mnmlist: Diary of a Mad White Man: Addendum to Yesterday's Post
Yesterday I wrote a post about Peter the bore. It was essentially a diatribe about his inauthenticity, his desire (and resultant failure) to impress, his lack of interest in those around him, and so on. It was a warning to all the boring people in the world to straighten out and fly right.
I was pretty proud of myself for such lucid thinking, deconstructing the aggregates of boringness. I thought I did a real mitzvah to all the bores or potential bores of the world. They could read my post and reflect on and alter their behavior.
Last night, I headed over to my girlfriend’s where we were to have dinner with a couple friends. I printed out my post, eager to serenade her with my mellifluous excoriation of the intolerable.
When I got to her place, I asked if I could read it to her. She said of course. I read it aloud and after the first few paragraphs I noticed something that I didn’t reading it to myself: the author sounded really pissed off.
She noticed it too, enough to stop me midway and tell me her take on the situation (though she wasn’t part of the conversation with Peter, she was sitting nearby). I didn’t necessarily agree with her assessment that Peter was trying to relate to me, but my angry authorship was hard to dispute. And while I’m no spiritual master, even a flunky of Metaphysics 101 knows that the perceived and the perceiver are the same thing. Peter didn’t make me uncomfortable, tired, angry or bored. Apparently, I was already those things. Dang.
So first off, my deepest apologies to Peter (and the other dude at the table and Peter’s girlfriend, who I insinuated might be boring). Seriously. I was a prick. I was judgmental and unfair.
What I did is called “projecting.” I still feel like Peter was being inauthentic (different than boring). I still feel like he was telling me things to make him sound interesting, while not being interested in much himself. I still feel like he wasn’t present with the people around him. I’ve even told him these things in person in past encounters. But so what? It wasn’t about him really. I was revolting against the manifestation of these things in me. I touched on it yesterday. My perception of his inauthenticity, his need to impress, his unwillingness to talk about himself triggered those things in me. That was the source of my anger and suffering, not his “boringness,” whatever that means.
I also felt impotent in the face of the situation. I didn’t know how to wiggle out of it or transform it.
For the most part, I surround myself with authentic people—ones who spend very little energy trying to impress me. People who are pretty comfortable with who they are. They tend to be interested in my thoughts and welfare, as I am with theirs. With these friends, I don’t have to work very hard to cut the wheat from the chaff. It’s a world of emotional privilege.
Most people are not like this. Most people are playing out parts scripted by their insecurities and fears. When you find yourself in contact with these people—i.e. all the time—you can either move away or transform your relationships with them.
Moving away is simple enough. You bide your time before exiting. I prefer shutting down emotionally first. You can attack like I did. Hopefully, this will motivate the other party to expel you so you don’t have to do the hard work of a clean exit. Or you can just move in very limited circles, moving toward what you consider acceptable and away from that which you don’t. This entails a lot of movement, but at least you don’t have to deal with boring people for very long (until the next one comes along). This is the short-game solution.
Transforming the situation on the other hand requires awareness of what’s really going on. In this situation, my antipathy toward Peter was a projection of my own crap. Until I get this, I’m forever a victim of bad company. The world will forever be colored by my fears, insecurities, etc. This doesn’t mean that I will always know how to handle the situation in a diplomatic fashion. It just means that I can’t blame people for my anger, dissatisfaction, boredom, whatever. These things only arise when there’s a potentiality. When I came across Peter, my potential for inauthenticity was ignited. It could have been anyone.
After last night’s dinner party, I went home feeling a little unsettled about something. I felt a bit righteous about this something. I turned on the radio and the Eagles song, “Already Gone” was on. If you don’t know it, here is the chorus:
And I’m already gone
And I’m feelin’ strong
I will sing this vict’ry song, woo, hoo,hoo,woo, hoo,hoo
To me, this song is an anthem of, “I don’t need to take this shit anymore.” I felt a surge of righteous glee and freedom well up in me. Dan Fogelberg was right, I don’t need this. I didn’t need this situation I was thinking about. I don’t need to endure the boring drivel from the Peters of the world. I don’t need no one. Fuck em’ anyway. I’m already gone.
But I’ve ditched many situations and found myself in short order back in the same or similar situations with same or similar people. Is it possible that the Eagles are wrong? Might escape not lead to freedom?
I said to myself, “Wait for the next song to confirm or deny the Eagles’ wisdom.”
The next song was George Thorogood’s “I drink alone.” Here are some lyrics from that:
My whole family done give up on me
And it makes me feel oh so bad
The only one who will hang out with me
Is my dear Old Grand-Dad [a brand of whiskey for non-alcoholic readers]
And we drink alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I drink alone
I prefer to be by myself
If I accepted the wisdom of the Eagles, I had to accept Thorogood’s, which was patently misguided. Running away doesn’t help. Drinking by myself doesn’t sound smart either. Judging and criticizing doesn’t do anything except make me feel a bit pissed off and high on myself. And despite what I claimed yesterday, the only boring person is probably the one in the mirror.