My friend Scott claims that I'm too hard on myself. He's only partly correct. Yes, I am hard on myself. But I'm also very honest.
I've long used self-deprication as a means of mitigating awkward moments. I make dergatory jokes about myself to ensure that people don't think that my head is too big. I paint myself in a foolish light in an attempt to talk about uncomfortable things more comfortably.
By and large, this works fairly well. When it's funny, it's well received. But at least one person thinks that my self-deprication will lead to a negative self-image in general. She's afraid that all my constant self-mocking will lead me to devalue myself, and underplay my own worth.
I don't think there's too much chance of that, though. I know what my strong points are, and I'm not ashamed to talk about them. I'm not afraid to blow my own horn when it's necessary. And I know that there are people on this planet who love me, regardless of what I say or do. There was a time, many moons ago, when I did have a very poor sense of self-worth. My self-deprication then was fairly indicative of the way I really felt. But through friends and family, I've learned to mitigate my embarassement and feelings of shame, worthlessness, and isolation. The vocal self-deprication has been altered from a statement of my belief, to a good natured self-parody, if you will.
I am hard on myself, and I do critically evaluate my life on a regular basis.But I try very hard not to sugar coat things; for myself or for others. My family has been upset with me for a long time over the fact that I don't cushion the truth for people. I generally lay it all out, and let the facts speak for themselves.
It's been my experience that many people are uncomfortable with this means of communication. The raw facts make people uneasy. Difficult things should be skirted around, and only spoken of in vaguaries. I don't often like to do this. I like to call a spade a spade. If I see a weakness in myself, I call it a weakness and deal with it as such. It's not a character flaw, or a phase, or anything else. It's a weakness. I speak of other people's weaknesses in the same fashion. This generally makes them uncomfortable.
And rightly so. For who am I to make judgements on another person's weaknesses? My previous discussion of hypocrisy underscores this fact. I was not being overly negative of myself, but rather taking an honest evaluation of something about myself that I am not pleased with. I accept full responsibility for this bit of my personality. I don't blame my parents, my environment, the terrible children in my grade school who tormented me on a daily basis, or any other person or thing in my life. It is my cross to bear, and I can never overcome it if I do not acknowledge it.
Hi. My name is Scott, and I'm a hypocrite.
It annoys me a great deal, because I see hypocrisy as an incredible weakness. I'm not keen on weakness, and generally try very hard to overcome those that I recognize in myself. For example, I try very hard to be open minded and tolerant of people - because being close minded is a weakness. Being selfish is weak - it's too easy to focus on one's self all the time. Lying is a weakness.
But isn't hypocrisy just a form of lying? I'm lying to myself - and necessarily to others - by being a hypocrite. Sometimes it's easy to recognize the hypocrisy. I enjoy a good conversation with my friends over a few pints of beer; but I am extremely negative towards people who say "I want to get drunk!". Just because I don't say it doesn't mean that I won't get drunk. And why is it okay for me to have one too many beers with my friends, but it's not okay for someone else to do the same - and admit that that is their goal? Who am I to say that drinking to excess is necessarily a bad thing?
I'm also a hypocrite when it comes to my friends. I am fiercely loyal to my friends, and honestly extremely proud of all of them. As such, I want to introduce my friends to just about everyone I meet. Yet I am extremely hesistant to meet other peoples' friends. And if one of my friends introduces me to someone new, I am very leery of them - almost as though they are a threat. Where do I get off introducing my friends and avoiding everyone elses?
While I am fond of all of my friends, I am also overly critical of their weaknesses. The very people who have helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life receive scorn and disdain when their lives falter from the impossible standard I strive for. If a friend participants in a sexual indiscretion, I am very let down and make very few bones about letting them know.
Conversely of course, it's okay for me to experience such indiscretions. I can rationalize it to myself, and explain away all the wrong-doing. It's a cardinal sin for my girlfriend to have made a few poor decisions in her youth, but I am defined by my ability to overcome my own bad decisions. The mistakes I made in my youth (and continue to make now) have helped me grow, and have given me tremendous insight into life. But a mistake from someone else affords them no room for growth or change.
I've recognized this weakness in myself for a long time, now. I've lost a few girlfriends as a result (and rightly so, in all honesty). I wrestle with it every now and again, and sometimes I feel like I actually make some progress. I accept people's own capacity for change and growth. I accept the unique differences of people. I respect the goals and values of other people, no matter how foreign they are to me. But eventually, I end up back where I started - on some artificial high horse, and alone as a result. My observations of others suggests that I'm more or less alone on this one. I'm the harsh oddball, trying to force the world around me to conform to my expectations of it.
I wonder what I'm doing wrong. I wonder why I can't just let people be people. The more I think about it, the more of an ass I feel. But somehow I always convince myself that by holding out for the ideal - by shooting for the stars - I'll surround myself with a better caliber of people. I'll trim back the riff-raff because they can't handle the harsh decisions necessary to live in my world. In reality, though, I'm just driving away the people I really care about.
The handful of people that read this on a regular basis probably know most of this about me. And for one reason or another, they continue to be my friends. Do they know something I don't? Are they patronizing me? The certainly seem to have better quality relationships than I do. They seem to be able to relate to others in a much more functional capacity. They don't get worked up over things that happened long ago, and before they were a part of their significant other's life.
I really don't have any resolution for this little rant. I'm just thinking out load, so to speak. Questions, comments, criticism and concerns are welcome, as usual. Not that anyone will comment. I've had this little diatribe spot going for almost six months, and I've yet to receive any feedback from it.
As a follow-up to my last commentary on volunteerism, I thought I'd share some thoughts I had recently.
You see, every day I drive past two abortion clinics on my way to work. I don't think too much of it, as it's a daily thing to pass them. But every now and again there will be a protestor in front of one of the clinics. Sometimes there will be a couple of people, but it's usually just one man or one woman walking on the sidewalk in front, holding a sign claiming "Abortion exploits women" or "Life is sacred."
I've never seen these people get abusive or out of control. I've never seen them harass passers-by, or do anything to overly attract attention to themselves. They just pace up and down the sidewalk, holding their signs, and looking extremely introspectice.
And for some reason these people annoy the hell out of me. Here I am, extolling the virtues of volunteering, and I'm upset by a group of people who do just that. Why should this group of innocuous faith-following volunteers incur such a reaction from me? Shouldn't I be applauding their strtength of conviction to give of their time and act out for something they believe?
Yes, I should. And on some fundamental level, I do. But on a functional level, I find them to be a dangerous element. For one, it's just one small reactionary step away from fire bombing the clinic. It's also just one small step away from mentally harassing someone who uses the clinic's services (abortion or otherwise). Further, I don't fully agree with their message.
I know a couple of girls who have used such places (as well as a couple of women who are prime candidates to use their services in the future), and I guess my concern is that someone I know would be exposed to insult or injury for making the decision to abort a pregnancy. As a male, it's really a moot point for me to have a belief on the matter, one way or the other. It'll never be an issue for me personally. It may be an issue for someone I know, however. I respect the magnitude of the decision, and the woman's right to make it.
I guess what really bugs me is the personal affect such protesting has on people. I'm reminded of the old religious adage "Hate the sin, not the sinner." And yet we have zealots destroying abortion clinics (and people); zealots descrating the graves of AIDS victims; zealots destroying two of the memorial trees planted for all the kids who died in Columbine (specifically destroying the two for Harris and Kleibold).
Maybe the people who are protesting could better serve their purpose if they were to direct their energies into community outreach programs, or prevention based projects? It seems to me that you're not going to change a young girl's mind about abortion by screaming at her on her way into the clinic...
I was driving past The Ohio State University campus this morning, and I noticed that on every corner stood a guy handing out pocket Bibles to the students walking past. I remember these guys from my time at OSU. I always took one, and thanked the guy; although I saw plenty of people ignore them, and a few students get outright hostile towards these folks.
I am honestly amazed at their willingness to give their time to stand there and take abuse from students. They receive no real reward (that I know of) for this service. I'm assuming that they do it because they honestly believe that they're helping. Whether it's making converts, or just spreading God's Word, or what have you ... They believe passionately enough to do something for no real reward.
Watching these guys stand there, quietly passing out Bibles, I realized that there is not one thing that I would volunteer for. None of my beliefs are so firm that I would sacrifice time, dignity, or effort for them. I sat in my car admiring these men who had convictions strong enough to motivate them to action. Admiring, and envying.
My mom does a lot of work with volunteers, and volunteer organizations. I've never made a tremendous effort to understand all of what she does. But I do know that she has a lot of success with volunteer organizations, and companies looking for ways to attract, retain, and motivate volunteers. She's as successful as she is in part due to the large number of people who are willing to donate time and energy for something they believe in.
I've thought about getting involed with some sort of child-mentoring program. I'd very much like to be a Big Brother kind of figure, and help kids through some of the rough spots of their development. But my own youth was less than shining, and I'm afraid that most professional mentoring programs would quickly screen me out.
What things do you feel strongly enough about to donate your free time, and spare energy, to help support?
I was standing in the shower this morning, letting my mind wander. For some reason, I started thinking about this guy I used to work with a couple years ago. I can't for the life of me remember what his name is. I was thinking about him because I had a dream about old people...
You see, this former co-worker of mine used to always refer to older people as "more experienced." The first time I heard him say "the more experienced gentleman in aisle three needs some help," I had no choice but to stand there and look blankly at him. I had simply never heard of that euphemism before.
The other thing I remember about this former co-worker is that his favorite alcoholic shot was something called a "Gorilla Fart." I have no clue what that is, but it sounds distressing. From there, my thoughts wandered to a place called "Howl at the Moon Saloon" here in Columbus. Some months ago I was there, and witnessed my friend do a shot called "Deer Sperm." Again, I have no clue what the contents of this beverage are, but it does not sound appealing.
As I stepped out of the shower, and on to the cold linoleum floor, my mind kept going. Thinking of the Howl at the Moon Saloon got me thinking about my favorite local watering hole: The Counterfeit Heist. This establishment will always remind me of a warm summer night this year in which I observed to my friends that the name contained two words which violated the "I before E" rule. It was also this night that Elfboy introduced me to the second part of that rule: "Except in A as in Neighbor and Weigh."
While dressing, I got to thinking about the way our minds work. I read a book many years ago about artificial intelligence research. One of the leading approaches was to use "frames" in which you lump all appropriate and related information. Let's say you have a frame called color - in this frame would be things like hue, saturation, luminosity, shade, color wheels, etc etc.
It strikes me that the far better - and more closely "natural" - approach would be to have every piece of unique information linked in some way to other bits of information. Much like the World Wide Web, with its system of interconnected hyperlinks, each piece of memory would be connected by logical (or illogical!) means to all related material. Just look at my thought process this morning. By making (semi-)logical connections between bits of information, one can easily traverse bizarre ideas quickly.
The big problem with frames is that they do not properly account for corrolary, or related items within the frame. In our color example above, the frame would become excessively large if it were to include all color-related items - for example, the specific house that I am reminded of when I think of the color purple; or the cold biting wind of a winter morning when I think about white. Further, frames are not at all appropriate for making logical jumps. There's no way that a frame-based representation of mentality would allow me to go from thinking about a former co-worker to thinking about Artificial Intelligence schemes.