self deprecation

The Incredibly Stupid Lightness of Being

The last few weeks or months I’ve been having this conversation with myself, with friends, with my therapist about how I would like to find some “lightness,” some way to experience things with a little less gravity. I wish I didn’t take everything so seriously. That’s what I’ve been saying, at least.

I think that’s all bullshit.

I’m trying to like myself. Even love myself. And right now, tonight, one thing I accept about myself is that I am not graced with “lightness.” I don’t take things lightly. Most things seem stupid to me. A room doesn’t brighten when I enter it. I like dark comedy, inappropriate jokes, depressing fiction, journalism and documentaries that reckon with the profound brokenness of the world. I love my friends and everyone else can take me or not.

Lightness may visit me if it will. I do not plan to struggle to seek it out.

It occurred to me that people like me. Not everyone, but many people do. And I don’t think they like some version of me who carries a particular lightness out into the world, because I never met him. I don’t think that ever occurred to me before, that people have encountered me as I actually am, and they have accepted me.

Time for me to accept myself, too.

Logan: If I Were Me I Wouldn't Take Any Shit From Myself

See Mark's post on the same topic.

Yesterday Mark and I were chatting. He mentioned that there's a guy who he'd like to be and that he was thinking about what steps he might take to be more like that guy. He described this person to me and I said, "Sounds like a cool guy." Mark agreed, and mentioned he thought he should do something about it. "That guy would," said Mark.

This prompted me to tweet, "If I were me I wouldn’t take any shit from myself."

Obviously I'm not going to exhaust the topic of what it takes to be a person here. I partly want to let the tweet stand on its own. But I think it's worth unpacking what I was trying to capture in the few characters Twitter allows.

"If I were me"

To set up the joke I establish a disjunction between who I am and the various ways I think about myself. "I" in this case may be myself as I currently exist or as I may exit or have existed. "Me" also may take either sense "I" can take depending on what meaning the reader places on "I." "If" suggests an unrealized reality: the two – "I" and "me" – may collapse into each other or be brought into equality, thus terminating the temporal "if."

In other words, on one hand, there may be an ideal "me" projected into the past or the future that I am trying to regain or to work toward. On the other hand, perhaps my thinking about who I am is out of step with who I "actually" am.[^1]

Being out of step with who one is may be the product of misrepresenting the truth of who one is to oneself. For example, I may hold certain values, but do I live them out? Put more simply, do my beliefs match my actions? If not, one may either experience disjunction or live in blissful denial.

Interestingly, the former – holding a past or future ideal about oneself – may cause the latter. And here we arrive at the second part of the tweet:

"I wouldn’t take any shit from myself."

The ideal me wouldn't put up with deficiencies in the me that currently exists. Here, not only am I in disjunction with myself, I am actively at odds with myself. I make the guy I want to be exist as much as any "true self" and he kind of hates me a little bit. In the tweet this is partly because I'm going for comedy. If there isn't any tension it isn't a funny tweet. But I do feel an animosity within myself for myself and I wonder about its effects.

How much suffering am I putting myself through in this arrangement? I could write it off as meaningless because no one suffers but me. But I put other people through the same wringer, potentially causing them suffering when they invariably fail to live up to my expectations – whether they are reasonable or not – and causing myself additional suffering in the process.

The only solution I see to this is to let go of solutions. One must be led to take one's hand off the railing that offers control at the edge of the cliff that is life. Rather than ideals, one must let go and accept a life of faith, grace, and love. If anyone can figure out how to make the movement of acceptance without turning acceptance into an ideal, please let me know.

Mark: If I Were Me, I Wouldn’t Take Any Shit From Myself

By Mark

Be sure to check out Logan's take, also.

This was something Logan said to me, and we pretty quickly had the idea to both write posts around it as a topic. No guidelines were set, no directions were discussed. Here’s what I came up with. It’s sort of fiction and sort of not. Sorry.

If I had a window, there’d be gray clouds rolling between the spaces of the buildings making up the crowded skyline, stretching until it thins on the northern limits of town. But I don’t. I have a cube, four walls within four other walls, fluorescent lighting reminding me that being human is overrated. There’s more to life, I’m sure of it. But I can’t prove it.

When I stand up, looking over my domain of scattered papers and screens, I can almost see what would be better. If I stare long enough, the clutter takes shape and forms a sleeping beast, breathing rhythmically. I know it’s aware, that it can sense me and waits for me to make my move. My pupils grow wide, my breath rapid, and I am lost in wondering what that move looks like. The air around me is thick and colorful, blurring at the edge of my vision. The phone rings, and I lose sight of it. I see paper again.

There were once concrete goals I set for myself, places and positions I’d be in when I reached an arbitrary age, but it’s harder and harder to remember why those hopes mattered so much once upon a time. I can feel, in my gut, that they’re still important, but the reasons don’t really roll off the tongue like they used to while sitting on the grass of the quad or around the lunch table. It had to do with helping others, with teaching them interesting things and listening to their ideas. I dunno, it’s foggy now. Still, it feels nice to think about, so I do.

It’s raining outside, so the drive home is slow and solemn. I grip the steering wheel a little tighter and turn up the radio a little more to drown out the hum of the downpour on my windshield. A song comes on that I like, and I think about the days when I wrote my own, when I enjoyed being in front of a crowd and feeling the rush. I could do that again, I suppose. What would it take? Effort, surely, and maybe some new gear. New gear is the easy part.

At home, I feed the dog and light a fire to fight the cold chill seeping through the cracked seal around the windows. The couch gives with a little protest and then lets me settle with some hot tea and a book. I think about putting on a record, but I’m already sitting. I can listen to something later. The quiet is fine, I tell myself. Still, it lets my mind wander. I begin to think about the kind of person I’d enjoy being. Who would he be, and why would I like him? Would he be in that band, be that famous writer, be healthy and happy? Probably. Maybe I’m just too lazy to be like him. If I were him, I wouldn’t take that shit excuse from myself.

I open the book, new spine crackling, and the air around the pages begins to quiver, shaking and slowly emitting brightness like sunlight reflecting off hot asphalt. I feel myself being drawn in, being transformed and pulled into painful directions, becoming new and stretched and unfamiliar. I’m getting my wish, and I can’t stop it. It hurts. I don’t want to stop it. This is baptism, this is rebirth, I am becoming him and there are no more words.

So Much Better Than This Old Man

Some bigot says a dumb thing and we all go crazy. John Hagee, the CEO of a Church Like Organization (CLO) in Texas, told atheists and humanists to leave the country if they don't like hearing Christmas carols.

Why does this stuff get play? I mean, I know I'm reposting it here. I apologize for that. But I really don't understand why this is news.

I stopped reading after he told atheists and humanists to stuff a Walkman in their ears. First of all, there's no way an entire Walkman would fit in your ear. Second of all, I don't even know where you'd find a Walkman. Third of all, I think he meant iPod. Fourth of all, I think what he really meant was earbuds. Fifth of all, cool kids these days are wearing over the ear headphones for their superior audio fidelity.

Sorry. I lied. I didn't stop reading after he said the thing about the Walkman. This stuff is just the best. We eat it up. I'm so offended by this guy. He said Hitler was sent by God to hunt Jews. He said that! That's some crazy ass shit.

It's kinda distressing to recognize that Hagee's pulpit is bigger than mine or the ones filled by any of my friends will ever be and that his CLO clearly fills some need for the thousands of people who make up its body, but it feels great to be so much better than this old man. Compared to this guy I'm so ethical. I have friends who are secular humanists and friends who are atheists. We get along and everything. There are even people at my church who are agnostic! I know their names and shake their hands. I don't want them to leave the country and that makes me a good person.

Good for me being better than John Hagee.