Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Sermon (Self-Righteousness)

Hola mi Gente...
I wrote this a while ago and a recent message from someone in my past (why must we replay the tapes, sweetie? ::blank stare:: ) reminded me of the insidiously internal aggressiveness of self-righteousness.
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The Unbearable Feeling of Separateness
Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us.
-- Eric Hoffer

In the philosophical novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, author Milan Kundera challenges Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence -- the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur infinitely. The novel’s themes put forward the alternative: that each person has only one life to live, and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again (hence the “lightness” of being). On the contrary, the concept of eternal recurrence forces a “heaviness” on our lives and on the decisions we make (and gives them “weight.”) Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.

Following Kundera’s logic, life is insignificant, and decisions do not matter and therefore are rendered light. “If we have only one life to live,” goes the saying, “we might as well not have lived at all.” The awareness of life occurring once and never again means our lives in themselves are insignificant. The insignificance of decisions causes us great suffering, perceived as the unbearable lightness of being. This insignificance is existentially unbearable when it is considered that people want their lives to have meaning.

I don’t agree with Kundera’s position, but I have to admit that the likelihood of our lives amounting to nothing but a grand Cosmic Joke( to which we all know the punchline) is an anxiety that lurks just underneath everyone’s consciousness.
In my experience our actions, thoughts, and words send out karmic ripples that affect us, those we love, and humankind in general. In fact, these ripples become so intertwined with past ripples and the ripples of others that we could never fully know the full implications of our actions. That’s why intention is so important. But here again, I have to concede the well-worn cliché that enough of the roads of hell are paved with good intentions…

I am not an upstanding citizen. I break rules, I swear, I am oftentimes vulgar, and -- surprise! -- I am not a great human being. I never invented anything worthwhile, nor have I liberated throngs of men and women. There have been many times I have acted immorally, cowardly even. I was not a good role model for my younger siblings and quite possibly influenced them in bad ways. I have manipulated, stolen, cheated, lied, used women (and been used). At various times in my life I have been hopelessly addicted, a criminal, a failed pimp, institutionalized, and seen and done things most people never live to retell. When I die, a significant portion of those who will bother to remember me will remember me as an asshole, or worse. And they will have good reason to. In short, I am no gentleman. Nor do I want to be one.

Yet, I have to say I am no longer the same man I was years ago, and I do try to live an ethically and morally grounded life. I no longer pillage and plunder, but what I follow (to the best of my ability) are precepts, not commandments, and life is a work of art, not a set of sums. I find that I am much happier when I make an effort to remember my transgressions. It makes me less prone to self-righteousness. I made a promise to myself many years ago I would never become one of those self-righteous reformed motherfuckers who, after pillaging and plundering all their lives, now go around evangelizing their worldview. Most of us have met, at one time or another, a “former sinner” who today spends his or her time telling everyone else how to live, which God to believe in, and the so-called motherfuckin “Truth.” Self-righteousness -- that essentially selfish human weakness of seeing yourself as separate -- is most evident in the hypocrite. If you do not believe me, take a closer look around you, read the signs.

Eric Hoffer proposed that self-righteousness (and fanaticism) is rooted in self-hatred and insecurity. He believed that a passionate obsession with the private lives of other people is merely a cowardly attempt to compensate for a lack of character in one’s own life. A core principle of Hoffer's was his insight that mass movements are interchangeable. He noted that fanatical Nazis later became fanatical Communists, fanatical Communists later became fanatical anti-Communists, and Saul, persecutor of Christians, became Paul, a fanatical Christian. You can see this dynamic at work with the teabaggers which is a continuation of the right wing’s racist Southern Strategy. For the “true believer” the substance of the mass movement isn’t as important as that they are part of that movement.

I think as a society we exemplify the grabbing and holding for attention that comes from a lack of self-esteem. How else can you explain the right wing (or “reality” shows)? We do this even in our quest for a “relationship,” or love. Love is spoken about as if it could be possessed (“I want love”).

We watch people with boundary issues humiliate themselves on national TV and we are perhaps compelled by our own insecurities to say smugly, I would never do that. We hear of the downfall of an acquaintance or friend and we secretly note: “I’m better than him/ her.”

Most people, when they think of selfishness, think of the drive to acquire material goods, but there are many other forms of selfishness. Self-righteousness is about holding all the attention we can get, or denying others the possibility of sharing with us in community. For the fact remains, dear reader, that if your most humiliating or shameful action were written on your forehead, you would pull your cap low. All of us would.
And to give you a real world example of what I am talking about, someone recently took exception to my sense of humor. Anyone who knows me even just a little knows that my sense of humor is warped and definitely “inappropriate.” Shit, my life’s mission is to be inappropriate. Now check this out: the person who took exception? Well, I later discovered out that she stole the  current person she’s living from another woman. She slept with a married man and then ended up living with that married man. Appropriate my fuckin left nut. Mind you, I’m not passing judgment. If you think it’s cool to break up families or fuck married men, that’s no skin off my nose. However, if you’re going to set yourself up as the arbiter of what’s right and wrong, you had better have your own house in order.

We like to represent ourselves as being noble or “right.” I don’t give a fuck about “right,” I am interested in exploring the many levels of truth. And if I were being truthful with myself, I would note I could never be so condescending as to tell someone else what’s appropriate or inappropriate. I was a fuckin criminal at one time, how hypocritical would that be? We like to present to the world this carefully manufactured, oh-so-socially-acceptable image, but what would happen if this pretentious exercise actually included taking yourself out of your comfort zone? In other words, what if you became honest enough to confront your own character defects? Whatever champ, but please ask yourself this: what if the status quo you're so desperately trying to mimic is essentially unjust.

And as for material gain, consider the following: The car? Big shit, so you're destroying our ecology in style. The diamonds? Mined by children in Africa who don't live to adulthood. That iPad? Most likely put together by a pregnant woman who has considered committing suicide rather than continue to be subjected to work conditions that no “appropriate” society should accept. Appropriate? Who the fuck really gives a good fuckin goddam what you deem appropriate? Look in the mirror, motherfucker.

This form of behavior illustrates my point on the drawbacks of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Simply put, too many of us see ourselves as separate from the rest and we compensate for our perceived lack and essential insecurity by labeling others as different or “less than.” Some define ourselves almost exclusively by how different (and better) we are than others. Is this a reality?

I will state right here that I’m not concerned with “convincing” anyone of my worldview. I don't give a fuck about what you consider appropriate. My concern, rather, is to explore and attempt to present the truth as well as I can. Most of the idiots who condemn without reason or rhyme will never be convinced of anything except of the forthrightness of their own foolishness. Their labors are a lot like swirling a finger around your anus and proclaiming the resulting stink perfume.

The essential point here, my “larger” heart tells me, is that all of life is fragile and interconnected. We have a more generous spirit when we become aware that it is only when we look at the world purely through our ego-driven neuroses, that the world becomes fearful (or “inappropriate”). When we look at things from the mindset confined by self-righteous indignation we see only a void and the compulsive need to claim to be something better.

My heart also tells me that if there is inequality, then the status quo sucks. What if social acceptability isn't so goddamned acceptable? My conforming within the confines of social acceptability doesn’t equal growth. Just because I act as a gentleman, doesn’t mean I am evolving as a man, as a human being, as part of the collective evolutionary process. And don’t tell me I can come to your table only on your terms. That’s bullshit -- total hypocritical bullshit.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


[un]Common Sense