Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Letter to My Foes Concerning Their Standing

Dear those that would wrong me,

I have come to a conclusion. The most useless thing a man can possess is an enemy. Deciding to have an enemy is like volunteering for cancer. Opting into the idea of having a constant, terrible drain on all of your mental and emotional resources. An Enemy steals everything from you. They take your peace of mind, your finite time, your comfort, and your very important pursuit of happiness. And the worst part is that all of this theft is with your own permission. Because when you enter into that pointless death spiral with someone, you have no one to blame for your misery but yourself.

Deciding to hate someone is the same as taking the first swing. Hate is an act of active aggression as a response to some kind of affront to your person. So, what else can we call someone’s reaction to hate, whether deserved or not, but self defense? People can always create adversity that’s out of your control. Something you have to deal with that may not be fair to you. That’s just life, and there’s no shame in protesting how you are being mistreated. But, no one in existence can elicit your malcontent, experience your venom, or become you nemesis without your explicit consent. Vowing hatred on someone, regardless of how secret or concealed, is the first voluntary step to conflict. You’re “starting it,” if you want another way of saying it. You might as well swing a glove against their face.

Of the three or four things I’ve come to learn in my “feels like an eternity but is actually barely a blip” lifetime, none have come into so stark a view so abruptly as that one over the last six months. It’s an idea that I’ve thought a lot about for years but never had the, I don’t know, maybe courage or confidence to put into real practice. It was too laid back, too naïve, too laissez-faire for me to really take it seriously. The boy in me always won the internal argument that there must be better, manlier ways to deal with the dirty, ass-faced transgressors in my life. But, as that boy in me was ground, meticulously, to a thick, gooey pulp by living real life objective observation and rational reasoning were allowed back in the captain’s chair again. And that same observation and reason kept leading me to the idea of an enemy free existence.

Before I continue I want to be clear that when I say “enemy free” I don’t mean conflict free. People are going to fuck with me. Whether the mean to or not, it’s going to happen, and happen often. So, I don’t expect to just get along famously with everyone at all times. On top of that, aspiring towards a life of harmony with all thins sounds incredibly boring to me. Boring and frustrating. I think people, myself included, need conflict and contradiction and complication. It makes us solve problems. It makes us think and question and work things out. A life without conflict, a passive life, sounds like a life without purpose or innovation. Stagnant. My point isn’t that we shouldn’t have problems, but that it isn’t necessary to assign a personal villain to them. Even if the problem IS a person, it can be solved without hatred getting involved.

Maybe I was right the first time. Maybe I am being naïve in thinking that the world can be thought of in terms of problems and solution. But, it just feels like the only guaranteed result of having sworn enemies, whether on the playground, work, or the world stage, is endless, petty bullshit. Frankly, I’ve had all the bullshit I can take. In a way I’m not surprised it took me so long to work my way around to that simple conclusion. I grew up in the same vindictive, resource hungry society as the rest of us. Sure, on the surface it feels like I hate Mark because he called me an asshole behind my back, but on some deep level, buried back behind the prefrontal cortex, I’m probably just worried that he’s going to steal my mate or find my hollowed out tree full of corn.

For the record, Mark is a shithead, but that’s really beside the greater point I’m trying to make.

Enemies are wholly and completely useless. Not only useless, but actively counter productive to getting anything of any substance accomplished. Enemies take our focus from meaningful pursuits and redirect our energy at a single, arbitrary purpose that in a best case scenario only puts us back at the same state we were before we started.

About a year or so ago my wife and I were going through a rough time. Rough on top of our already daily kick between the cheeks that was arriving promptly each morning for the last few years. But these particular few weeks were especially craptastic because of a few people deciding, for whatever reason, that I and my wife were their enemies. Simply because we wanted to do what was right, try to do it that way every time, and asked that they make a little effort to do their part. I guess that’s what passes for an unforgivable sin these days.

At first I was delighted. Someone declaring enemiship on me used to ring my dinner bell. You want to actively hate me? Well, hey. Fuck yeah. Let’s hate each other. I can’t wait. I’m super good at hating people. And thing. And ideas. And systems. And just about anything, really. At that point in my life my hate was like a fine scotch, aged to perfection in filled fill oak barrels. It was an exquisite statue of down trodden hellfire, cut and chiseled for years by the leers and jeers of my peers. I was a master of hate. A master hater if you will. I master hated all the time. Mostly when I was alone, but sometimes with a partner. You know, if they were cool about it. The point is that in the past I’ve been so eager to battle with someone that them deciding to hate me first was like a gift. A free pass to act against them without any moral fallout. Hatred and revenge were leisure activities and I loved them.

But now, not so much. Now I just can’t get exited like I used to. The fire in my belly has dimmed to a bed of warm ash. It’s been too long since I’ve climbed for the high fruit, and it has grown bitter and rotten on the vine. I don’t want to hate anyone anymore. I just want to try and focus on the things that matter to me.

So, I’m saying goodbye to all of the old enemies of my past. Goodbye ghosts of horrible bosses. Goodbye shitty teachers. Goodbye heartless bitches with your humiliating public displays of rejection. Goodbye lazy co-workers. And even goodbye to one specific person. On “man” that I’ve hated for years even though I never even see him anymore. You’ve probably noticed him around town if you live near me. He looks kind of like a cross between a Jim Henson puppet and a baboon shitting rotten blood. Can’t picture him? Ok, you’ve seen him. He’s like my height, brown eyes, white teeth, kind of walks like he’s a circus clown forcefully fucking a small child. Or, maybe not a circus clown, per se. But SOME kind of entertainer/pedophile/rapist. He’s a real piece of work. It’s like he is a machine sent from the future to turn any fun thing into pure horseshit. Also I heard he fucked a cow once. Not on a dare or anything; he just wanted to. Anyway, I think I got a little off topic again. Back to not hating people.

One thing that is eye opening to me, even as I write this, is that most of those vague examples I just listed about people I hate are over ten years old. The fighting that rages between them and me is a perpetual inner struggle that now only exists in my head, scratching and scarring the inside of my skull. Most of the people I have hated don’t even exist in that form anymore. Not as they existed when I despised them. I’m left with just the biased memories of our encounters. Their ghosts living inside my psyche, twisted by time, and boiled together into a dark soup to really just cover up the things I hate about myself. At one time I knew them as people, but now they exist to me as the avatars of my own failures.

So, like I said, these people from a few months ago decided that my wife and I were their enemies, and we were getting ready for the chore of getting back at them, and then we just didn’t. We decided that moving on was more important than entrenched revenge. We just didn’t feel up to it. I mean in the course of my day when can I pencil in “fuck with asshole?” I’ve got work, sleep, quality time with my wife (sex or tv or both if I’m lucky), dinner, exercise, reading, friends, maybe a game or two in there, writing egotistically asinine letters. Hell, I can’t squeeze it all in as it is. I can no longer justify the time and energy it takes to declare war on someone anymore. Even mentally.

Especially mentally.

The stress of just trying to maintain a good life may have turned me peaceful at long last. Or, if not completely peaceful, perhaps just introduced the idea of peace as a preferred option.

Couldn't give a shit about what you think of me

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