humanity

You don’t know who you are

You will never completely know or understand who you are. There’s a whole unknown you floating in your subconscious that only shows itself through dreams and surreal moments when you act in ways you thought you never would or could.  In some ways it represents your potential and depending on how you develop yourself that potential could be amazing, but it could also be disastrous.  Sigmund Freud would probably say that trying to get to know yourself on this level is trying to get more in touch with your Id and Super-Ego at the same time.

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“There are no mistakes.”

It’s a bit ironic actually, because the Ego (the moderator between those two) can be such a robust and confident thing when it really has no right to be.  The truth is we spend the majority of our lives trying to figure ourselves out (and that’s okay!)  I should actually say that the smart folks spend their days trying to better figure themselves out.  Unfortunately far too many people are busy looking outward than inward.  So they define things (especially the shitty stuff) by what their environment and those that inhabit it have shown them, instead of trying to figure out what they’re doing in that environment to begin with.

Don’t misunderstand me, I realize that people are often born into very unfortunate environments and circumstances.  As I’ve illustrated in previous posts, my own circumstances weren’t exactly roses and rainbows.  Some people don’t get to learn about themselves. It’s Maslow’s pyramid and they don’t make it past the first level.

An old friend of mine and I were discussing Maslow’s pyramid the other day and it both complimented and derailed what I intended to write about.  For those of you uninitiated, the essential idea is that human needs and progression happen on five levels.  The base of this pyramid are basic needs: food, water, sleep, sex (though.. I believe this transcends a bit… let’s call it “reproduction”,) oxygen, etc.

Once you’ve got your basic needs covered,the next level involved safety on every level.  Protection from the elements, security in your job/income/lifestyle, and basic personal safety.  All the things that lay the foundation for some level of confidence in your life.  But once you get all that figured out, you get to start on the advanced stuff.

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“Shit.. was that level 1 or level 3?”

Level three of Maslow’s pyramid consists of social developmental needs. This fuels the desire for popularity in high school and then evolves into being accepted and respected by your peers at work while simultaneously developing friendship, intimacy (there’s that sex again!), affection and, of course, love in your personal life.  Each step of this pyramid can be a life-long endeavor for many individuals, but I would wager that a very large percentage get stuck here (including, it seems, me.)

The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to achieve any of these levels in any sort of traditional manner to begin work on the next level.  Hell, I’m relatively sure you don’t even have to make it halfway.  As long as you have a basic understanding of achievement on any given level, you can probably grasp the next level as well.  But that’s dangerous, because the point of the pyramid is to illustrated how to form a solid foundation for each level and building on an unfinished foundation can (obviously) end up in disaster.

But let’s say you jump to the next level and go for the really advanced stuff. Level four of Maslow’s pyramid is all about going from being accepted, to leading and transcending the pack.  Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others are the needs this level presents.  By this time, you’ve figured out how to play the game of life, and now you need to do better than just play well, you need to excel at it.

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Maslow’s pyramid for the modern age.

Should you manage to develop yourself to the point of excelling at life in terms of what you want to achieve and what you want your peers to recognize about you, you’re ready for the supposed pinnacle of the pyramid: Total self-actualization. Now we’re getting into super-human territory that involves setting world records, becoming billionaires, scaling Mt. Everest, or becoming the President. Fortunately for a fair percentage of the people who are trying to fulfill this need also realize this potential by helping others find their way up the pyramid.  On the flip-side though, this is where the world’s absolute worst humans do the worst damage.

The point of that quick overview though was to illustrate a point: you’ll never reach total self-actualization because you will never completely know and understand yourself.  Even if you somehow thought you did, you can’t, because it’s fluid.  That’s actually one of the great joys of life.  One of the greatest strengths of humanity is it’s fluidity and adaptability.  Some very smart, very enlightened people close to me struggle with this a lot and admittedly I do as well because it’s frankly exhausting if you don’t step back to recognize it for what it really is: growth.  Not only is it growth, but it’s advanced growth that only a certain percentage of people in the world have the luxury of knowing.

It’s a given that people reach the fifth level of Maslow’s pyramid all the time, but as I

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Oh…

mentioned earlier, a lot of those people left an essential level undeveloped… some skipped it entirely and paid for it.  They are easy to see, the people who seem to have everything, experienced so much, but are still miserable.  They act out, break down, and sometimes die far too early and sometimes by their own hand.

The point in all this psycho-babble is that I’ve realized that the biggest mistake we can make is attempting to rush through or force our personal development.  We seek to master our environment and to balance that out we must seek to master ourselves.  But both are fluid and can never really be mastered, so we have to realize that it’s enough to continue learning, continue developing and build our foundations strong on each level so we have a solid base when we someday reach the top of our own personal pyramid.

You don’t know who you are, and you never will, but the point is continuing to get to know yourself.  When you do, you get to the fun part: Being pleasantly surprised and amazed at what you can do… and then being able to live happily with it.

 

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The Case for Being Selfish

“Being good doesn’t mean good things will happen to you…” -Rumplestiltskin (Once Upon A Time)

A long time ago in a land far far away… I was a villain.  Some days I think I still am.  I share a lot of the same traits:  selfishness, narcissism, disregard for a lot of the “rules” and a general distain towards humanity as a whole.  There’s some things that changed as I grew and if I am still a bad guy, I might be a bit more honorable… if only by my own code.  I actively try to be better anyway.

Yay for ironic double-meanings!

Yay for ironic double-meanings!

One thing I can’t seem to make it around though, is my own selfishness.  But I think I know why.  The fact of the matter is, generally speaking the world is selfish.  Humans, by nature are selfish.  People find all kinds of ways to sugar-coat it and feel better about themselves, but at the end of the day almost everyone places higher value on themselves and those more important to themselves.  What this also means, is that those who decide to try not to be selfish will never receive their due.  At the very least they will generally receive less appreciation than they are due, and at most (and probably far too often) they will be completely and utterly taken advantage of.  They are rewarded by being stripped bare and left with nothing because people took with malice, carelessness or simply didn’t think about the affect their actions would have on the giver.  When a tree bears fruit, there are proper times and ways to harvest the fruit so that it can bear fruit again easily.  The same can be said for those willing to give selflessly, but all too often the right way is ignored for the sake of personal gain.

I have, in the past, attempted to be a “better” person, by acting selflessly, giving without expectation and trying not to judge those who seem ignorant to plight of those around them.

Well, fuck that.

Though now I still occasionally, (even often) give, no longer is it without strings. It is no longer selfless.  Those I give to I either owe, or want them to owe me.  I suppose in some cases I do so simply for the feeling of making them happy and, in turn, making myself happy.  But even then it’s a form of “brownie points” with them or -at the very least- my own personal satisfaction.  I contribute to the system, I show respect to those around me on the surface and I don’t go out of my way to mess with anyone else’s world (unless they do so with mine…)  But I don’t feel I owe the world anything, and I don’t have any desire to give to it without expectation of return.  Maybe that makes me a part of the problem, but the truth is the real problem is the system and society that encourages selfishness.
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Those at the top are selfish, they look after themselves and their own before others.  Even the modern-day great philanthropists: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Bono, etc. are businessmen and celebrities who amassed fortunes most average people cannot even dream of before spending fractions of those fortunes to try and make the world a better place.  Meanwhile famous “selfless” humanitarians such as Mother Teresa are loaded with contradiction and agenda (often religious) over the actual care of the people. (I’m not going into it, but head over to google and do some research, especially the last 50 years or so of her life are said to have been quite contradictory to her image.)

So what’s the lesson here?  I’m not saying “don’t give” or “don’t be selfless ever”.  Remember that moderation is necessary in all things!  I’m saying be okay with being selfish first.  Look after yourself and don’t be afraid to say no to those who ask for things unless they earn it.  Just because you have, doesn’t mean you have to give.  Many of the people mentioned above had a lot before they really began to give.  Now, you don’t have to be the asshole that I admittedly am sometimes, as I said, it’s often questionable whether or not I’m still a bad guy. But people will try to make you feel guilty about having and not giving, which is ridiculous because they are all too eager to take from you and give much less in return.

Try it sometime, if you’re a natural nice person and giver and you feel you have a lot of great friends around all the time who value you, test it.  For a little while, for whatever reason, just stop giving whatever it is you freely put out there; be it attention, money, things, affection, what have you.  For a short time, keep these things to yourself and see what happens.  I am willing to bet that a large percentage of those friends will give you less as well.  Some will call less, visit less or even disappear.  Do you know why?  Because their relationship with you was never unconditional just as you have to face that yours probably wasn’t with them either.  Even our relationships are selfish, so it’s okay for us to decide what we’re going to give, what not to give and what it’s worth.  Relationships in any form are usually some sort of unwritten contract, and when you change the terms, what you get will also change.

People like him for his selflessness...

People like him for his selflessness…

I tend to lean toward the Liberal side of politics; I think Norway has it right in terms of taxes and public systems and I believe the concepts of socialism and even communism in it’s purest forms are great ideas.  But humans can’t pull it off because they are too inherently selfish and greedy.  Even if some can reason past it for the greater good, it only takes a small percentage to ruin an otherwise perfect system.  That’s why such things only work in limited degrees when properly implemented by government, and only when there’s enough reasonable people to overrule the many that are blindly selfish.

But this isn’t about politics, this is about individuals.  This is about me.  Someday I would love to have the resources to be a humanitarian like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or even (to a lesser degree) George Clooney.  But if I am, I’m going to get mine first and I’m going to give to and look after those who earn it first.  Show me you deserve it, and I will enjoy feeling obligated to give to you.  But make me feel as though I’m being taken for granted, and I will withdraw as quickly as I put myself out there.  Whether it be attention, money, time or even love.. I will give to the right people,I  but I have to look after myself before I can give to anyone else.  That might be selfish, but that’s what this world has shown me and given me, that’s how the game is played.  Until the majority of this world decides the change the rules for the better of us all, I’ll play the hand I’ve been dealt, and win.