Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Issues"

I've had a lot on my mind lately. No, it's not because of this whole "new year, new you" stuff. I don't believe in that. Every day is a new opportunity to grow and to change. 

You know, for the longest time I always viewed "politeness" as society's way of promoting dishonesty. "We don't tell people they're idiots because it's not polite". My thought was "so how are they supposed to know they're idiots if no one tells them?" 
Well, speaking with a friend the other day, I came to realize "what if someone already knows they're an idiot and I'm just reminding them and hurting their feelings?" I'm not saying here that my friend is one of those people. Quite the opposite actually. But they helped me reason through my own distorted view. 

As the conversation went on I kinda started reflecting on my own life. I always just looked at things as though my honesty was a good thing. And it is. To an extent. But it's not always necessary to be so brutally honest. Or so condescending. Which causes some reflection. Bare with me on this one; it's a form of catharsis for me:

I am, indeed, condescending. (Here's where I'd usually quip something like "that means I talk down to people" and I'd snicker at the irony). Today isn't about that though. It's about me realizing that I, nor anyone else, really has the right to condescension. 
Humans are animals whether we like making that distinction or not. What separates us from what we call the "lower animals"? Pretty much just opposable thumbs and our mastery of manipulation. 
The ability to reason is supposed to be on the list but, let's face it, humans really aren't nearly as reasonable as we think we are. Besides, have you ever seen an octopus in a maze? Those are some seriously reasoning critters. They can work through very complex mazes AND change colors to match the scenery. Try having one as a pet; you'd better childproof that tank really well. 
 So we should replace "reason" with "arrogance". Arrogance. Yep, we've mastered that though. Humans are the most arrogant creatures on the planet. So arrogant that we think it's ours or that we are the best creatures to ever live. We aren't. Not by a long shot. War, murder, the sheer hostility we treat others with, the list goes on. 
But let's get back to that condescension thing. This one hits home for me. For decades I've known that I'm of above average intelligence (no, I promise I'm not stroking my own ego here. I'm trying to make a point. You can throw tomatoes at me later) and I have always been condescending, snarky, sarcastic, any other synonymous word or phrase you choose. They all apply. Why? Because of that arrogance thing. 

Has it affected past friendships or relationships? I can think of several now that I'm lying here reflecting on things. It's even led to overconfidence on many occasions. "Do I need to prepare for _____? Nah, I'm smart, I'll think of a solution." Then my disorganization kicks in and it's 50/50 that'll I'll fall flat on my face.

Classic hubris. Here's a lesson I've finally learned: one of the dumbest things you can do is overestimate your own intelligence. (Or abilities. Or significance). 

What makes me think I'm better than anyone else? My ability to read and comprehend? That's dumb. I'm no better than any other person. Nor is any person on the planet better than another. We are all the same basic creatures. 
Yes, some have more money. Some are better at economics or physics or any other subject. Some are more charismatic. The list for any one or two traits or advantages is nearly endless. 
Yes, you're a better dancer. But can you sing? Oh, you can sing and dance? Awesome. But how are you at advanced chemistry? See, you may be better at one thing than some others are but that doesn't make you a better person than everyone else. 

Are humans even the best animals? Better at creating and manipulating technology, sure. Better at manipulating the planet's resources to fit our own desires. Better at manipulating other animals, including humans. But not better creatures. Every other organism has learned to live in harmony with the planet. Maybe that makes them smarter on a different scale. After all, intelligence is a man-made measurement so we have something to be arrogant about. "Nana nana boo boo, I is smarter than a cat." Joke's on you, cats have us feeding them and cleaning up after them. How's really smarter there?

That whole "rules for polite society"... I didn't want to follow them because I felt it was duplicitous. Only, what if the real duplicity was me not seeing that that "honesty" I was so proud of was really just me denying the greater  truth? What if I was just making an excuse for my own arrogance? Arrogance isn't really the right word though. It'll come to me later. Or, possibly worse, the real reason is simply low self-esteem. "If I can point out your flaws or mistakes then it'll keep people from seeing mine." Personally, I think that's the more accurate cause. 

I'd point out other peoples' bad habits and stuff to keep the focus off mine. And I'd do it with sarcasm and wit to make people laugh. Better to have everyone laugh with me than at me. Only I was making them laugh at someone else. That, my friends, doesn't make me "anti polite society rule book", it makes me a bully. And a jerk. (I could think of stronger, more colorful words but I'll just let you fill those in on your own. They're all really pretty accurate.) 
The irony here is that I know I have self-esteem issues. So I try to correct them. How? By being arrogant. By being exhibiting narcissistic behavior. "Got a low self-esteem? Try acting like you're better than everyone else." Not exactly a great book titled. Or approach. Because what happens is you still eventually have to face those issues one day. Then you've set yourself up to feel even worse. Good going. How'd that work out for ya, Mister SmartyPants? 
I spent years poring over Sociology and Psychology books so I could figure out what is wrong with people. Too bad I never thought to look at what's wrong with me. 

Ironically, it took me being motivated to finally improve the mess I made of my life to realize that the biggest mess is actually me. My life just kinda followed suit. Well, I guess it's really just a vicious cycle because my issues started from events beyond my control in my early childhood. I think. So now I need to fix me for myself, the people I love, and so my kids aren't sitting around writing about this stuff later too. 

Looking back, I'm not really proud of myself. Looking forward I can see where I can grow. I've been resistant to it for a long time, this "growing" thing. Maybe because it scares me a little. We fear change. We fear that unknown element of "how? And what's going to happen to me from here?" I don't know. I only know that it can only be an improvement. I know it's not going to be easy to fix 43 years of broken and I know it won't be a quick fix but, with any luck, I'll have some help along the way. 


"So how are they supposed to know they're idiots if I don't tell them?" Dunno. Maybe it's something a person has to figure out for themselves. Or maybe they aren't an idiot at all. Maybe they'll be 43 years old then spend a week reflecting and suddenly realize "hey, I'm the dumbest smart person I know. Wow, I'm actually the idiot underneath it all. Stupid tests had me figured all wrong." 

Am I going to keep posting in my usual fashion? Who knows. Just because I've had an epiphany or two lately doesn't mean I can't still have a little fun. But I'm willing to bet my perspective changes.