Featured in The Burning Block Vol II - No. 11
Mediocrity has its place. It’s nice to have something to compare with when you start excelling.
A youth who gets too wrapped up in punk culture will, as popular figureheads of the punk movement themselves did, at once declare the sovereignty of the individual whilst bemoaning the utter mediocrity of their peers and everyone in their immediate surroundings. The blind spot here is that most people, at least in action, prefer mediocrity to exceptionality. Who can blame them, especially when technology is becoming more and more engineered for the purpose of minimizing risk and effort?
Of course, no one actually likes mediocrity, though most people don’t mind being in a state of mediocrity. There is no great paradox in this. Self-hatred explains the situation as often as self-ignorance is not at play.
I’ve always had trouble with ‘hot girls.’ Growing up, my friends would point out a female schoolmate and say, ‘She’s hot!’ and if I didn’t fall all over myself in earnest agreement, I’d be accused of homosexuality. I didn’t care. I didn’t like dumb girls with small asses. Wasn’t into streaks of blonde either, which were as ubiquitous among girls as that skunk top bleach thing was among boys.
When I reached my twenties, the guys who weren’t into Asian chicks were beside themselves that attractive Russian girls were willing to date them, even the scrubs who didn’t have much going for them. A number of canceled green-card engagements, wrecked cars and serial cheatings later, they learned that in love, you get what you select for.
On into adulthood, I still meet guys my age who act like a woman is waiting for them somewhere to affirm their existence and make them happy. Them! Them! Them! or rather, Me! Me! Me!
The romantic virus exists in women certainly, but O does it have a special stink in men. Do you want to know what toxic masculinity looks like? Look into the face of a guy who cannot be convinced that a girl who is not into him is, in fact, not into him. I’m not talking about a pushy chad either. I’m talking about a guy who doesn’t have great luck with women anyway but who thinks every girl who works in customer service and is paid to be polite to him might be into him.
There was a popular film a decade back called 500 Days of Summer. Many of my male friends related to the main character, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. Opposite him was his female love interest played by Zooey Deschanel.
The movie is about an awkward young man who fools himself into thinking he’s in love with and perfectly compatible with a pretty basic bitch who happens to like The Smiths and who shares a few of his other forgettable alternative tastes.
He tricks her into a relationship despite her explicitly telling him she isn’t looking for anything serious. After a long period of self-delusion, in which he tells himself that he’s been finding his way deeper into her heart and thus immune from her resistance, she breaks his heart by simply reasserting that she doesn’t want a relationship.
Soon, we see his life spiral out of control. His work is affected negatively, he starts drinking whiskey in the morning, and if these weren’t bad enough, he goes to a karaoke bar and sings a Bruce Springsteen song.
While it would be a stretch to say I related more to the girl, I certainly didn’t relate at all to the male character, even though it’s quite obvious that the film is trying to tell us that he was treated unfairly. Nevertheless, I couldn’t relate to his sense of entitlement, his self-loathing and his determination to win a girl through emotional manipulation - a girl who, for all intents and purposes, seemed to enjoy positive attention as all of us do and had no problem living life like the star of her own show.
I spent my life around men like this who felt that only a woman could complete them. I was like this as a child. In my twenties, I got into heated arguments with friends for saying soul-mates didn’t exist. They told me my view of things was sad. I felt the same way about theirs. ‘How about the people who never find a happy relationship?’ I would ask. ‘Was it by some cruel design that there really was someone out there for them but that they never had a chance to find them?’
A stranger once told me, ‘Why must you suck the romance out of life you stupid douche?!’ He said in front of a girl I was dating. To this day I’m not sure if that says more about me or more about him. My wife told me she wish she’d heard this story when she met me…
By the time I was 14, a freshman in high school, I was burnt out on crushes. I still liked girls, I simply realized that life would be easier for me if I didn’t exhaust myself on them, if I didn’t exert so much energy on unspoken affections for people I hardly knew. And as far as spoken affections? Forget about it. The love which dared not speak its name dared not for it was too many syllables. But then, I was back in school with the first girl I can remember having a crush on from before. I was 10. By 14/15, I thought nothing of her. At 15, she borrowed a dollar and never gave it back. Not even when I asked. No, I thought nothing of her.
I consider myself quick to forgive with one mildly trivial exception: If you borrow a dollar or a pen and I don’t get it back, expect a knock on your door. I’ve parted more easily with 200 dollars for a friend in trouble.
A peer of mine, friendly but really just acquaintances, died in a fiery automobile accident when I was younger. A friend told me about his death.
‘He owed me a dollar,’ I said.
My friend shook his head and said, ‘You’re going to hell.’
The healthy middle is often as obnoxious as the extremes, which leaves me to question whether or not there is some kind of healthy 0.25 mixed with a 0.75.
Culture’s current addiction to politics is not so mysterious when you compare it, inevitably, to a drug. It gives you an initial rush which becomes harder and harder to repeat until you find yourself chasing unnatural extremes for the sake of novelty. Anarcho-Primitivism gave you more of a rush than Academic Marxism, which gave you more of a rush than fuddy duddy liberalism.
People go looking for kernels of utopia they will never live in, tantamount to the vacancy which is fundamentally at the root of our desires. In this way, politics can be seen as an expression of the ego, but then, so can most things we seek in order to feel fulfilled, like romantic relationships which already fit into a mythic mold long before we find that person who we want to play the role we have designed.
The way we engage with electoral politics is not unlike the way we often seek mates: we seek out those in whom we see something of ourselves, but perhaps something we want more of.
It would be nice if we were ‘all one’ as utopian, New Age, neo-Vedantic spirituality often asserts, and as people who have had powerful psychedelic experiences will assert, but as the world functions, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
If you say, ‘We’re all connected,’ then okay, I’ll grant you that. But then consider how we’re connected: we’re connected because we eat each other and are constantly battling over the same turf. We (organisms) are constantly dying and making soil for new organisms to come later. If there is anything all of us have in common, it is that we are past to someone else’s present and we will be food or soil for someone else’s life. No one creature is special or can claim particular dominion.
What in the world would be the point of love in a world in which ‘everything is one?’ There would be no need, no more than fish don’t need to go in search of water, nor do they spend each and every day singing the praises of water and telling one another that water is what they all share. The fish still eat each other.
If there is anything special about love, it is that there is not enough of it to make it ubiquitous. If you love someone, that love is unique and unprecedented. Billions upon billions upon billions of events, large and small, had to occur for the two of you to wind up together. Perhaps this is my own version of soul mates, rather than the platonic one…