Friday, August 10, 2012

Bad Advice

The world is full of bad and misleading advice.  I think I've written one of these before, but I can't help myself.  I hate trite statements and slogans so very, very much.

1) Live each day as if it were your last.

I'm guessing there are a lot of homeless people who took this advice to heart.  Because if it were actually your last day on earth, and you knew this, you would be pretty freaking reckless.  For instance, I would spend all my money on breakable glass and explosives, and then I would smash and burn things.  I would eat obscene amounts of hollandaise sauce and popcorn with extra movie butter stuff and I would hook myself up to a bourbon IV.  Actually, no, I would just drink the bourbon.  But you see what I'm getting at here.  If I lived like that every day, I would die in some painful, premature fashion, or I would be locked in a mental institution, or jail.

I wonder if hollandaise sauce would be good ON popcorn with movie butter.....

2) You can do anything you set your mind to/where there's a will there's a way.

Well, not always.  I'm guessing this sentiment originated in a time long ago, when people's goals were more modest.  You know, back when people weren't all that aware of the world outside their villages, and their big dreams were to have husbands who didn't beat them.  Because, yes, that is a realistic dream for most of us.  But you can't do anything you set your mind to.  You just can't.

For instance, I would love to have a magic carpet.  It is one of my fondest and dearest desires.  My mind is set on it, and has been as long as I can remember.  My will is strong.  But it doesn't matter.  I suppose I could learn about science and mechanics and try to invent a carpet-like structure that would levitate and carry me about.  But it wouldn't be magical.  I will never be sitting on an Oriental rug and suddenly feel myself lift off the earth, soaring through the air like an owl, no matter how much I wish for it or try to make it happen with my mind.  Not that I've tried that.

But let's pick a goal that is grounded in our current reality.  Let's say that my dream is to play professional basketball.  Professional basketball is an actual job, and actual people do this every day. But that doesn't mean I can do it.  I can't.  I'm not even 5 feet tall.  I'm slow and have bad aim and bad eyesight and I hate sweating and I think basketball shoes are ugly.  These obstacles are not surmountable.  I can not be a professional basketball player, not even in a special needs team.  (Is there a special needs basketball league?  I don't know.  Probably.)

3) Don't judge a book by its cover.

I judge books by their covers all the time, and it never leads me astray.  If a book has pictures of cannons and men on horses on the front, I'm not going to like that book.  If a book is pink and has cartoon like drawings on the front, I know I'm not going to get a serious, thought provoking read out of it.  If a book has pictures of a beach and wicker furniture on it, it's going to be a woman-centered book, probably about several generations of women interacting in some ordinary but dramatized fashion.  What I'm saying is, you can judge books by their covers, reliably.

But people often use this statement metaphorically; meaning don't judge people by their appearances. This is a bit more tricky.  Obviously I don't think you should judge people by their skin or hair color, or by their physical limitations.  But there are parts of the "cover" that can be reliably read.  The parts of the cover that can be read are the ones that are CHOSEN.

For instance, tattoos and piercings can give you an indicator of someone's character.  Where are their tattoos? What are their tattoos?  How many?    I know, I know "you shouldn't judge someone just because they have tattoos!".  You're not listening.  I'm not judging someone negatively simply because they have tattoos.  I'm simply listening to what that person is telling me about herself.  She got those tattoos for a reason; they mean something to her.  Any time you decorate your body, you are making a statement about yourself; you are presenting an aspect of  your personality for others to see.  I'm just going with it.

Clothing choices also say a lot about an adult.  This doesn't count for children, since their clothes are often determined by their parents and environments, and may have no relation to their own characters.  But adults are responsible for dressing themselves, and their clothes tell you what they value.  Do they value quality over quantity?  Are they willing to forgo comfort in order to obtain a good result?  Do they value comfort above all else? Are they lazy?  Are they engaged in activities that require certain types of clothes, for instance uniforms or swimsuits?  Do they see themselves as sexy?  As frumpy?  Do they want your to respect them?  Fear them?  Do they want you to think they are above such petty concerns as fashion? It's all there on their bodies.

3) Always be yourself/Don't worry what others think of you.

This is only good advice if you are  good person, who is likeable to others.  Not everyone is good or likeable.  If you are not a good person, and no one likes you,  you should probably try to change yourself, or be like someone who is better than you.

Take myself for example.  I am a good person, and I am likeable once you get to know me, though most people take a while to warm to me.  Acquaired taste and all that.  But if I were myself all the time no one would like me.  Because if I were myself all the time you would hear me say things like "That's boring.  Let's talk about something else now".  And "Wow,  you're acting like a douchebag".  And "I already know this, because I'm really smart.  But it's fine, we'll talk more about it since you're just learning this in  your remedial studies class down at Sylvan".  And "When you talk little particles of saliva keep spraying on me and I find it repellant.  This is seriously so gross.   I need to go wash myself.  And you need to learn to talk in a more sanitary way".

Because I'm not always a nice person.  I am a GOOD person, in that I want the best for people, and I have a kind and loving heart, and I want to help everyone and end all suffering..  But I'm not necessarily NICE - I often am judgmental and arrogant.  BUT, I know that this is an awful, terrible part of my personaility, and it needs to be repressed at all costs.  I would NEVER say any of these things to someone directly in real life, because it's mean and snotty and I KNOW that.  So I repress myself, at the expense of "being myself".  Because that's what grown-ups do.

And it's actually very important to care what others think of you.  I don't mean for petty reasons.  I mean, if someone hates you because you wear a parka or something, you don't need to worry about that, because it's silly.  But if someone hates you because she thinks you're a child molester, maybe you should address that.  Because that's the kind of opinion that matters.  And if you don't think it does, I bet you'll change your mind once you can't get a job, or when the villagers come to your  house with torches and you turn into Freddy Kruger.  Humans are social animals, and having an accepted place in society is important, whether you choose to acknowledge the fact or not.  I'm not saying you have to make everyone like you - that's not possible.  Some people are impossible to please, and have irrational prejudices.  And some personalities just don't "gel" for whatever reason.  But this doesn't mean you should have a "fuck the world, I'll do whatever I want" attitude.  That attitude is juvenile and unrealistic.  You have to get along with others.  I'm not saying you have to kiss ass, or compromise your values to fit in, or anything like that.  I'm just saying it's stupid to say "don't worry what others think about you".  Because it does matter.

4) When someone puts you down, it's because she's unhappy with herself.

No.   That's not true.  Perhaps it's true sometimes, but it's also possible that she genuinely disapproves of you, or your life choices.  I can think of lots of times I've disapproved of someone and stated that fact, and it had nothing to do with my feelings about my own choices or life situation.  Believe me, it's totally possible, and in fact probable, that whoever is putting you down honestly means it. I can't think of a single time when I've dealt with unhappiness by putting someone else down - that would only make me feel worse and would not solve the problem.  I just don't think that's the way most people behave.
  Whether that person is right or not is another matter.  The person putting you down is not necessarily correct, and you don't have to take it seriously.  But your shouldn't dismiss it as unhappiness on the critical person's part.  Because it just doesn't seem like a good reason to critcize  you.

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