On the one hand, I feel a little guilty for climbing into this pit and slinging mud along with everyone else. Like, I could maintain this as a strict creative writing blog, or poetry even, or be more faithful in my adherence to Law of Attraction — if you don’t want more of it, then don’t talk about it. I feel oddly sucked in, when normally I’m so immune to external world drama and churn.
On the other hand…ahaha…I do know a few people trying to pull that off right now. It’s not going well. These are people who, right along with me, would normally just let “current events” roll like water off a ducks’s back — oh, which reminds me: I never knew how many cliche phrases I routinely used until grad school, when they were all marked in red. I was a little mortified but to be totally honest, rebellious too. I was like, “What if avoiding cliches just because they’re cliche, even though it means exactly what I want to say, is in itself cliche? What if the least cliche thing I could do would be to use a widely recognizable cliche, rather than actually reinventing the wheel on how to say a minor thing? Huh? What about that?
The counterpoint argument being, of course, that writers must avoid cliche and so make use of a thesaurus to find synonyms, in order to say exactly what the cliche said but in a new way.
That was pessimistic, granted — what writers are really supposed to do is what Tanith Lee does, which is difficult to describe. She just writes words, and you read them, and it takes so few to create a scene in your mind. But suddenly she throws in something so unexpected it’s almost jarring but it makes the whole thing real on this visceral level, or…a level you can’t put your finger on. “The crickets tortured the grass.”
Or, “The whiskey lay in a little warm pool across the floor of my mind.”
“Slight fear like a condiment sprinkled on the enormous lulling beauty of the night.”
““Not those dolls that children play with,” huskily mouthed Mareme, as if her voice were trying to reach the very nadir of her throat.”
Okay, never mind. The point of not using cliche is simply to be so good at your craft it wouldn’t even occur to you, because you’re literally beyond the world of other people’s ham-fisted abuses of language. A brief reference to my Tanith Lee quotes document solidified something, for me, that two years of grad school was unable to convince me of.
As I was saying, though: people for whom, like myself historically, current events would roll off them like water off a duck’s back (clearly I’m not at her level); I see them sort of wading into the fray just a bit with, like, a minor opinion, recoiling from the unprecedented social catastrophe that results, and retreating to a firm position of non-engagement — look at these pretty trees; here’s something the Buddha said. Which is fine and I totally get it. However, what cracks me up is it takes on this white-knuckled tension, between the lines. It’s like you can tell, sometimes, they just got done hearing CNN say that Melania’s pregnant and Trump is going to nuke North Korea to reveal the gender or something, and their next post about trees, and the Buddha, has this rigid quality to it, like the jaws of a confused pitbull locked on to a Tibetan prayer flag, for lack of a better victim.
I think the way of spiritual leadership is always through the doorway of authenticity, and that’s exactly where most spiritual leaders blow it, with the exception of Teal Swan and Jordan Peterson (the latter wouldn’t characterize himself as a spiritual leader, but that’s his problem). A spiritual leader is someone who is able to apply the meta-perspective, hopefully a benign or optimistic one, ultimately, to the secular trials and tribulations (there I go again, with the cliche) of our lives, our patterns, our individual and mass events. Right? But the built-in issue with that is the voice of this perspective begins to see its own job as…not succumbing to those fragmented fears and neuroses which characterize a spiritually disconnected personality. However, succumbing to those fears and neuroses is not only likely, at some point, it’s especially inevitable for the spiritually and metaphysically curious, because you don’t look for bigger answers when the smaller answers work just fine; and the smaller answers work just fine unless you’ve got some big fucking problems; and spiritual leaders are actually likelier than the rest of us to have some big fucking problems, or else they wouldn’t have been “hungry” enough to go looking beyond the common answers. Show me someone who turns to spirituality for answers and I’ll show you someone who’s had a long dark teatime of the soul, in probably a chronic way.
So all that works fine, but at the point you find yourself once again embroiled in fears and neuroses, and you *pretend you aren’t*, in order to maintain your platform, you just beggared your own authenticity and ruined your platform anyway, whether devotees realize it or not. And of course, one of the cornerstones of a spiritual practice is that no one ever, actually, gets away with anything. It’s quite a conundrum.
Teal Swan, and to a less obvious degree, Jordan Peterson, have hacked this problem by simply being egregiously honest. They just won’t lie. Teal is so authentic, in fact, that she’ll say out loud she’s tempted to lie, in the moment she feels that. It’s pretty next-level. I heard an interview with her, and the interviewer was asking if she feels a “golden age” is in the cards for humanity’s future, and Teal was like, “Aaaahhhhh…” (I’m paraphrasing from memory) “…this is tough. The more we all believe that’s true, the better of a position we’ll be in, individually and collectively, because that’s a good focus to keep. So I’m torn, because yes, that could be in the cards, but probably only through the doorway of something a lot more like World War Three. Which is the most destructive belief we could hold, albeit a far more likely one, which is why I’d prefer not to have people focus on that. But I don’t want to lie.” Something like that.
So I get why some of us choose, right now, to retreat from the fray — and it is quite a fray — and console ourselves with pictures of trees and Buddha quotes, but that’s less about spiritual leadership and more about personal spiritual coping, arguably. An ideal spiritual practice is able to incorporate. I was going to say “incorporate x y z” but I’ll just leave it as-is: incorporate. Incorporate what? Everything. If our spiritual practice isn’t the big invisible box that holds everything else, then it’s…you know, a littler box, competing for our attention with other little boxes.
I’ve chosen to go the other way, which looks like a departure from a spiritual worldview no doubt, and maybe is. But I think authenticity trumps all other cards, all other strategies, and I’m betting my entire spiritual practice on that assumption, in a sense. We’ll see where it takes me. I’m not rejecting any of my emotions, and I’m not holding myself to some idealized serene emotional baseline, even though that is my more common MO. Sometimes the path of authenticity demands we recognize the crazy within ourselves, and sometimes it demands we recognize the crazy in our surroundings. I’ve never seen more stupid things happen in a shorter timeframe in my life, than in 2020 — the gift that keeps on giving — and I’m not willing to tamp down my own sense of constant shock and outrage, right now, let alone my amusement at others’ expense. I mean, if this is what 2020 is doing to me, imagine what it’s doing to people functioning at the level of orangutans on a good year. Oh — you don’t have to imagine it, there’s endless video capture. And granted, that was an unkind thing to say about actual orangutans.
I’ve really leaned into combativeness, interestingly, which is something I’ve leaned way out of, my whole life previously, to a self-defeating degree. I’ve always vaguely justified it by telling myself that nothing good comes of argumentation anyway, and combative energy simply breeds more situations that can only be answered combatively, etc. I’m not wrong, there, but my close association with Nick has given me a fascinating counterexample as to what deeply integrated combativeness can look like, and do for a person. (My entire family is non-combative, except for my deceased mom, who would become so combative on occasion, and so willing to ramp up to the nth degree, that it’s no wonder we all coped by rejecting combativeness, even when totally warranted.)
Nick doesn’t go around picking fights with anyone, but his history as a former addict and then a hugely successful mentor and facilitator of other young men’s sobriety process served to frame the whole thing differently for him. His unconscious, knee jerk reaction around really bad ideas and behaviors is, “I almost got myself killed by thinking that way, and you’re gonna get yourself killed if you keep thinking that way.”
Which is kind of beautiful, right?
I have acquaintances I’ve known for decades, and I’ve watched them think, and frame themselves and their world, in highly self destructive ways, also for decades. I’ve never done anything about it. I didn’t think it was my job to do anything about it. And probably it’s not! That’s not my destiny, maybe. Or maybe I should have. What would I even do? I truly don’t know. But I’ve watched these acquaintances run aspects of their own lives into the ground, with the way they think. I didn’t understand, consciously, that I recognized their patterns to be that destructive?, let’s say, but *then again* I was never surprised when their destructive thinking accelerated into destructive life events and diagnoses and all that. So my level of un-surprise betrays me — I guess I did know, and didn’t do anything.
Jordan Peterson has this rule: never let your kids do anything that causes you to dislike them. It’s fascinating. It’s not because the thing that they’d do, otherwise, is itself so destructive — it might be totally benign — but that your resultant dislike of them is, like, the beginning of the end of everything that matters. This is a lot more clear cut with children, who *are* our legal and moral and financial responsibility, and a lot less clear cut with other autonomous adults or at least peers (some of my worst examples of non-involvement have been hanging over my head since childhood). I mean, adults gonna adult. Shrug.
But when I frame it that way, simply as an experiment: don’t let your friends do anything that would cause you to dislike them, and then add perhaps this caveat: “without a fight” — that’s interesting, right? Because I’ve rolled out the red carpet, practically, for friends and acquaintances to do things that caused me to dislike them, even in the moment. And then I just drift away, because why wouldn’t I — I mean, I don’t even like them that much. And it probably hasn’t helped that some of the most obvious examples of controlling behavior, in my experience, have overlapped with I’d say highly unenlightened perspectives. I’ve tended to equate the two, and reject both.
But that’s why close association with Nick is this constant education, in a sense, on what it looks like for someone to mess with the bull and get the horns. We’re both Taureans, interestingly, with birthdays two days (and thirteen years) apart. So I can be quite bullish too, but it’s more like: mess with the bull and then…go live your life, minus one bull. He’s quite adept at fighting for things, as well as against things, which is why our relationship hasn’t simply evaporated into mist at various points of contention in the past. And also why we have Milo.
Tim Ferris is a big proponent of leading with your strengths, rather than essaying constant dithering attempts to bring up your weaknesses, which is reasonable for sure. Nevertheless, I think it behooves us (bulls) to carve some new behavioral grooves, from time to time. You wouldn’t pit a blackbelt against a kid on their first day of karate class, though, and we ought not practice new skills at unreasonably high levels. So I’ve been leaning into both combativeness and authenticity, this year, relative to various matadors.
The results are largely positive. Or even entirely positive. The stupidity of 2020 has been my constant ally. In times past, it was a lot easier to 2nd guess myself. What if I’m wrong, or I don’t know enough about the context, or, or, or. This year, I’m like: I’m not wrong. Or if I am, I’ll fucking die on this hill, so same difference.
That’s why, while I do understand the impulse to retreat to pictures of pretty trees and Buddha quotes, it’s just not available for me, short of some major authenticity fail. I’m not trying to be a spiritual leader, obviously, but I am trying to show up for myself spiritually (arguably the same thing as leadership).
It’s interesting how my earlier tangent about cliches was an oddly perfect framing for this discussion, where the idea of the “cliche” stands in for, “the perhaps uninspired behavior which seems unavoidably evoked by the situation”. Is it ideal for my writing to incorporate cliche? No. Is it ideal for my behavior to feel helplessly evoked from within me, by circumstances almost too stupid to describe? No. But when it does, there are really two options, of lesser and greater merit respectively: break out a thesaurus and confabulate something strained, that means the same goddamn thing (ie, inauthentically checking the “spiritual” box when I don’t really feel that way), OR just truly be above cliche, Tanith Lee style. The second option isn’t really an option, it’s a state of being that you are or you ain’t. The worst thing any of us could do, “spiritually”, is to pretend to a state of being we ain’t. That’s rule number one of both spirituality and writing. And sex, for that matter. And fashion, for god’s sake. And fitness. And cooking. Really for everything, I guess. “I am where I am and where I am is okay.” Sounds simple but it’s an easy step to skip.
So yes, I do feel I’m having a broader, um, vocabulary of emotions and responses being evoked by the constant onslaught of stupidity this year, and that’s where I am, and so that’s okay. I can’t really desire to quantum leap forward to a Tanith Lee level about it, because the very essence of a Tanith Lee level is that state of being so incognizant of cliche, of inauthenticity, that you don’t even realize you’re being original. It’s so not even about that.
And, as always, we live in a world where Robert Jordan’s honestly quite tragic Wheel of Time series sells more copies than Tanith Lee’s Tales from the Flat Earth, so it’s not even commercially advisable to be that good of a writer. Goes straight over people’s heads. Or, as the ultimate cliche has it, “all god’s critters have a place in the choir”. I don’t know what kind of critter I am, but I do know that the best idea I’ve had yet, this year, is to film a series of 2-panel, side-by-side “reaction videos” when Nick and I watch footage of rioters getting themselves hurt. It’s like this brilliant new genre. It’s always funny when strangers get hurt in minor ways, which you hate to admit. And usually the fun is ruined by how bad you feel for them, and how much it isn’t really their fault, or not that much. I follow this Instagram page called @drunkfails, and ooohhhh (sucking my teeth), they never feel it at the time? But you know they’re gonna feel it. It’s a pretty good mix, but among other things, it’s a lot of drunk white girls in really high heels clambering up onto things and twerking for, like, three seconds before they just go ass over teakettle onto the floor, possibly compounded by the presence of a sink or some high-backed chairs. I wasn’t following the page before the lockdown, when I would assume there would be more capture in a bar setting, but since the stupidity of 2020 knows no bounds and no end, these are mostly house parties from the look of it.
Anyway, I might *privately* laugh at someone’s drunk fail (and based on the number of followers, I’m not alone), but I would never, you know, advertise that. *However*, these riot fails: wow. The rioters are always yelling some shit like “You can’t stop the revolution!” right before they get themselves hurt, and then as soon as the injury occurs, they’re like, “MEDIC!” Hit in the nuts with their own munitions, or caught on fire by their own molotovs, or being flung from the roof of the cop car they made sure to climb up onto, or falling down the statue of some old white guy not nearly as racist as the old white guy these rioters are so intent on voting for, if they survive their own “revolution”. You know — Kamala Harris’ running mate. Or in the case of “Tattii”, screaming at the cops about how they should all just kill themselves and live stream it (tacky is as tacky does), finally assaulting them, and then screaming for a female officer and “I’m a woman of color being violated!” when she’s taken down. And, and, and. Oh my god, it’s endless. I mean, I watched video of the Kenosha quickdraw competition on loop — it was spellbinding.
I’ve always been quite disturbed at the idea of Roman gladiators, chosen from among the ranks of those they’d enslaved, forced to fight, occasionally rising to fame, often in matches involving fierce (utterly trapped) animals, ugh. I shudder for the animals particularly. Honestly I just hate for anyone to be embroiled in violence when it’s against their will. What a terrible thing, but a thing that many generations have had to psychically steel themselves for, as war or unrest brings it to their door, wanted or not.
So yes, maybe I’m a sociopath for thinking riot fail videos are hilarious — and I do — but like I said, it’s a whole new genre. It’s a group of people who are utterly sheltered, utterly unprepared mentally and physically, certainly tactically, for the consequences of their actions, which would normally result in a collective shrinking back, right?; an aversion to the churn. But no, they insist upon getting right into that churn, they are the churn, they tell us all we can’t stop the revolution, and then they immediately demand medical support from the establishment their poorly-conceived revolution seeks to overthrow. It’s fascinating. What kind of revolution were they envisioning? One with no boo boos?
I’ve retained enough koolaid guzzling social media friends, or friends of friends, that I see how they’re fetishizing these events. One guy’s feed was nothing but black and white photos (an affectation of its own, in this day and age) of reasonably hot girls, “facing down” rows of organized police. We love to do this, right — to de-personify and dehumanize uniformed service members when it’s convenient, and to use them as the visually signified “bad guys” in highly contrived photo ops. I mean…they don’t have faces, because helmets, so…anyone who watched Star Wars knows they’re the bad guys. But only until you need a medic.
I’m not sure why I am immune, if not because of having served in uniform. Can it really only be that simple? I know lots of people are immune who haven’t served in uniform, and vice versa, so it can’t be only that. But I’ve noticed the same thing with people who have been waitstaff at restaurants, versus those who haven’t, or retail sales, or anything. We often can’t recognize the lived realities of occupations we haven’t experienced; it’s not limited to uniforms.
One of the most blithely privileged, incidentally (actually egregiously) white men I’ve ever known appalled me on one occasion by savaging, in recollection, a confused Uber driver who’d carted him home from the bar. She didn’t even speak English, she had no idea where she was going or how to follow directions on the phone or verbally, she wasn’t a safe driver, her confusion ended up costing him more money on the fare, she had just come from some godforsaken country she should go back to because driving Uber was clearly above her intellect — that kind of tirade. Reading between the lines, we should build a monument to this woman, right? Whoever she was. She immigrated here, bootstrapped (despite AOC’s debunking of this as a physical impossibility) herself into some kind of car and some kind of job, had enough hustle and sheer grit to just figure it out while she was figuring it out, and offended the plushy sensibilities of an inebriated rich white guy in the process.
I’m not throwing the inebriated rich white guy totally under the bus, though, although he was an ass on this occasion. In better moments, he was able to red pill me in early micro-doses, per my then tolerance, as to why a higher minimum wage in Flagstaff was a bad thing, not a good thing, for the local economy. There’s a reason why most historical prophets come from wealth — goes back to that ‘bigger questions yield bigger answers’ thing I mentioned earlier. If you can’t ever get enough food in your belly, you won’t ever ask questions much bigger than: where’s more food. Sometimes it takes the most privileged, or alternately the least victimized, among us to course correct our collective goal setting.
So maybe my lack of empathy for the rioters, and their constant propensity to hurt themselves, and their inevitable shock in having hurt themselves and in some cases failing to receive medical attention as instantaneously as they’d prefer, from the very same people they just got done attacking, hence the injury, is only because I haven’t been in their shoes. If I ever am in their shoes, I’d ask each of my blog readers to please hit-and-run me with your car as hard as you can because I’ll be goddamned if that’s a way to be. So, the hypothesis implodes.
I have friends who believe that civil unrest is the only moral course of action in the face of an untenable injustice situation they’ve been assured by the MSM exists, first of all, and is beyond redress otherwise, secondly. Even when I try this (flawed — EDUCATE YOURSELF lol) idea on for size, it also implodes. And it did, from the very beginning, when they ripped the truck driver out and beat him. And maybe the hypothesis of recognizability returns here, somewhat. I don’t think those people — the rioters or my friends — have any idea how much a truck driver simply wants to get where he’s going and not have anything bad or dangerous happen on the way.
In fact, that’s it right there: responsibility for others’ safety. That’s the metric they can’t see, and I can’t unsee. None of us are occupationally forced to assume responsibility for much more than ourselves, and yet some of us choose to function at a level where the physical wellbeing of others very much is our job. Truck drivers, cops, military, medical personnel, firefighters. People whose faces you often can’t see, and at whose expense it’s easy to stage a contrived photo op. It’s a hard enough job as it is, and it all works okay if most people safeguard their own welfare first, to the best of their ability, and abstain from intentional injury to others, however loco they may feel. It’s the most hysterical tantrum imaginable, to congregate in groups with the express purpose of destruction, willy nilly. I’m very pro-law and order because I value freedom, the freedom for all of us to move around and do things, which is enormously impaired by even minor incursions of anarchy. This is as stupid as attacking traffic lights as systemically racist, when all they do is keep most of us from killing ourselves most of the time, at most intersections.
I suppose that’s why the riot fails represent the most guilty pleasure imaginable — the gallon tub of ice cream with no calories, cholesterol, or sugar. It’s sad when people get hurt — except when it’s not.
A recent study found that people with sociopathic tendencies are much more likely to disregard mask and social distancing mandates, which means one of two things: either I’m a full blown sociopath, or the shameless brainwashing of 2020 knows no bounds.
There’s such an interesting dovetail in our mega-hoax narratives this year, though. Literally everything I just said, regarding the irresponsibility of some at the expense of others, has already been weaponized against people like me who resist the COVID narrative. I can’t say anything bad about rioters than someone else couldn’t just as logically (meh) say about me as a, let’s say, individual unimpressed with the fake pandemic. So it’s essentially a war on common sense, and it’s difficult to even say who’s winning.
Circling all the way back around, now, I think one of the hallmarks of spiritual leadership is not to be overly concerned with spiritual leadership at all, and to simply be as honest as possible in documenting the matter at hand. Where would we be without The Diary of Anne Frank? (In no way am I comparing myself and my somewhat aggressive character flaws to Anne Frank.) All we can really do is be honest; not pretend above our level of knowing, but certainly to accept no less. The most honest thing I can say is that my sensibilities, values, and morals are inflamed by the events of this year, to a degree it’s impossible to overstate. The days of 2020 are like those advent calendars we’d get during the holidays, where you open a new little window each day leading up to Christmas. But in 2020, each new little window tells you something backwards, something opposite, something exactly upside down from what it is. The sky isn’t blue. Two plus two doesn’t equal four. You’re not reading this. It’s the most intense gaslighting I’ve ever experienced, and so no, I’m not really tempted to confine myself to pictures of pretty trees and Buddha quotes. I think there’s something valuable in calling bullshit on the bullshit in every way I know how to, and some more ways I’m inventing. I’m sorry for my fellow humans who are negotiating this hail of bullshit alongside me, but I’m especially sorry for my fellow humans who’ve succumbed to the gaslighting. That is one cliche I can’t have.