Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What's Wrong With Us?

Okay, I promise I'm done with ruminating over this idea, but I just had to drive this idea home. Yesterday I was discussing the idea that many people in the world have the idea that something is wrong with them that needs to be fixed. Then I remembered something Colin said to the blogging class last semester regarding how every culture in the world started off with the premise that something went wrong with humanity at some point. Almost every society in the world includes a story where humans messed up and lost their perfection. The Adam and Eve story is just one variation on that theme. Walking around with this idea banging through my head, I felt it was damaging us as humans. Our obsession to obtain perfection has ignited wars and caused a lot of death, hunger and greed. We strive to make ourselves perfect and in that process often keep others down. So I felt like a society with the premise that you're fine the way you are would be perfect.

But my friends A-List and R-dogg rebutted my arguments. R-dogg elegantly suggested that my society wouldn't feel the need to progress at all if we were always content. If we are fine they way we are, why would we even bother to grow? He also suggested that it's human nature to assume there is something wrong with us given the environment we live in strives to kill us at every step. How else does a beginning culture view a nasty disease, but through the imperfection of humans? So we need that imperfection for social progress.

A-list mentioned The Four Agreements, a book that discusses how we all agree to this ridiculous terms of perfection that no individual can live up to. Of course, The Four Agreements is inherently a self-help book about fixing the problem, so it's only making the issue worse. It's a self-help book that complains you spend too much time trying to make yourself better, all the while trying to make you better. That's silly.

When I worked in a bookstore, I saw a memo discussing sales of self-help books. The author mentioned how almost 90% of people buying the books were likely to return and purchase another one within 4 months. So apparently each book couldn't be the final answer, since clearly that type of person consistently needs to change. People always tell me about the self-help books saying they feel as if the issues discussed connect directly to them. It's the "oh, I do that" syndrome. This style of writing is the cousin of the psychics who perform "cold readings." The reason why you feel like the author is describing you is because the book is written in such a general way that you will always connect to it. This is how publishers sell books. For further reference, read Happiness by Will Ferguson. It's a wonderful satire on the whole self-help book industry.

My final word on this issue goes, as usual, to Asian cultures, which have pegged most things properly. If you push yourself too hard chances are you will burn out or never be able to achieve your own ridiculous goals and be unhappy. Contrary to that is a person who feels they are just fine and becomes lazy and dull. The idea is balance, and the necessity to keep yourself driven while not making yourself anxiety ridden. Strive to better yourself, but don't go crazy. You should be happy with the fact that you are trying to better yourself, but don't be upset if you don't always achieve your goals. Just keep on living.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

take your own advice my friend... and stop ruminating over issues you can not control. you begin the post with a simple question that you appear to answer, only in reality this type of question can never really be answered. infact balance is achieved by allowing this type of question to never be answered, because once you answer the question another question can then be asked of the answer... perpuating this cycle of imperfection (nonbalance)that you spoke of. one must only ask and answer the questions that he or she alone can ask and answer, meaning the questions that pertain to one's own balance, not the balance of the world, because the world will always balance itself out without worrying about us falling off of it as it regains its composure. just ask all the ice men after they thaw out or any town's people consumed by an errupted volcano.