To be fair, I don’t really care for self-help books or gurus or life-coaches and headlines like Ten Steps to Being a Better Whatever fills me with a certain nameless dread. I’ve even argued with vociferous Buddhists that if Buddha gained enlightenment without that notable twelve step program (no, man, that other one) then any person could find their own path up that mountain. And, let me tell you, few things are quite as much fun as a ruffled Buddhist hell-bent on proving another person wrong; had I more free time I might just make a hobby of it. Then again, maybe not; not being a total asshole seems to me to be a worthy endeavor.
Gurus, I should also note, creep me out. Now, by guru I mean any cat out there espousing the belief that they are knowledgeable enough to tell you just where you’re going wrong. Case in point: Dr Phil. You know this cat wrote a diet book, right? Immediately, that crosses him off of any list that I’d consider to be rational or worth my time. The man could be a quantum physicist with chops enough to rattle our dear Dr. Hawking, but the day a fat man writes a book telling me how to eat better I figure he knows shit about shit and certainly doesn’t recognize the moment to step away from the limelight. I’m just saying.
It’s worth noting, I don’t disallow the likelihood or probability of any one person knowing much more about any one subject than I, but I bristle at anyone’s initial assumption that they do. Check to see if I just didn’t think it was funny before you stop to explain a joke to me.
I was recently subjected to a seminar (one of those that someone paid handsomely for, and I shudder to think of the bill) about dealing with stressful confrontations in the workplace. Surprisingly, little focus was placed on tact and those dealings were almost farcical in their extremist mock-ups. We spent the better part of an hour on a graph delineating the six basic gaps in performance to ascertain the best approach in that glazed over tact issue to deal with such problems. By the two and a half hour mark I was beginning to understand how people could come to the ability to club a baby seal.
Motivational speakers rarely motivate me, I think, in part to that guru approach and feel of them. My favorite teachers were never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” nor were they shy to foist my own precocious pain in the ass moments back on me. “Why don’t you research that and tell us all about it on Friday?” Gladly, madam, and thanks for not blowing smoke.
In this vein I will now list several things that you can do to be less of a pain in the ass in your daily life, but I will do so with foul language, vague situations, and irritating ambiguity, all the while drinking my Scotch and smoking my Reds so that you might read this and declaim, “This guy’s full of shit.” That’s my gift to you. You can cite any statement following with the caveat that you heard it from some drunk bastard listening to music in a made-up language (Sigur Ros, Valtari, should you be interested).
1. Feed your ego. Nurture it, build it, and revel in it. You are a monstrosity of experience and knowledge and never let anyone tear that down. When you’re alone watching old movies your ego should ask why it took Godzilla so long to make Mothra his bitch. You’re ego should do it in rodeo time.
Here’s the bitch, though. Check your ego at the door. When dealing with other people the ego balks and fully realizes that they have no idea just what you’ve been through and how you’ve found to best deal with situations to make it through your day. It’s absolutely right, but neither do you know shit about what they’ve been through and how they’ve dealt, are dealing, or will deal with it. With that big ego champing at the bit, remember you’re just as full as shit as the person before you. If the word dichotomy just cropped up in your head you can be my new best friend, because…
2. Accept dichotomies. Get used to these. Seriously, let go of that Ayn Rand black and white philosophy. It’s just going to cause you problems and irritate the people around you who don’t think exactly as you do. (And how many, really, think exactly as you do?) The human mind is not built to experience even a fraction of what we door observe in a day. It fills in gaps just to compensate merely the visual portion of our lives. Human beings are not built on logic and our default mode is rarely sensible. What seems entirely logical in the vast conundrum of the synapse spouting three to five pound meat fest in our heads is, all too often, merely a response that our experience tells us makes sense. It rarely does. Doubt me? (You should.) Belief in two separate and seemingly opposite things is not the fearful Orwellian downtrodden state of the plebe, but just one of those things that we do. It’s okay. Oceania is not at war with anybody. Our brains love the idea of continuity, but understand the idea of situations. We’re quite often hypocrites. Embrace it. Try not to point it out too often, though. We don’t like to be wrong.
3. Be wrong. For fuck’s sake. Just be wrong about something. Tell some asshole that you were being an asshole and let it go, already. What’s so bad about being wrong, about being ignorant, about making a mistake? What’s wrong with someone not understanding your point of view? Being right is highly over-rated. Arguments tend towards simply making one person feeling taken advantage of (though, discussions occasionally prevail). Just quit gracefully and let the person before you go about their business feeling as though they schooled you on some front. They win and you get to go along with your life, possibly never dealing with them again. The idea that some stranger must show respect for you warrants little more than a random beating for being an asshole. True assholes have to deal with themselves every day. Your win is that you don’t. Let them win. Darwin wasn’t too far off. A bigger asshole will one day come along and take them for whatever they feel necessary. It’s that instant karma that the Beatles mentioned.
4. Redefine reality. “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Do you know this quote? I bastardize it here because it suits my purpose; as in: reality isn’t universal. It isn’t even real. Your reality is not another’s. There are precedents for this: subjectivity, relativity of knowledge. I’ve circled this point in many blogs and am loathe to beat this horse carcass unduly. Ask two coworkers to describe the hallway you all just traversed and call me back. Physical representations in our minds don’t even coincide. I dare you to even consider asking folks about the best music.
5. Be polite. You motherfucker. Really. I say motherfucker here as I don’t know you, but if I were dealing with you face to face I’d say motherfucker only if we were on those sort of terms. It doesn’t hurt me in the slightest to censor myself when we meet. I lose nothing from it, but people around me seem to appreciate it. I don’t tell dirty jokes to nuns, but some people hear some horrible, rancid shit from me. We deal with people as they are ready to deal with us. Tact and manners ask that we look to others for their limits before running past ours. Strangers in line in the grocery store have no need for your off the cuff quips about anything, whatsoever. It is your right to say what you feel, but not your right to be so ingratiatingly irritating about it. Quit forcing other people to deal with your expectations.
6. Force other people to deal with your expectations. Sorry about the dichotomy, but sometimes you have to make someone look up a word or philosophical idealism. Just try to lead them to it politely. Don’t forget to do this on the other side of the fence.
7. Try. Just try. Gods damn it all, try. You’ve a ridiculous amount of information at your fingertips, even from your phone. I understand lethargy. I understand apathy. For all that is holy or humanistic or that is kind to animals or bugs, try. G.I. Joe knows that knowing is half the battle. Look at things and question your understanding. That bastard in front of you in traffic could be any of twenty thousand things. That utter bitch in line behind you could be dealing with things years previous. You and your massive ego don’t know. That’s as it should be. Try to not be a dick and relax when you are. Reality works that way. Effort is occasionally rewarded. Hope for that.
And remember, you’re just as full of shit as the rest of us. Oceania is at war with everyone. These things happen.