streamed out to 100,000 people.” Okay, but how many people actually watched?

I gave this phenomenon this name from a short exchange in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV.

The character Glendower is bragging about himself, about how extraordinary he is, how he has supernatural powers. He claims to his companion Hotspur, “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”

And Hotspur responds, “Why, so can I, or so can any man;/But will they come when you do call for them?”

It’s a good reminder when I’m inclined to boast, or when I’m considering the boasts of other people: it’s one thing to call out to people, or to put our words out into the world, it’s quite another thing to get a response. I can ask Queen Elizabeth to sit for an interview, and so can anyone, but will she do it?




Like what you see? Explore more about this topic.

Subscribe to Gretchen’s newsletter.

Every Friday, Gretchen Rubin shares 5 things that are making her happier, asks readers and listeners questions, and includes exclusive updates and behind-the-scenes material.