Sunday, March 26, 2006

Light the Corners of My Mind

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Walt Whitman

I've been studying memory a lot lately because to me, one of the things that makes life the most interesting is to remember it in the most objective way possible. There are tricks to doing this correctly. It's hard and takes time and I devote at least one day out of the month to getting it right. I like to know what is motivating me to do the things that I do and I know for sure that the past, while not a place that I like to revist too terribly often, can tell me a lot about who I was and who I am now. There are things that I've done that no one will ever know about that were some of the best moments in my life: total shining examples of humanity. Then again, some of the shit I've done makes me cringe. I realized at some point (actually at an airport in Atlanta) that there really never is an excuse for being as selfish as I was, so I decided that my choices were to do better or die sucking. Now, I never stop wanting to do better, I never stop wanting people to do their best, and I rarely stop expecting that to happen.

I’ve seen some serious hypocrisy in my life. The kind of hypocrisy that made me fear that the person(s) guilty of it would reach some kind of hypocritical mass and explode in a fury of self-congratulatory confetti. I mean, hell, I've yet to be attacked by anyone who didn't throw out my past for target practice and have never, ever been attacked by anyone who wasn't guilty of the same shit that I did. It is because I saw this and the types of people who were very much into it that I forced myself to be as honest as possible without either embellishment or self-deprecation. I was like, "Oh fuck is that what happens when you become too firmly cemented in your own bullshit??!!" Maybe not the finest excuse for an epiphany but it worked. It scared the bejesus out of me and taught me the important lesson of being responsible without feeling guilty. Well, that and G√ľnter Grass.

Our memories unfortunately, tend to reflect an egocentric bias. We want to remember ourselves in the best possible light. We also tend to want to think that our self-serving deeds or failures were simply a reaction to something in our environment. If we're not patting ourselves on the back we're making everything out to be worse than it was so that we can take comfort in self-pity. The truth is that no matter what the provocation, being unkind (even to oneself) is simply wrong. There is no excuse, no provocation that can justify cruelty or smirking indifference to the suffering of another. There is no real excuse for being glad if someone else fails and the only reason we do it is so that we can nod our self-satisfied heads with the knowledge that we were right all along. Good for us. The prize? We lose some perspective because the moment we stop admitting our own failures or excusing our failures for any reason whatsoever, we take the first steps in becoming willfully ignorant. That, to me, is the absolute worst possible fate I can imagine.

True character probably exists in all people, and its strength within us is based on how much we are willing to accept who we are. This is the only way to fully realize who we can be. There are no real martyrs, no heroes, and certainly no saints. There are only those who sleep and those who refuse to eat the lotus. The prize? The sometimes painful but always interesting truth and I like the truth more than I like being right.

Also, if you're going to contradict yourself, change your behavior to reflect your beliefs. Otherwise, you're silly. You're just silly.