Thoughts on Excess and Self-Control

Have you ever heard the phrase “Everything in moderation, including moderation”?

I feel like when I first heard that phrase, my reaction was more focused on the first word.

Everything.

I wanted to do everything, to try everything, at least a little bit.This isn’t to say I started walking down shady alleys in search of hardcore drugs with a wallet full of cash, but the idea that the world was somehow open-ended to me drew me in, until I started to break down my cultural ideaology.

For some reason, we’ve grown accustomed to the idea that, because we have more we should use more/do more. The concept of Maslow’s Pyramid of needs seems to come to mind, despite its apparent flaws. The more time we have and the more safe we feel and the more money we earn, the more we tend to get bored and want more to do.

That’s sort of a twisted concept isn’t it? It’s almost as if having more leads to wanting more. The mere concept of self-control has become decadent, a lost notion from a forgotten time.

All politics aside, during the NYC demonstrations that were flooding the streets talking about the 99% and how we are all a part of it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the rest of the world thought of us. Now don’t misunderstand me – the cause itself, the idea that we need to help those who need it, that I can get behind. The idea that there is unfairness and cruelty and greed, these are all things that need to be brought to light and to justice. But my point isn’t that injustice needs to be addressed, but the fact that we have the literal physical time to protest it means we are, in many ways, better off than the rest of the world. I don’t have the statistics in front of me but I would venture to bet, in the scope of the whole world’s financial wealth, all of America is likely in the top 1%.

This isn’t a degradation of a social cause, but an observation on a state of mind. 

To me, the fact is if we all had the ‘means’ to buy a new car or a new house or even a cheeseburger at McDonalds every day, we probably would. In fact, if we had the means and didn’t use them, we might even be looked down upon by our peers.

Self-Control isn’t fashionable.

I feel, and maybe I’m alone in this, but I feel like this cultural norm needs to be rewritten. Why should we be ruled by our own desire instead of ruling over it? Why is it more acceptable to succumb to peer pressure or to desire than it is to hold true to oneself? I feel as though we need to rethink our stance in the social sphere and begin to respect and find respect for those people who do express a firm grip on self-control and quit rewarding the opposite.

I desire to be someone who does what he wants to do not because he cannot control himself, but because he has an unwavering ability TO control himself. I want to be someone who can stand as firm alone as I can in the company of many. I want to be that guy.

What do you think?  

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Walking Cocktail

I heard something slither. A snake perhaps? No. What meds did I take? My Xanax? Was it Ritalin? The bushes rustle anew with a ferocity that could wake a hibernating bear. I freeze, uncertainty wrapping its arms round me like some tattered blanket. That’s when I notice it, the cool breeze wisping through my hair, creeping across my chest like an army of insects, merely passing, raising hairs on my nether regions.  Am I… naked? A flash of light hits my eyes. I blink and I’m awake, standing in the courtyard, doe eyed, staring at a man with a badge.

Why We Shouldn’t Listen To Ourselves

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Over the course of my life, I’ve found myself wondering a lot about the word humility.

For a long time I thought to be humble was to cut oneself down to size. If humility is the opposite of pride, then it seems logical to think that the way you stay humble is by running from pride as far and as fast as you can, in the complete opposite direction.

As I began testing out this theory, I thought of some interesting situations that disprove this idea. What if Slash or Steve Vai came up to me and told me “I suck at guitar. I’m pretty much the worst.” Would that be humility? It certainly wouldn’t be pride, would it? I mean, that’s pretty far from pride. He’s doing the opposite of bragging, so he must be REALLY humble, right?

If Steve Vai or Slash ‘suck’ at guitar, or if Ernest Hemmingway sucks at writing, or Picasso at painting, or Aristotle at philosophizing, what does that make me? How much more must I suck at those things? It may seem odd for a moment, but if you really think about it, saying you are horrible at something that you’re actually very good at is probably more arrogant and prideful than saying the opposite. When you make yourself out to be less than you are, you are pretty much holding up a giant middle finger to the sky and telling every other person on earth that they know nothing about anything. No. In fact you have somehow surpassed all of their knowledge and know better than everyone combined. You know what you’re worth and they know less than nothing about you. As it turns out, humility is not in opposition to pride, just as the opposite of red is not green.

Our culture needs to get a better sense of the word humble.

You’ve heard the phrase “I am my own worst critic”. The truth is anyone with a sense of self-worth will put themselves under the magnifying glass, but the problem with any magnifying glass is it only looks one way. You see only yourself, nothing else. When you’re under it, you compare yourself to who you want to be, and sooner or later you start realizing that who you want to be isn’t who you are. You can only have two reactions to this experience.

A prideful person gets angry. They get angry with the world that sees them this way (even if the world doesn’t see them this way), and they get angry with themselves for not being better. A prideful person has something to prove to everyone. They need to prove that they are better than what they see under this lens, or that they are much much worse and everyone else is an idiot. A prideful person keeps their eye fixed on this lens, ostracizing themselves from the world around them, from all the rest of the people who are hurting and damaged and need assistance. A prideful person serves the only thing their eye can see: themselves.

On the other hand –

A humble person finds joy in this realization that who they are is NOT who they want to be. A humble person just sees what they’ve known all along to be true, that they are indeed good at many things, and they need to get better at others. A humble person has an accurate view of ‘me’, not a self-satisfying view that says they are better or worse at things than they are. A humble person asks for help in the areas they are hurting, because they see that analyzing themselves is only the first step in a journey towards becoming who they truly want to be. A humble person doesn’t complain over the type of person they want to become, they take action to make it happen. A humble person looks to others as examples, and not to the people who act like they have it all together, but the people that have SOME things together. A humble person learns what it means to be good at something, and accepts the mantle by teaching others how to do the same.

You see, in my experience, sometimes the last voice we need to hear is our own. The fact is, our own voice is usually self-interested, arrogant in its claims, and self-concerned. When we put ourselves under the microscope for too long, we tend to see whatever it is we want to see: a beautiful, talented, successful human, or an utterly despicable, unlovable monster.

I’m sorry to say it, but we think about ourselves far more than other people think about us. It’s a cultural defect. I, for one, am no longer willing to stand for it.

So the next time you sit there beating yourself up or stroking your own ego, take a moment to pull back the magnifying glass and point it elsewhere. If you think you’re winning at this game called life, help someone else win, or by doing something below you such as volunteering at a homeless shelter or cleaning a friends dirty bathroom. If you feel you’re losing miserably, lift yourself up by helping another human being in need. It may seem or feel like the opposite of what you need, but I assure you it is exactly what you need. Turn the lens, understand where others are at, and in it you will find both your trials and your talents, but you’ll find comfort in knowing everyone has them: trials and talents.

Let’s do something about it. We should be redefining our culture and our neighborhoods, not redefining ourselves. We should be choosing what to give up, not what to get next. And no one should think of themselves more highly (or lowly) than they are.