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[personal profile] startiger

"It's better to lose at being who you are than win at being someone else"

This quote above actually has relevance to me on several levels, but a great example: I knew a great guy (Patrick Buckley) in an English class who told me that many years ago, in another English class, he had to write an analysis paper about a piece of literature. He chose to write about a novel by Ray Bradbury. His professor did not accept the piece, and in fact flunked him, because (in the prof's words) "Ray Bradbury does not write literature." Buckley refused to go along with the professor's assumption that Bradbury's stuff was not literature. Of course, Buckley was right, and today everyone knows it and many kids have to read F451 in gradeschool now. But in that day and age he was considered wrong.

Buckley strengthened his arguments, resubmitted the same essay on Bradbury...and flunked...again.

Now, I'm sort of a grade grubber and I would personally have resubmitted another piece to get my stupid A, but I admired that Buckley would not concede his integrity.  {In some ways for all my general good grades, I never expected school to be an area where I could entirely be my true self in, I just saw it as a launching pad to get somewhere else. I assumed from the get go I had to modify myself and be a less edgy version of myself to get through the system.}

 But in areas of life that are too meaningful to myself (or others) to concede on, I firmly believe Buckley's approach is the only way to be (and since at that time in his life Buckley's stance on that essay was more meaningful to him than his gradebook, he absolutely did the right thing). As long as you aren't directly hurting anyone, *you cannot concede your basic soul because for whatever reason you haven't been able to "win" at being you*, or even because society does not accept you for some reason. If you "win" at being someone else, sure people may admire you, and sure on some superficial level you may be happy. But deep inside when you're sitting on your back porch and the wind is whistling in the trees and a leaf falls falls in your hair, reminiscently, and your cat brushes up against your leg and wonders why you aren't petting her, you won't feel that way. You'll feel cheapened. You'll feel like you sold out.

Deep inside, you'd be happier--if only in a bittersweet way--sitting on that back porch knowing that you tried. You might be failure or you might win. You may struggle your whole life and never be able to entirely win at being yourself. (This is natural. We are human. It is human to err, and the higher your ambitions the more likely it is you are going to fail at your ultimate dream.) You may never have a career that quite works for your overshot personality, you may never meet Mr./Ms. Right (or Mr. or Mrs. Rights may come along and not love you) and you may never have a lifestyle that *entirely* is satisfying.

But listen. There is beauty here.

The failure to reach the ultimate is the very mark of the human being. We can reach *just so far.* We can win *just so much.* And as long as you are reaching, you have a shot at coming up against so many beautiful things that you would miss if you settled for that shiny award certificate for being Mr/Ms. Goody Two Shoes Who Always Did Exactly What Other People wanted you to do and no better. You'll experience some of the deepest human emotions possible. Regardless of whether you win. You may get beaten up by life, but like the Velveteen Rabbit of the old children's story, *you will be truly real.*

And once you are truly real, once you have accepted who you are, that is when the Most Beautiful things can happen, and you may reach a strange place where it's not about failure or winning anymore. It's about being real, and appreciating the beauty, and loving this strange world we've been born into not just in spite of the pain, but at least partially because of it. You will be able to love OTHER people not for what they could be to you, but for what they are themselves, inside. You reach a mystical state where it's OK to be you. It's OK other people are them. It's OK nobody is perfect. Sure we're all broken and we all can piss each other off. Sure nations can't agree on the most basic things.

But guess what? GUESS WHAT?

As long as you are doing your best, and you are trying to be loving to yourself and others for who they truly are....

At some level, the level of the whisper of the wind, the pulse of your heart which beats despite everything, and the smile of a friend who hurt you but you maintained friendship with because the depth of the pain revealed that person was worth it to you for some reason that maybe only you'll ever understand--

It's OK. 

I think this is the state of ultimate compassion which many religions (what I consider to be true Christianity, Zen Buddhism, Sufi Islam, deep humansim, and others) aspire to. It's really hard and you DO get beaten up for being your true self, but I think all human beings have it in them and can make it to this point. I'm not saying I've reached it. None of us have, entirely. But it's crucial that we embrace life as it is, not as we would have it be. It's crucial that we accept ourselves as we are, not as we would have ourselves be. It's easy to get into the Beatles "If everyone could be this way..." sort of rant, but that defeats the point. Even if not everyone can be this way, that does not mean YOU should not be. If the universe is going to be beautiful, it doesn't matter if all of society follows suit. All that matters is whether or not YOU can do this. Just like with many voters one vote won't elect a president, but several million single votes will, true change in this crazy world will only happen if 7 billion individuals all decide -- on their VERY OWN -- to be better. To love. To reach out. To turn the other cheek when necessary. I'm not advocating total pacifism in nation states. I'm not advocating any particular system of government. I'm advocating true change from within in all human beings. I think this is the only way humanity will ever improve and in this nuclear age life has a hope of ultimately subsisting.

Interesting thing about Bradbury -- Farenheit 451 was about a society where everyone was trying to be perfect by denying a certain depth in life. You could even argue that by destroying literature, which inevitably involves a deep examination of the reality of human beings, Farenheit 451 was about trying to burn out imperfections and in so doing destroying the soul of the human species. 

For society to ultimately improve, we all have to get to the level of MLK, Jr and Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha, etc. (You can argue with me that their personal lives didn't live up to who they are supposed to be, but they are society's great examples regardless of whether they deserved it, so I'll list them.) We say peace on Earth will never happen because people are naturally assh$les. Sure they are. But *you* can do your best not to be an a$$h*le. You can plant a garden, be kind to friends, truly love maybe three to nine people and be compassionate and kindly to perhaps maybe 100,  and make one small area of this universe truly beautiful. You really can do that. You can do that and love the people who deserve it, and believe it or not accept others who don't deserve it for being the assh&les they are. And in some brotherly way, even love them!!!


And a secret: EVERYONE can do this. It's within the capacity of EVERYONE. We can all do it regardless of whether it sets us up in some ways for failure. Every one can do it if each of us chooses to do it as one lone person.

But you can never, ever do this if you cannot accept your own hurt, your own failures, and are not truly yourself.


OK Sorry to be a downer if that was a downer at 9 in the morning or whatever. It was just the essay that happened when I posted a random quote on my facebook wall and couldn't stop ranting. I'm hypergraphic and this happens sometimes.


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