Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being told how to be better

So my last post resulted in someone getting slapped by strangers (sorry!) and may well have seemed very judgemental to those into self-development and self-help. Okay, so it's not that it seemed judgemental. It was. Or at least it was asking if the case was there for such a judgement.

Although Deepak Chopra would probably tell me that judging is a problem in itself. I don't buy that at all but, in this case, I may have been a little harsh. You know, calling for slappage and all. Truth is, this is an area I'm interested in because I think it could help me. The problem, and the reason for posting about it, is reconciling the idea with my own sketicism and world views.

But my goals don't seem to match the two main areas of self-development.

I've often thought about writing a self-help book myself. A book on life. But I suspect many people looking to these books are looking for a fairly quick fix and it's about personal gain, whether it's how to make loads of money or how to make you're happy. I don't think I could do anything other than tell it like I see it. And that would achieve neither. Or at least, not in the short term.

My book would be about the importance of seeing the negative.

I'd call it - Life Stinks. Now Fix It!

Or: The Power of Negative Thinking.

That's not bad actually. I could see that in bright red letters on a blinding yellow cover. In my simple 6 step programme, you'll learn just how shit your life is and how most of us are in the same crappy boat. You'll learn to let your anger eat away at you until you're ready to release it in one huge life-changing outburst. If you don't end up in prison, you'll be making a better life for others. And when others have a better life, you do too. Life stinks. Now fix it!

What do you think?

I'd also include a bonus chapter -

Learn To Judge Harshly And Recognise Gobshites So That You Don't Become One.

Yes, judging. I think it's important. I don't buy into the idea that we're all divine in the eyes of some creator/God/collective consciousness/whatever because, like the idea of being completely happy as an individual, I just can't help feeling it's a really dangerous idea. It's an idea that seems to go against self-improvement to me, and by 'self' I mean both as individuals and as a whole race. For me, it's important to recognise mistakes or atrocities (the importance of thinking negative) so that we don't repeat them ourselves.

If you tell someone that the 'researchers' of Unit 731 are as divine and beautiful beings as the thousands of victims, what kind of message are you spreading? There is no right or wrong. I can oppress, torture, kill my fellow man and it doesn't matter. Because I am divine and loved no matter what.

No. That's got to be wrong. In fact, I'll include another chapter: Stuff You Do That Makes You A Fuckwit. Just a big list of things that mean you are far from divine, from chucking a cigarette butt on the ground to gassing six million people. I'll cover the whole spectrum. It will be a long chapter but an important one.

I'll go one further with the next chapter - Why The Guy Next To You Might Be A Dick. The importance of being able to say, "Man, that's a shitty thing to do", to the guy who chucks a cigarette butt on the ground or gasses six million people. It's not all negative of course, because then you can offer, "Here's a nicer way you could have done that", like putting the butt in a bin or just not smoking and not, like, gassing people much. Yeah, it's important to see some people as assholes. If you didn't, you might have a disgusting atrocity like 731 occur and then all the guys get off completely free because you want their research. If they had read my book (Life Stinks. Now Fix It!), someone would have thought - hang on, aren't these guys assholes? Shouldn't we, you know, maybe put them on trial or at least give them a stern disapproving look or something?

And it's wrong to think, well that was then, we're all civilised now. We're all searching for our inner peace. Right now, as you read this, there are atrocities being carried out. There are people suffering for the gain, greed or simply amusement of others. Wouldn't it be better if people there said - hang on, you guys are assholes? We'd begin on a smaller scale of course (people who spit, people who are always late, people who call me up trying to sell me crap) but we'd work up to the larger assholes.

I kind of got sidetracked there from self-development to calling out assholes. It's a natural progression I guess. Many of our issues are about relationships. Possibly all of our issues are about relationships. It's not just about ourselves, it's about how we fit with everyone else. So a huge part of it would have to be about - How To Recognise Your Inner Gobshite - so you can help others too.

See, I think if I were to approach the idea of self-development, the 'self' would have to include all of humanity. Each and every one of us. How could I leave anyone out? My approach wouldn't be - you have a problem so here's how to train yourself not to see it as a problem. It would be - you, we, have a problem so let's fix it. But for that to happen, you have to allow yourself to be aware of the problem. Be aware that there is a problem.

And there are problems.

Life Stinks. Now Fix It!

Am I on to something?


Red Pill Junkie said...

I'm all for adopting 'Life stinks. Now fix it!' attitude. It's like the ending of the movie Se7en, when the character of Morgan Freeman acknowledges that this is a shitty world, and yet worth fighting for; if nothing else because it's the only one we've got—leaving aside the possibility of an after life for a moment, which I think it's a lousy trap used by some institutions to force people to accept their horrible fate.

People who don't want to open their eyes to the horrors of the world are little more than cattle; sheep blissfully oblivious that they are being taken to the slaughterhouse. Is the one sheep that is aware of their condition happier than the rest? Of course not, but it may work and contribute in the hope that eventually things will change for future generations.

But there's a couple of things I would like to point out: Firstly, we should acknowledge that probably all the maladies of the world stem from one basic common human impulse: fear.

Yes, fear. Think about it. Violent people are afraid they could get hurt first; greedy people are afraid of death and hunger, or have poor self-confidence. Humans become monsters because they are afraid of the dark themselves.

Secondly, that often when people talk about solving problems, they focus mostly on finding a culprit to blame. I work in the Architecture business—and actually, I think this is something you guys in the Animation business could relate too— and when building a house or remodeling an office there are a lot of problems that arise out of miscommunication with the workers, confusion or plain stupidity: eventually, someone is going to fuck up, right?

So, when a problem arise, you can follow two courses of action: you can spend all your time & energy in finding the culprit to blame; or you can focus on actually fixing the problem.

I think a lot of our current problems stem from the fact that most people nowadays prefer to keep blaming someone else for their maladies. This is particularly true in the Middle East mess, with Jewish and Arabs pointing fingers at each other! If we could have a time machine we could probably locate the primeval asshole who stole a fruit from his fellow tribesman, which inevitably produced all the conflicts and wars in the history of our species.

I'm not saying we should empty the prisons and stop condemning criminals. But, like you yourself stated, we should all acknowledge our inner gobshite and accept we're not better than the rest of those guys. Our circumstances might have been slightly different which enabled us to be less fearful and accept responsibility for our actions. In a perfect world we could try to make the culprit pay for what he/she did; but often he/she won't be able to restore the deed, and none of us are immortals (i.e. we have no time to lose).

And we should focus on the problem. Take global warming; should the rest of the nations judge the US for the raising ocean levels, or should we all try to come to terms with reality and find a solution? The clock is ticking.

Jacqueline said...

Oops! I'm always late! Pardon my atrocity.

Yes there are problems, mainly caused by the ego-driven and reinforced by the fearful masses.

I don't see anyone in the self-development field advocating non-punishment of bad behaviour. But then, my eyes are swollen shut after all those slaps yesterday, so I could easily have missed it.

Bitter Animator said...

Yes, I agree with you, RPJ, on fear and its effects. And what makes it even trickier is pulling apart what comes from fear and what doesn't.

For example, in any atrocity example I can think of, I have a desire to avoid any such atrocity in the future. In my opinion, those responsible should be exposed and it should not be forgiven and definitely not forgotten (though I should point out I'm not talking stringing them up here - it's more about the awareness). One of the things that always has to be kept in mind is that, when humans become monsters, they still do so as humans. They are still people. And if people can do horrendous things, that's why it's important not to forget.

But the flipside is that the fear of people doing horrendous things can lead to committing terrible acts. This happens all the time. It's happening now. Whole cultures are being motivated into wars and conflicts through fear.

So, yes, it's a very, very important topic.

But, while I agree that fixing a problem is ultimately the main goal, if there is a clear act that has been carried out by someone (or in your example, a whole country), I think it's important to call them out on it. Exposing the asshole. That's not the same as just trying to pin everything on a scapegoat. It's acknowledging when someone messes up with one primary goal - to avoid someone else repeating their mistakes. Again, that's not about stringing them up and making them pay. It's not about revenge, because that just leads to more fear. It's about learning.

Jacqueline, while I don't think I've heard Chopra say we should empty prisons and give everyone a hug, he has told me on a couple of occassions (through the medium of books) that, no matter what we do, we are all equal in the eyes of what he terms 'God'. We are above being judged (even by God) and we should not judge others.

Anonymous said...

You are an articulate bunch! I can't say it any better, so I will only say that this is an intriguing blog!

That and I have fully acknowledged my inner gobshite (long ago). Part of my solution for fixing her is to do make lasting changes. Things like volunteer work, not stepping on people to get what I want, and making choices that will positively affect the future generations (I sound preachy, but I am not trying to be). That and lambasting people who are jerks.

Life DOES stink. Totally and freaking completely.

Bitter Animator said...

It sounds to me like you're doing great things to contribute to a better world.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Actions will always be more eloquent than any speech, tigerleo :-)

dermot said...

I agree with your attitude towards the inherent selfishness of much "New Ageism". This is a harsh critique of the crystal-heads from a Zen Buddhist (who is rightly annoyed at the abuse of the term "Zen" by the Shakra-adjusters):

"The theme of selfishness appears to exist throughout the New Age trip, it is on the whole supported by middle class white people who are dissatisfied with their lives and uncomfortable in their relationships and surroundings. Invariably it is a money making scene, the books, crystals, bells, incense, oils, aromas, the tapes and CD's all sell like hotcakes.

I could find no information in the store that had any reference to the sign in the window advertising "zen" the clerk did not offer an explanation, there seemed no reason for the sign other than the novelty of the word "zen." This is a common occurrence in materialistic America. Over the years I have seen numerous advertising campaigns offering "zen" this and "zen" that. Books have been written with the word "zen" in the title that have nothing to with zen at all. "Zen" is a "pop" word that sells.

From this perspective, there is no relationship between zen and "New Age," in fact, they are diametrically opposed. Zen does not cater to selfish notions of self improvement or egoistic narcissistic spiritual entertainment. If any thing, zen is about destroying utterly such preconceptions. There is nothing "New" about zen, it has been around for 2500 years. Whatever preconceived ideas may be proffered by so called "New Age" gurus, have nothing to do with formal traditional zen practice."

The article is long, but worth a read. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm overdue for my dowsing class.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Thank you for a very good read, dermot.

The New Age movement failed because it focused on finding the God within yourself.

It should have better focused on finding the God within everybody else...

Bitter Animator said...

Yep, a really good read and nice to get that perspective. Thanks, Dermot. Hope the dowsing class went well. It's all in the wrists.