Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to Fall in Love with Yourself


Let me start out by saying that you are beautiful, and I love you. Not well, of course, and not like that (I barely know you, c'mon!), but I’m willing to take the risk that you’ll end up on my doorstep in a trench-coat and lingerie (please don’t—and if you’re a guy… pretty please don’t), because I have a suspicion that it might be something you need to hear today. 

Even (or perhaps especially) if you typically act like an arrogant jerk, I very much doubt you think of yourself as marvelously beautiful and lovely. And in my experience of humans both general and specific, well... you are horribly wrong.You are amazing. It’s true. But before I start channeling Stuart Smalley, I guess I had better back up and tell you why it occurred to me to tell you what you are and how I feel about you. 

See, I have been having this ongoing conversation with myself and the internets about how uber-poopy it is to simplify people down into word-boxes they won’t fit into—word-boxes like “fool,” or “illegal immigrant,” or “bully”—and it dawned on me that this links up nicely to the post I wrote about drawing called “How to Fall in Love with a Chair,” which argued against symbolic thinking and advocated a more open approach to the Universe.

I went back and read it, and in after gagging in my embarrassment at how badly I used to write way back a month ago, I realized that I had neglected to explain why it is that people fail to fall in love with chairs: fear and pride.

Austin the Director and I have this ongoing, to-the-death debate on the root cause of suckiness (or sin, or whatever-you-wanna-call-it) in the world. He says it’s pride and I say it’s fear, and in order to avoid killing each other and adding a little more suckiness to the world, we have agreed to pretend that we believe they both sort of work together. 

Nonetheless, I will now attempt to demonstrate why I am right and he is not-right (that’s code for “wrong”).

To draw a chair well you have to love it. Failure to draw as well as possible, given your current level of experience at chair-loving, represents a failure to love, which is a sucky thing (although not in any way out of the ordinary). So by Austin’s argument, if you do not take the time to love and draw a chair well, you are being proud; in a sense saying to that chair that it is not important enough to love and that your agenda and your non-chair-loving desires are what really matter. Not a big deal when you say this to chairs, of course, but if you say it often enough to humans, well, they stop calling to invite you to their wine-and-cheese parties.

You can call a human on his behavior and he might still listen to you. But the moment you deny him his humanity and simplify him down into some word-object, he’ll smell your pride and stop listening.

What causes that pride, though? Why would someone puff up with pride over being “better” than a chair? If somebody is objectifying people, you can say it’s because he's done the math on the other person’s value and found it to be wanting. But with chairs, it doesn’t make sense. Unless, of course, there is something else propelling the ship. Something like, say (ding-ding!) fear.

See, I don't think of pride as an additive attribute, but rather subtractive—a diminution of the humility that is humanity’s natural state. Pride occurs when we lose, for the moment, the ability to see the truth about our human condition: that we are finite, ignorant, vulnerable and mortal. What causes us to lose this ability? And I say it again: fear.

The reason we do not love chairs, other people, or butterflies is that we are afraid there is not enough love in the world for everyone—leastwise, not us.  We are afraid that by giving away our time, ourselves and our love, we are somehow diminishing. In a sense, this is true. But what is diminishing is not the real us, but a puffed-up illusion, created in the moment of fear.  The real us—the us that yearns to BE—can only come alive when we die to our false self, shuffle off our fear, and live in the awareness of the loveliness of everybody and everything else. In those moments, the suckiness falls away and the beauty shines so brightly all around us that it becomes a mirror that reveals our own loveliness.

That is how we fall in love with ourselves. By abandoning the false pride that fear engenders and loving, we become open to the truth that we are beautiful and lovely.

Sadly, this does not happen often. Most of the time, we are far too caught up in fear at our own smallness and mortality to ever really love anyone else. We run around frantically shoving everything into boxes, proudly proclaiming in a thousand small ways our own transcendence. This would perhaps be comical from far enough away. Up close, it’s just sucky and sad.

As the moments of my life slip by, I am losing confidence in my own ability to stop being afraid—to love. Love seems more and more the thing that actually transcends. It sneaks up, hunkers down, and pounces. I don't understand it, but God-Almighty, I'm grateful.

4 comments:

  1. To quote you: "We are afraid that by giving away our time, ourselves and our love, we are somehow diminishing. In a sense, this is true. But what is diminishing is not the real us, but a puffed-up illusion, created in the moment of fear."

    I agree with you that we're afraid of diminishing, but I'm not sure what to think about the puffed-up illusion part. I read Dr. Beck's "The Slavery of Death: Part 13..." (thanks) and it seemed to me like he was on the mark when he was talking about how when we love we are expending and how there's a self-deterioration that happens. I could be wrong, but I don't think he was talking about a deterioration of our puffed-up illusions but of our actual selves. Thus, when we love we are "driven into need."

    In my own experience, having been taught since childhood to love God and love others, I took on a selflessness. And as a teenager I'd read passages like "turn the other cheek" and in other areas in the New Testament I'd read that love means to care for others more than caring for self. Thus, I began to focus less and less on my own needs and more and more on others' needs. Except, along the way I lost myself, such that even now that I'm thirty I have trouble identifying a lot of my needs. I know I HAVE needs, but what are they? Does this mean that I'm just too fearful and proud to know what they are?

    Maybe my illusion was that it was possible for me to love everybody. I really wanted to.

    I don't expect you to give me therapy or answer all my questions. This is just a helpful venting, confusion-expressing place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I guess that's one place where I don't entirely agree with Dr. Beck, Leah, because I feel as though maybe it draws a little too much upon the good/bad dichotomization of the universe, which I find troublesome. I think we are a mysterious, inseparable (for the time being, at least) mix of both, and that when we talk about "dying to ourselves," we are referring to the diminishment not of our ENTIRE selves, but of the part of us that is ugly, selfish, greedy, prideful, et cetera.

    When we are selfless, we do lose a part of ourselves, but it is a part characterized primarily by absence - a part constructed of the ways in which we avoid our original design as lovers and creators. I think that as that part diminishes, we actually become more fully ourselves.

    I do agree with Monsignor Beck in that we find ourselves in need, because I think the best way to really BE is to be a servant - that the best mirror of all is the mirror of others, when we see and meet them in THEIR moments of need.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I know what I need. God. That's all I need.

    ReplyDelete

Support my writing habit: click below to...

SOME POSTS THAT'VE BEEN POPULAR, RECENTLY...

CHECK OUT MY FIRST BOOK ON GOODREADS...