Preservatives

Why do we take some people more seriously than most others?

a) Because “some” people love you and everything they say must be right.
b) Because “most” people are idiots and you should take Nothing they say seriously, which leaves you with “some” people.
c) Screw people. I know I am right. (Sounded cool right?—are they looking at me, can you confirm?)
d) This sucks. This question sucks. Everyone sucks.

Option (a) is survival mechanism. It’s how you got so far and it’s why you look back at your decisions and realize you mostly just made the same decisions your parents made, who copy-pasted their parents, all the way to the first She-Said-Yes (because her Dad told her to). Happy Valentine’s day, you clownishly unmodified clones, of claustrophobic spirits, cooped in the compassion of familial compromise. She sells seashells by the seashore.

Option (b) is growth. The sooner you understand most people have no clue what they are talking about and that You are one of them, the sooner you head into maturity. It’s the process where you will start getting annoyed with almost everything on the Internet and then start a blog that annoys almost everyone who reads it. Welcome to my latest consciousness drool: Just because you think other people are idiots does not automatically not make you one.

Option (c) is where a lot of us spend our lives: Option (c) is the rest of this essay.

Option (d) is the right answer.

We know the deal. Some people are just cooler than the rest. We want to be like them. Growing up: celebrities, musicians, and jocks dominate this category. So you danced like Michael Jackson, did your hair like David Beckham, and choke-slammed your brother and stood over him like The Undertaker, until your mum rushed in to check what that noise was about and finds your brother espaliered, possibly dead—who knows, on the mat and you, standing over him, doing that weird thing The Undertaker does with his eyes and all she can say is, “I am going to cut the cable (/TV)”. Mum’s the OG Undertaker. How the diaper sniffers ruined parenting for everyone.

As a kid, looking stupid is the one thing you were excellent at. As a kid, you didn’t know better. What you didn’t also know is that you are a part of a crazy belief system that lasts well into adulthood and, if unrecognized, the rest of your life:

A belief that your life’s worth is determined by how much attention you get.

If you are going, “those were not the people I tried to be like as a kid—I wanted to be more like Gates and Einstein, and I have my virginity to prove for it,” you just brought pee-balloons to a knife fight. Let’s call it even and move on.

A kid has one identity. That he’s a kid. It’s why kids can say and do stupid shit all the time, and it can still sound profound and awww.

As that identity wanes, you need something new. It’s why turning teenager feels like democracy replacing fascism. You have no excuse for your stupidity anymore, so you double down until everyone hates you which makes you think everyone’s paying attention to you, while they are mostly just reconsidering fascism.

And then, your pimples pop, and adulthood rings in like a wrong number.

Here’s some adulting:

I am worth a couple million.

Take me seriously now?

An identity beyond the biological has now become a filter for your attention. What caught your attention was the money, and not what I was saying all along. And so begins your ascent into adulthood and descent into insufferability. As your identifications accumulate and turn into a filter for your becoming, your curiosity gets replaced by self-righteousness. Helps that self-righteousness is so much more viral.

(Although if you are going, “if this wordy weiner can make a million bucks, so can I,” I was clearly kidding, so joke’s on you, dickhead.)

But self-righteousness is not sustainable. You know what is?

Woke!

Just as people begin to doubt your dog-whistling and turn away, your identities shift to something higher: Humility. Knowledgeability. Spirituality. Now that you are identified with something higher, you believe you have transcended the lower, but what you have done is found a new way to preserve attention. Now even you need to pretend in order to like yourself.

You have gone on changing containers, you haven’t noticed the content has started to rot. At least when you were self-absorbed, you had some adventure about you. With self-preservation, the constellation that is You has gone out, star by star. You have been embalmed. And you are not even dead yet. Anyway, to quote The Undertaker: REST IN PEACE.

The inception of pretension and preservation consumes your capacity for wonder. You trade miracles, the content, for mirrors, the memoryless. You are so focused on what’s right and what’s not, you don’t see what’s both. Survival and growth. The kid and the adult. Attention and paying attention.

Doesn’t matter who you take seriously—some people, most people—just make sure it’s not You. And, when you can help it at all, look up at the stars. At how freeing it is to be able to look up and feel the vast hopelessness in trying to preserve fire and light. Fire and light.

2 thoughts on “Preservatives

    1. Hi Foram. Thanks for the erratum and for the avidity of your reading. Stet; for I got the spelling of the title wrong. So let’s not disturb the anthill anymore.

      Brain food. I watch movies for the exact opposite reason I have to read books: to incapacitate the brain. Tamil cinema is choked with options so a purge is never a problem.

      On books. I read some experimental fiction last year, which means I spent a year with more books unfinished than not. Try George Saunders, if you want to dip into this at all.

      For reasons I don’t want to think too hard about, I love Sylvia Plath. Not love to read Plath, which I obviously do, but love love her, and the books may have played a part.

      Jonathan Foer is one of the two authors who can write non-fiction as wrenching as fiction, the other being, of course, Arundhati Roy. I am sure there are more (Hemingway and the ilk–but my brain isn’t made for that band of intelligentsia). For more fiction, two words: Kristin Hannah.

      I know I have made myself look good so far, but Robin Sharma, Stephen Covey, Darren Hardy (the Tim Ferriss’s of my generation) and the whole self-helpy group is what even got me started on reading books in the first place, they’ll always find a place when I talk about books.

      Austin Kleon, Liz Gilbert, and Yuval noah Harari for non-fiction. I picked these because they are loaded with lineage ‘that’ll lead you to many other books.

      All right, that’s a lot for a response. As much as I like the “what you read” question, I also find it debilitating. It’s got the “do you believe in God” ring to it. I feel about books the same way Pascal/Camus felt about God: I would rather live my life with books and die to find out the books didn’t matter after all, than live without books, only to die to find there were, in fact, books.

      Liked by 1 person

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