“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
― E.E. Cummings
Is it wrong to say that anyone who uses the word “Sheeple” loses approximately fifteen percent of their IQ points? An automatic deduction. No room for negotiation or haggling. It’s not a barter system. The second that word slips past their lips: Bam! Minus fifteen percent.
It’s wrong. Saying that, thinking that, is just wrong. It’s mean. Horrible. True? No! No? Be nice. I should be nice, compassionate, understanding, sympathetic but I don’t wanna. I wanna gag every time someone defends their stance by declaring that all who oppose them must be…I can’t bring myself to say it again. Can’t. Won’t. No thank you!
If I say the word, one more time, my IQ will drop and I can’t stand to lose any more points.
Oh, I fear, that I’m in a mood. The moodiest of moods. It’s Monday, the Monday-ist of Mondays, and I might be a little piqued at the fact that it’s, um, Monday. It all started when I spilled a perfectly good, hot, cup of tea down the front of my shirt. It smelt so good. The first sip was so satisfying. Oh, if only I could drink the whole cup!
Tragically, I’ll never taste that sweet nectar unless I suck it off of my shirt. I’m in a mood, but I’m not that far gone…Yet. Ah, but then I did a thing and it was entirely my own fault. I know better but knowing what’s good for you doesn’t always translate into healthy actions. Stubbornness tainted with petulance. I’m an adult, damn it, and I’ll do what I want.
Where’s my Mommy telling me what to do? I miss the days when someone else regulated my actions and, by extension, my emotional influences. The negatives kept at arm’s length. The positives welcomed with milk and cookies. Every so often, a negative got by the defenses but there was a mother shaped wall between us.
Oh, the good old days! Also, I could go potty in my pants, and it was perfectly acceptable. If I do that now? People point and stare. So not fair. Toddlers have it so good!
I made the mistake of starting my morning with a romp through the headlines and a stroll through the responses on social media. As if the headlines aren’t bad enough. It’s doom and gloom. Death and destruction. Good guys doing very convincing impressions of bad guys. Who’s who? Who do we trust? Are you here to help or hurt?
The world has lost its collective sanity! Assuming, of course, we ever possessed this alleged sanity, to begin with. Doubtful? Mm, I’m beginning to wonder if sanity is a construct of the place with the people who do the things. What? No idea, but let’s read the comments! That should reignite the fading embers of hope in humanity.
Did you just laugh, scoff, roll your eyes? Fair.
I have no problem with respectful discourse. We don’t all think the same. Our life experiences have been completely different. We come from a vast array of cultural, spiritual, and religious ideologies. There are a million different factors that influence our opinions and our world view. Sharing our views in a respectful and kind manner is a wonderful thing.
It’s the five percent that can’t muster up kindness or respect. They ruin it for everyone. Is that a generous estimation? Should I reverse it? Five percent act in a kind and respectful manner? I…But…Well, that’s depressing.
Those that respond with reason, an attempt at understanding, or respectful disagreement are yelled down. Angry, belligerent, voices use The-Word-That-Shall-Not-Be-Used as if that justifies their righteous indignation. If we are not with them, then we are against them, and that makes us the enemy.
Insert eye-roll here.
The most obvious example, during these pandemic days, would be the use of masks. I wear one whenever I’m out, and can’t avoid people or maintain physical distance. I wear it for a number of reasons. It’s recommended by the people who study and treat infectious diseases. According to science, masks help reduce the risk of infection and transmission. Is it perfect? Will it totally eradicate the virus? No, but it slows it down and protects the most vulnerable people in our communities.
I’m a “vulnerable person” in my community. I’ve had a few kidney transplants. The one I have now is working quite well. (Yay science!) I want to keep it working well, so I take anti-rejection medication. Awful stuff. If you don’t need it, don’t take it. Then again, if you don’t need it why would you take it? You can’t get to happy town on this stuff. It just makes you nauseous, grows copious amounts of hair, and makes your emotions bounce around your brain like a ping-pong in space.
It also lowers the immune system so it can’t attack and destroy the life-saving kidney that was selflessly given. Sorry to harp on this, but how amazing is science? They figured out how to take an organ from one person and put it in someone else. That’s so f*ck cool!
But now I have an immune system that can’t fight off a common cold. What do you think will happen if COVID invades my body? Nothing good, I assure you, so I wear my mask and I’m so appreciative of those of you who wear yours. This is a team sport. We win together and…Well, let’s leave it at winning, shall we?
I know not everyone can wear one but those of you who can, and do: Thank-you.
If you choose not to wear a mask? Well, it’s your body so it’s your choice.
While this hasn’t happened to me, most people I encounter are respectful, I have seen it happen to others. Yelled at, called names, and belittled for wearing a mask. That word, the one I won’t say again, thrown at them like a knife aimed at a bullseye. How utterly bizzare is that?
It doesn’t have to be your choice and you can believe that this pandemic is a scam or a conspiracy. That’s your thing and godspeed, friend. But the anger? The vitriol? The name-calling? What’s your damage?
If you call me a sh…Oops, almost slipped. If you call me, that word, then is it okay if I call you an ostrich? Their startle response is to deny and ignore the reality of their predicament. What lion? I don’t see a lion? I see an earthworm and it’s so cute. Do you want to be my friend little worm? What’s biting my ass? As long as I ignore it, it’s probably nothing.
Calling them a small-brained, flightless, bird isn’t exactly kind or respectful. It kind of make’s me a hypocrite, doesn’t it. Which means, if I really think about it, I’m not being true to the person I want to be. In fact, if I go down this road, I’m abandoning myself, my heart, and giving in to the cheap and easy. Which is tempting! So, very, very, tempting. Why do you make it so tempting?
And, I give into temptation way too often! Do as I say and ignore everything I do. There’s my advice: You’re welcome.
My gut response, when I see conspiracy propaganda touted as hard science, is usually anger and some creative name-calling of my own. Okay, the name-calling isn’t that creative. Ostrich is about as good as it gets. The usual suspects come out of my mouth as I shake my head and clench my fists. I ask questions like, “How stupid do you have to be?”
Put on the brakes! The real question I should be asking is, “Who do I want to be?”
The type of person who gives in to frustration and anger? Going for the cheap shot and the low blow. Take them down at the knees and then beat them over the noggin with a grad school biology book. I’m sure I could find a real thick and heavy one online. Maybe I can transfer some knowledge straight into their processor.
Or, I could stay calm, pass along some hard science and peer-reviewed studies. Information that has been verified, tested, retested, and still held true after a thousand hours of scrutiny. Combat ignorance with knowledge. I can try kindness and if, or when, that doesn’t work I can wish them well and walk away.
Which one would be more fun and offer the most immediate sense of self-gratification? It’s not a trick question. I think we both know the answer. But, uh, now I’ve gotta ask myself which one would I be proud of? That feels more like a trick and less like a treat.
E. E. Cummings said that being ourselves in a world that’s trying to change us, is the hardest battle. True, when faced with ostriches and sh***le staying true to our true nature is a fight. It feels like they are taunting us, needling us, pulling us down to their level. Maybe they’re more like an octopus? So many tentacles wrapping around us and we’re fighting to stay free.
Stooping, meeting them where they are, requires less energy than fighting. Staying true to who we are? They make it so hard.
But, and this could just be me, I think the hardest fight isn’t against a world that’s trying to change me. If a mob is going one direction, I instinctually want to go the other way. Peer pressure? I’ve never had time for it and if you try, I’m just going to obstinately refuse. The herd mentality has been proven to be disastrous so, sorry, I’m not playing along out of principle.
For me, the real war rages internally. I’m fighting with myself, my own identity, and sense of self. I won’t compromise my standards, who I am, for a world that’s ripping itself apart. A world with its boxes, its pretty labels, that I don’t fit inside. The desire to fit? The need to belong? Now that’s a fight.
I want to fit but to do that, I need to change myself. I need to compromise my true identity and become someone else entirely. I don’t want to change. Not completely. I have problem areas that need repair or replacement parts. We all do. But upgrading to a new model? Downgrading to an old one?
The fight, with the world and myself, isn’t one of change but of self-love. If I love myself, flaws and all, the fight would be so much easier. If I liked myself, that would help too, but I focus too much on the challenges of being me. The flaws that I see as glaring. The weaknesses that are all-consuming.
The conflict I have between my mind and my body. The bickering between my over-intellectual mind and my over-emotional heart. Harmony? If I can’t find that in myself, how can I find it in the world? Can harmony exist in a creature at war with themselves and others?
To fight the world’s desire to change me, to stay true to who I am, I need to find that harmony in myself. I need to fight for self-love, self-acceptance, and just like myself. If I like who I am, then who you think I am wouldn’t matter as much. Your attempts to change, control, or provoke me wouldn’t be as successful. You, me, the world, wouldn’t stand a chance against a person who actually likes who they are.
That’s where my fight starts. Learning to like, love, and accept who I am. Once I do that, the angry ostriches can run wild for all I care. Though, I think, for everyone’s safety we should transfer them to a wildlife conservatory. What? I said I had to learn, not that I had it figured out.
Or, I need to make a fresh cup of tea and put on a clean shirt. Let’s start small, shall we?