But enough about politics and human nature and my own distaste for it all. On to – what? On to ‘coping’, of course. How to live without being driven insane.
First of all, and despite what the media educates you to, moderation is the goal. It make take years to figure this out, but for the person who is a non-hot-shot, moderation is the rule of thumb.
The media – from movies to MTV to religion to history books to Fox News – in search of drama must endlessly repeat the Romantic rule, that only extremity is real. And there is truth in that, but as far as human life goes, it’s a warped truth. It lends itself to the Either-Or Thinking that fosters false conclusions of great drama and conviction: everyone is either a Saint or a Devil, a Patriot or a Traitor, a Winner or a Loser, and so on. But we know that while polarities of these sorts can subsist in our minds, and by their drama and urgency and simplicity govern our view of the world, they are not the story, they are not the substance of living, which is something of gradations and mixtures, as well as extremes. Think about it. If the Either-Or extremity were nature’s rule, how could we have temperate weather, a quiet afternoon, or – on the negative side – muddling and mediocrity? How could a building be built and constructed, section by section, instead of boldly flashing into existence? How could we have diseases that hamper but do not kill? How could we even begin to co-exist with our families and friends?
This is a corrective to the modern world’s inheritance of the cults of Christianity and Islam, of Nietzche and Marx, and other fundamentalisms. Cults that demand adherence to an Absolute foster a delusion that the human mind rather enthusiastically takes up, such that we are too, too willing to practice in the place of Moderation and Reason. That we should govern our lives only by extremism, that a person must be Winner or Loser, that there is no middle ground, that “being fully human” equates only with “being a Winner”, is a fallacy when it is pressed into service as a philosophy of life. And if being a winner means “being absolutely Certain”, then it also means being definitely Wrong – for no one KNOWS, no one comprehends the whole business – microcosm, macrocosm, physics, astronomics, God and all – and that would be something the “winner” could never accept.
To endorse the Extremity Only fallacy forfeits a big chunk of one’s own humanity, for it follows that 90% of the human race is then obliged to hate itself, for failing to ‘be the Winner’. The only way to avoid that self-hatred is to beat everyone else, or to employ self-deception, arrogance and folly.
Despite this pervasive pre-made conception that anyone who is modest is a loser, the truth is that we are many, of many types, and that we have little control over the circumstances around us. Where the winner-types teach us something useful is in pointing out our potential to control our Selves, our opinions and our actions. And that Presence of Mind requires not being the biggest and loudest, but being reflective and quiet enough in our own head so that we can re-evaluate the things that affect us, things and reactions to things which – by our accepting them – we allow to control our emotions and opinions. Fury is folly, in most cases.
Some are born to blaze, yes – let them blaze. But most of us are born to burn only more or less brightly; some of us rather dimly. There’s nothing wrong in accepting that, having tried and tested yourself and your personal fire; accept your station of life, but don’t get lazy.