The title of this post is an homage to The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts.
This is one of the more complex and ambitious posts I’ve done in a while; if some of my views aren’t fully fleshed out yet or perfectly painted, please bear with me. I’m a business guy, not a poet. This is a working draft.
On the taboo against being OK with where you are: We’ve been conditioned to believe there is something wrong with enjoying the simple beauty of a sunrise as you sip a cup of espresso, or being fully present in a conversation with an interesting or attractive stranger. Maybe there is nothing more to life.
The corporations want you to believe you are defined by the size of your 401(k) and the car you drive; ironically, those protesting against corporate greed want you to believe exactly the same things: you are defined by your income. Either an elite “1%er” or a proletariat “99%er.” What juvenile, toxic, and utterly trivial nonsense that has become.
In any free society, equitable distribution of wealth/attention/love/anything else people value is not going to be possible. Period.
On the taboo against being OK with what you look like: I remember as a broke college student in NYC resenting physically attractive guys who were bartenders & club promoters — many of them were little more than junkies or alcoholics, from what I saw, yet they always had the attention of any beautiful woman in the room. I had to work to overcome mediocre looks, had to develop and grow in other areas, in order to attract the kinds of intriguing women I was always drawn toward.
Looking back, this was a total blessing, not a curse. No one should go through life believing their golden ticket is their looks or family name. Always, without fail, there comes a day when that check bounces. Far better to develop humility, personality, and curiosity than to be conceited at any age. Your physical appearance will wither, and reputations change, but a playful attitude toward life never goes away.
On the taboo against being intimate: The cover story in this month’s Atlantic seems to be something that the mainstream press resurrects every few months. It presents a false narrative that there are suddenly no qualified romantic partners to be had, anywhere in America: the men are all broke and addicted to Internet porn or online gambling; the women are all delusional, materialistic, and on a fast emergency descent into being featured on a cable TV documentary about cat hoarders. I’m not even exaggerating.
Here’s the first little bit of the Atlantic article verbatim: “Recent years have seen an explosion of male joblessness and a steep decline in men’s life prospects that have disrupted the ‘romantic market’ in ways that narrow a marriage-minded woman’s options: increasingly, her choice is between deadbeats (whose numbers are rising) and playboys (whose power is growing).”
I don’t even know what that paragraph is supposed to mean, but as an adult American man, I object to being slotted into one of only two possible categories: “deadbeat” or rich “playboy.”
Does the writer of that article actually visit the real world, or has she been living in a cruel captor’s cage with Sex and the City Season One on repeat for the past year of her undoubtedly unhappy life?
If you are genuinely looking for companionship and intimacy, you can always find it. There are other attractive, wealthy, intelligent people out there — but they have flaws. As do you.
Articles like that one are written to justify the unhappiness of the neurotic writers who pen them. I don’t see any other conceivable purpose for them, because it certainly isn’t journalism of any kind.
On the taboo against believing in more than yourself: Nationalism is dead, ridiculous. Government, a scam. Social welfare, a Ponzi scheme. Religion, a fool’s game. And team sports are for slackers who can’t pull their own weight.
I don’t know when it happened precisely, but our focus on individualism has outlived its usefulness. It is now undeniably a destructive force most of the time.
The individual is not that interesting, as it turns out.
There has to be a common ground between being a crazy religious zealot picketing dead soldiers’ funerals and being a cynical atheist who believes the complexity of our universe, our planet, our society, and even the organs in our own bodies are nothing more than the result of unplanned chaos.
What ever happened to humility? What ever happened to acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers?
People want to believe in something larger than ourselves, we want to contribute to a greater good. We are tribal by nature, although not communal. This is part of the reason why I spend so much time on my Google+ page and reading through my friends’ posts there. My tribe has no borders, no official religion, no nationality. But it has people who believe in helping others, in helping themselves, and in creating personal prosperity.
On the taboo against being successful: Well, this one’s obvious. Just look at the recent tirades against the 1%. I know a lot of wealthy people. I would argue that less than 0.05% of them gained their money through elitism or favoritism. The rest earned it the way entrepreneurs always have: through a weird combination of hard work, sheer luck, and temporary insanity.
Envy is a twisted form of respect. I prefer to just respect the person outright. It’s cleaner.
On the taboo against knowing you’ll be dead: You’ll probably live until the ripe old age of 72, or 82. But you might not. Don’t let our society’s “problem” with displaying or talking about death become your blind spot. You will die, someday. Therefore every day should be maximized. Even if you have to work 9 to 5 at a job you don’t particularly love, you should be planning out an exit strategy: move toward what you want, slowly if necessary, but keep moving. Even if your life is a total soul-crushing wasteland, you can take 30 minutes out of your day to watch a sunset, go to a park, or read great literature.
I know of far too many people who have died young, and unexpectedly, to continue believing I’m entitled to my 72 years of good health. I’m not. Neither are you.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it down.
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