Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Enlightenment Is Really Very Ordinary

I'm not much for deep thought. Feelings scare me. Meditation is boring within 30 seconds, yoga makes me think of Cosmopolitan's absurd sexual acrobatics, and massages give me the creeps. Nature is boring after a couple of hours. "Hey, guys, look, it's another tree! Can we go for a burger now?"

So, overall, I'm pretty shallow. Oh well, I still like me.

One thing I do have a handle on is this: if it was purchased, it probably didn't make you a better person. Integrity is not a commercial transaction.

If your parents paid for you to rebuild schools in Kenya, while your classmates worked at crappy retail jobs all summer, then you are not more profound than they are. Backpacking across Europe and getting schnockered in Prague does not make you a philosopher. Railing against poverty, racism, and The Man from a comfortable couch does not make you morally superior. Freeloading in Sarajevo didn't put me over the edge, karmically speaking. It's all commerce and tourism.

So what does make you a better person? The same old, everyday trauma that the rest of mankind experiences. Getting your heart stomped. Stripping down your life, digging out, and starting over. Joy. Independence. Commonality. Goofiness. Gratitude. Understanding that even if you are one in a million, there are a thousand of you in India. No one person is all that great, and very, very few of us have anything original to offer. So the path to enlightenment is to find and love your place in the world.

So if you're special, disabuse yourself of the notion. If you're deep, get a ladder. And if you're better than the rest of us, find your own planet. The guy in the photo can help.

And please, please do not corner people at parties and tell them what a deep thinker you are.

36 comments:

Ibid said...

So what does make you a better person?
And, of course, having a nicer car than your neighbor.

Michael J. West said...

No, traveling around the world (to zero in on that one example) doesn't make you more enlightened or a deeper thinker, per se, but it does make you more educated and that ain't nothing.

For example, I happen to think the U.S. is a great place, a great country. But did you ever notice how most of the people who tell you that "America is the greatest country in the world" have never actually had experience in other countries to compare America to?

Sorry. I'm probably taking this too seriously. It's still early and my caffeine/happy juice hasn't kicked in yet.

Kevin said...

Well said Shannon. Your musings remind me of a woman I dated who thought I was a mean person because I'd never been to a protest rally. Yep, that one was a keeper...She couldn't quite get over the fact that nothing's ever really bothered me that much. That, and protesting doesn't do much good, if you want change you gotta work for change, not stand around and whine.

Shannon said...

Ibid, I don't even have a car. Man, am I screwed!

Mike, that's exactly my point. Travel is a wonderful thing, and I treasure the memories of standing on the Equator, driving across Hungary, etc. But I am keenly aware of the fact that while I learned a great deal, I did not somehow become a great philosopher. I have beer to thank for that.

And, whoa, you're taking me SERIOUSLY?

Shannon said...

Kevin - that's a good point to add: Whining doesn't make you a better person.

Shannon said...
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Dave B. said...

Amen, Shannon.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Amen Miss Shannon

However - from speaking to people from other countries who came here illegally to the U.S. - they believe that the U.S. is the best place on earth.

Ibid said...

If your home country is bad enough that you're willing to risk your life to come get a lousy job in a Quik-E-Mart or picking lettuce then it's a safe bet that you may be a bit biased.
Lets ask the people from good countries.

Shannon said...

Dave, Zip...can I get a WITNESS?

Ibid - USA! USA! I didn't really intend for this post to be What's So Awesome About America. We're all more alike than we are different. The guy in the mud shack in Haiti has probably been in love.

Lemmonex said...

I love you for this. I havea friend who is "anti-consumption". She doesnt own a lot..maybe three pairs of pants, etc.

I clearly am not this way. She lectures me.

She travels all the time. ON DADDY'S MONEY. Her airfare is consuming. Her carbon footprint is sizable.

Travel is enlightening and I like it as well, but please don't lecture me on my make up when you are demanding your vegetarian meals in countries where people are starving.

Ryane said...

That was Awesome.

Shannon said...

Lem - love you too. Smooches! One of my favorite concepts is "eco-tourism" - fly somewhere,belching fossil fuels all the way, stomp around teh wilderness, then pretend it's super-virtuous. I bet your friend is WAY into eco-tourism.

Ryane - thanks! I'm reacting to a specific mentality that I see all over the place, and especially DC. "Well, I repainted a church in Guatemala this one time, and now I lead a comfortable life, but I'm a better person than you and you're disgusting." Not even close. If you go through life finding ways to be better than everyone else, you're going to wind up very lonely.

I'm the exception, though, because I AM better than all of you.

Gilahi said...

But.... even if I'm only average, I'm still better than half of everybody else. And I'm well above average.

Justin said...

I watched a Russian woman and her young daughter (well, they went into the Embassy later, so I assume...) cross a crosswalk where there was a Don't Walk signal, but no traffic recently. At some point the light turned green, and the lead motorist started yelling "BETTER HURRY UP! YOU'RE GOING TO GET RUN OVER! I'M GOING TO MAKE YOU INTO PANCAKES!".

I thought he was joking. Not so much. It took me a few seconds to realize he was actually yelling at these people. Who aren't even from this country. What a jackass. I'd be annoyed, too, but I'd keep it to myself, even if it wasn't utterly, utterly small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

I'm actually annoyed at myself for not standing up for these women. It happened so fast, my excuse is that I was a bit stunned.

Other things this made me think of:
a friend is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He was at a party recently where someone asked where he was from, and where he went to school, etc. He replied "Harvard Law", and the response he got was "Oh god, I'm sorry, you couldn't get in anywhere closer to home?"

Priceless. The guy was dead(pan?) serious. It was awesome.

Shannon said...

Gilahi - Disaffected Scanner Jockey, where all the commenters are above average.

Justin - I'd be annoyed with myself, too. But the point is that you wanted to help, instead of siding with the motorist. I'm sure next time you'll step in.

Hey Pretty said...

My pet peeve is people who brag about never watching TV. As if that makes you a better person. Moreover, there's some quality programming to be had if you seek it out. Not watching TV doth not equal depth of character.

What does? Doing good for the sake of bettering the world, not for bragging right and certainly not to make yourself feel superior to others.

Shannon said...
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Shannon said...

HP - I don't watch TV! But not because I'm better, but because I'm too cheap to get cable and my reception sucks.

One thing I've been thinking about is whether I make the world a better place - it's not like I'm defusing landmines or adopting a menagerie of international orphans here. I blog, I do admin work, I throw parties. It's hardly virtuous.

LivitLuvit said...

Kickass post- you said it perfectly. Especially relevant living here in DC...

restaurantrefugee said...

Trustafarians are my personal favorite of the holier/healthier/wiser/smarter than though set. Life does look different from a perspective that Daddy purchased for you.

By the by, I am one in 10 million, so there are only 100 of me in India.

Shannon said...

LivitLuvit, thanks! That makes my day.

Refugee, I have one rule: Be your own man (or woman), then I'll care what you think. And I'm sure your 100 Refugee Indian Doppelgangers are all quite charming.

freckledk said...

I believe you are a good person until you prove yourself to be a bad one, if that makes any sense.

Michael said...

Toys! I love new toys! They make me feel better about myself. The 2005 Prius was a real upper for a while. Now I have a lovely new HP 19-inch desktop monitor with digital video input! Oh, I really am so much better than the rest of you.

Shannon said...

FreckledK, makes total sense. Words to live by.

Michael, indeed. And it's even better if Mom and Dad give you that stuff. Then, you're like, the earthly embodiment of God.

foilwoman away from home said...

I read that post and thought: you're reading my mind! But you're expressing it better than I would. Yup, the doing expensive shit and owning expensive stuff road to the meaning of the universe really doesn't work, long run.

Hey Pretty said...

Shannon, throwing parties *does* make you a better person.

Being a "better person" (better than what? people who club seals?) isn't about planting trees and living in an urt. It's about being kind, open-minded and well-intentioned. Sounds to me like you're already there.

Shannon said...

Foilwoman - yeah, I pretty much stomp around your brain and pick out blog posts. :) I don't know when virtue started to cost money - like those pricy church youth gruop mission trips where they go paint a church four times in one year (I'm not making that up). If it's more about you getting An Experience, then you're using others to prop yourself up.

HP, aw, thanks. You're just saying that because you like my cooking.

[F]oxymoron said...

Well said! I should carry around and hand out little cards that contain the link to this post... and I'm sure I'd quickly run out of cards.

Shannon said...

Foxy - but how would I track that on my Narcissism (Site) Meter?

Tina said...

Um, I have traveled internationally (but on my own dime), done bunches of charity work (for cuses I am too lazy to list), do not watch TV (also because I am too cheap for cable - besides I like to read)and I like to OCCASIONALLY think deep thoughts and discuss the meaning of life and the way to save mankind, wales, trees with other (willing) people. This should mean that I AM god now. So why doesn't the universe respond to my commands? (see I even worked in whining!)

lacochran's evil twin said...

"And please, please do not corner people at parties and tell them what a deep thinker you are."

I'm glad I wasn't at that party. Might have had to oops(!) spilled a drink on that clown.

Shannon said...

Tina, the universe just did respond to your will - the self-indulgent hiatus is all your fault. I'm in too much awe to blog!

Evil Twin - that's EVERY party until you've been in DC long enough to weed out the bozos. Since I'm usually the hostess, it's been years since I've had That Guy at a party.

Tina said...

NOOOOOOOOOOO The universe is not responding to my will if you are not blogging!!

Domo El Mono Loco said...

Shannon,

I love how humble and blunt you are. I know ur not intending to be deep, but ur words tend to resonate (with me at least) when you get on topics of self reflection. Another good blog.

Shannon said...

Domo - aw, thanks! That makes my day.