Thursday, 21 August 2014

Normal People Don't Need Self-Improvement

I ran across this little rant...

My grandma is dead and she went demented before we could have these deep spiritual conversations. She grew up in the Great Depression. She held the family together. She recognized that family comes first. You sacrifice and do anything for your family. There are not many like her left. Now your family comes second to your smart phones and computers and Internet pornography and your self-indulgent lifestyle. Your Baby Boomer parents were checked out, and now the Gen X parents are checked out. My generation is not maturing. There is little spiritual evolution, little wisdom. Look look at my peers. Men my age and older still talk about their parents! They cry about shit mommy and daddy did to them. “I’m this way because of how my dad/mom treated me.” That is a sign that they have not left the childhood stage of development. People are in their 30s and 40s and still overgrown children crying about mommy and daddy.

Most of it is shaming and grandparent worship (what is with Americans and their grandparents?). The more I looked at it, the more it cames across as a cry of rage and frustration. This is a man wanting guidance and, surprise!, not finding it from his parents or their generation. The give-away is that little phrase “spiritual evolution”.

The cliche is that “religion is for people who believe in Heaven: spirituality is for people who have been to Hell”. I’ve spent some time in Limbo and Purgatory myself - maybe a short spell in the Fifth Circle - and I’m inclined to agree. Spirituality is for people who want to avoid further pain and suffering, who need to manage their inner demons and dysfunctions. It’s not for regular people.

Our author has previously said his mother is bi-polar - which is a nasty thing to do to your child, as that stuff is hereditary - and he has spoken of depression when younger. He has inner demons to fight. He needs the focus on exercise and work, the relentless self-improvement, as I do. The alternative is chaos, decay, weight gain, depression, self-pity and all sorts of other undesirables.

But, and this has taken me a good few years to understand, regular people do not need that focus. They look at the self-improvers and somewhere in their autonomic nervous system, the same one that recognises bad smells, they recognise us for the damaged goods we are. They watch us grind round the gym and see something unhealthy. Which is why they drop the gym attendance six weeks after New Years’. Regular people know they got their genes from their parents, and they spent the first third of their lives with them, so who the hell else was responsible? Regular people say they want to be happy, but above all they want drama and the noise of humanity around them. They want to feel part of the crowd, they want to “be there”, they want to part of a team, they want to belong. They want to brag on a minor success, and relish the drama of a minor failure. The men want to hang out and bullshit about sports, and the women want to hang out and play status games. This and so much more is normal life. They may run half-marathons, but for a good cause, not to prove something about themselves to themselves. They may read, but for entertainment and escape - you can escape in a history textbook. They get something hormonal from being around each other.

Regular people do need instrumental advice - about how to handle a squatter, or an industrial tribunal, or the best route to Swindon from Birmingham - but they don’t need to know how to live. Any more than a squirrel does and for much the same reason. Normal people do really dumb things and they don’t usually make sense, but there’s no point shaming them. They couldn’t change if they wanted to, and they wouldn’t want to. Normals have no advice for people with demons, no more than cats do for lions.

Behind the realisation that the Normals can’t help you is the realisation that you have demons. Rather than accept that, it’s easier to lash out at the Normals. Our author is doing that. He thinks he’s being a better man, not that he’s keeping chaos at bay. The Normals don’t need to keep chaos at bay, because they don’t see it as chaos. They see it as Life. Accidental pregnancies, decaying marriages, bi-polar relatives, bullying bosses, entitled girlfriends, thieving cousins, Type 2 diabetes, weight-gain, marital infidelity… it’s all part of Life to them. It’s what living is all about. They see the carefully managed lives that I and our author lead, and shudder.

It’s not easy being Green.

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