Einstein’s Tongue, Self-Esteem, Comparing Yourself to Others and Pink, Squishy Brain-Pulp

Sooooooo… Another month has flown by and once again there was no post here. Trying hard to feel guilty but… you know what… fuck it. From now on this blog is monthly. Somewhere between the forth and the sixth of each month there should be something new here. I may also post random stuff I come up with in the interim, but in general, if you are one of the vast minority that actually cares when these go up, then check back on those three days each month and see what’s up. Good, there, now my own niggling guilt of barely giving this blog a thought during the passed thirty days has been justified, lets get onto this post proper.

This is a blog about comparing yourself to others. Not really an original idea, I know, but it is a universal experience, thus no matter how much we talk about it someone is going to relate to it and help validate our views. And really, isn’t that what social interaction is all about? Finding people who validate how we think enough that we call them friends, finding people who REALLY validate us and who may or may not be unbelievably sexy to call ‘significant other’ or ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’ or ‘partner’ or, if you’re feeling romantic, ‘my better half’ (naaaaawww), the point is opinions matter a crapton to us humans. We base pretty much our entire existence on the stuff spouted by our squishy brain-pulp and the stuff spouted from the squishy brain-pulp of those we love and admire. But the trouble comes from when we decide to put those spoutings in a place where others who do not share our particular brain-pulp spoutings can see them (no, I am not going to drop that particular turn of phrase. Get your squishy brain-pulp into gear and focus on the spoutings and not the way they are spouted. Grossed out? Excellent. We can continue).

It is a time such as that, when our brain spoutings are about to be splashed all over everywhere like the gore in some torture-porn horror film, that we need validation the most. However, in the search for such validation we often look to people we admire (the ones who may or may not have helped shape out opinions via their own brave brain-spouting), and think ‘is what I’m about to say in line with what this person has already said?’ or, ‘is what I’m about to say as good as what this person has already said?’ OR ‘should I even say anything because this person has already said it all so well and I just agree with them and by saying this thing it would just be me agreeing to everything they say and what is the point of any of this?’…. Soooo, yeah. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, EVERYONE on the goddamn planet has done it, and if they say they haven’t, then they’re liars (lying liars who lie. Don’t lie lying lairs!).

So what’s to do about it? How can we eradicate this intolerable scourge of the human psyche? *Strikes dramatic pose* OH GOD, PROTECT MY INNOCENT, PINK AND SQUISHY BRAIN-PULP FROM SUCH UNNECESSARY DAMAGING SELF-FLAGELLATION!! (Quick Google break to ensure ‘self-flagellation’ means what I think it means. It does. Also, insert Princess Bride joke here). Still with us? Good. So, what’s to be done, I hear you probably not ask because I just asked it for you? Well, metaphorical person on the other side of this screen, I personally have no idea what’s to be done. None. Zip. Nada. N/ fucking A (which stands for “not fucking available” for those of you playing at home). To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure that anything does need to be done. Ok, ok, clearly that is not going to be a catch all statement. I mean this is people’s self-esteem we’re talking about and no-one’s brain-pulp spoutings are any better than anyone else’s brain-pulp spoutings, no matter how pink and squishy and potentially delicious they may be (guys, we should totally start the zombie apocalypse. We don’t even need real zombies, just convince everyone that brains are delicious! No? Really? Well, that just ruins everything doesn’t it. Ok, ok, fine. Brains are not all that delicious. Happy? Good. Now enough of this tangent). But that statement before the really long bracket break isn’t necessarily true. Namely, no-one’s thoughts are not superior to anyone else’s thoughts. But see here’s the thing, Einstein developed the majority of his groundbreaking theories while he was working in a patent office during his twenties, that dude on the corner of the big city street wearing a cardboard sandwich board and shouting that gravity is a lie and you’re all mindless drones for being taken in to the ’round earth conspiracy’ may also be in his twenties, he may work in a patent office when no shouting at people, but the fullness of time will only prove one of them right. And only one of them is on some university student’s wall, forty odd years after he revolutionized physics, sticking his tongue out and just generally reminding everyone that genius’ can be fun too. It’s not the guy with the sandwich board.
Via Funny Pictures.net

 Einstein: Being awesome and ruining the paparazzi’s day since 1871

So perhaps it’s safe to say that Einstein’s brain-spoutings were at least a little bit more valuable to the history of the human race that that guy yelling about how the earth is flat. So, no, I don’t believe all brain-pulp is created equal. Nor do I believe that everyone is either a genius or someone who cannot see the evidence right in front of them (*cough, cough* global warming *cough, cough* Oh, what? Me? No, I didn’t say anything. Nope. Nah. NOTHING AT ALL. *pokes you fifteen times in succession, then scampers off to hide behind a melting iceberg*). The point is that some people have thoughts that will be more important and more influential to not just the human race and/or those individuals around them than others. Maybe that flat-earth guy will resonate with someone, but the majority of us will probably just sort of avoid eye-contact and shuffle uneasily out of his way. I am not saying that just because someone is important does that mean we should listen to what they have to say ( see: Tony Abbott, George W. Bush, most really huge celebrities, some priests), I am saying that some thoughts hold more value than others and that some people have those valuable thoughts more often than others. But we’ve strayed too far from the path. What does any of this have to do with comparing your brain-pulp spoutings to other people’s brain-pulp spoutings?

Well, the fact is, that even the most valuable mind is going to have invaluable thoughts, is going to believe wrong things, or things that hurt and marginalise others. All of us like to believe that we have a valuable mind, it’s certainly valuable to us, and for the most part, people’s thoughts are generally worth considering even if they don’t exactly align with yours, but those invaluable thoughts can sneak up on you. You don’t know if it’s coming, when it’s coming, where, why or how. But once it’s out there, it’s out and you can’t pull it back. This is why we compare ourselves to others. “Does this thought match what I believe?”, “Do I want to keep believing these things or must I reevaluate myself?”, “Does what I have to say hold any value to those who might read it?” These are the questions we are actually asking ourselves. And the way we answer them, to our own satisfaction at least, is by comparing our thoughts to others. It gives us a compass of sorts, a way gauge our worth in the world. But, and here we come to why this can be a problem, if you come to the conclusion that your brain-pulp has no worth, that it’s a little too much squish and not enough pink, then your spoutings will never be shared and any thoughts you have of value will be wasted. Any genuine, valuable thoughts you have will remain split-second flashes of electricity between synapses and will fade, buried in the dried-out neurons of your brain long after you are dead.

So I argue, compare yourself to others, question yourself, even doubt yourself a little (or a lot if you’re like most of us), realise that nothing you say is golden gospel, but very likely nothing you say will ever be utter horseshit either (exceptions probably apply to the less tolerant among us, I guess. Because seriously, fuck racism, sexism, homophobia and the rest of them right up the ass in the bad way. I’ve heard that it can be quite fun if you do it right, but let’s not make this weird). There will probably be some value in most things you say. That dude on the street corner, shouting outdated-since-the-ancient-greeks  nonsense, may spark some physicist with a mind for such things to re-evaluate our outlook on gravity and come up with something absurd but plausible like string theory and solve all our problems.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that all minds have value, perhaps not in the same amounts and certainly not in the same way, and I have yet to see a mind devoid of value, no matter who it belongs to, no matter how much filth they are spouting from their brain-pulp. So don’t let your brain-pump go to waste, compare yourself, doubt yourself, question everything about yourself and others, but don’t let anyone or anything invalidate or devalue you to you. Perhaps you need help in doing this, like someone whose job it is to analyse brain-pulp and try to fix it, or medications to smooth out the squish and add some pink, either way, both or neither may or may not work for you. Try anyway, because otherwise you’ll never know and that precious brain spouting may go unheard and that would kind of suck, for pretty much everyone. So you go out there and spout your pinkest brain-pulp, you little maybe-Einstein, you, and to be honest just the hope of that keeps me going.

Till next month, good luck with whatever it is you are trying to do. Hopefully you’ll have a pretty good new year and such. Happy soon-to-be Holidays to the people who like to be told such things and a good old “Aren’t Christmas carols just freaking annoying?” to those who don’t. Might post something new up here before 2015, but maybe I won’t. We’ll have to see.

Anyway, till then, look after yourself, and keep those precious thoughts coming. It looks like we’re going to need them.

Ashlee.

That One Girl on the Bus

So, the other day I was on the bus. It was one of the few times when I had ventured out into the great wide world without the precious protection of my musical earbuds. Thus it was that I could hear everything on the bus, which wasn’t so bad as this particular bus was empty. That is, it was empty until The Girl got on (dun Dun DUN). I never learned her name, but if I had to guess she’d be about fourteen or fifteen. She was wearing the uniform of the local private school. She was fairly pretty in an unremarkable way, long straight blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail by a pink, fluffy scrunchie. She was tall, and not stick thin but far from overweight. Over the course of the entire bus trip we didn’t say two words to each other. All in all there was nothing remotely special about this girl at all… Apart from the fact that when she got on the bus she was holding two large milkshakes.

It is now time to discuss the bus driver. I don’t remember what he looked like, except that he was pretty young, about early to mid thirties, and very talkative. I know he was talkative because he had previously tried to engage me in conversation that same bus trip, a feat not attempted by most bus drivers (and a near impossible one to accomlish when I’m tired, stressed and just want to get home). In any case, he put up a braver front than most, mainly because he had that casual, joking way of talking that tends to put people at ease. Unless that is, you’re insecure about something.

So, the bus pulls up to the stop and the girl steps on, holding her two large milkshakes awkwardly. The first words out of her mouth are:

“These aren’t both for me!”

But the bus driver, in his jovial wisdom, either doesn’t hear her or ignores the statement and replies with:

“How are you going to get through both of those, then?” You must understand, this was said as a joke, a light tease.

At which point the girl, now obviously deeply embarrassed, says: “One of them’s for a girl at school. I’m not fat, I promise.” She then walks up the aisle between the seats, red as a tomato and sits down with her two large milkshakes. Within minutes the feeling is passed and she is intent upon her phone. But my mind lingers on that brief exchange.

“I’m not fat, I promise.” 

Personally, I find that statement appalling. Not because the girl said it, but because she felt the need to say it.

I’m not fat, I promise.

As if ‘fat’ was a personality trait, and a bad one at that. As if she must justify her perfectly reasonable actions by assuring a stranger that she does not fall into the abominable category of Fat. The way she said it put me in mind of someone defending a distasteful joke. “I’m not racist, I promise.” Except, instead of offending entire proud cultures, this young woman was simply doing a favour for a friend.

Now I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I find it disgusting and deeply, deeply sad that this girl feels the need to say something like that. What is wrong with us, that teenage girls feel the need to seek approval from strangers for every action that seems vaguely out of the ordinary. I mean, I am positive that teenage boys suffer this as well, but let’s be honest, what young man out there has ever felt so embarrassed about taking an extra bit of food or drink onto the bus that he felt the need to defend his actions to the bus driver? What bus driver would tease that young man in the same way he teased the girl? Whatever the percentage is, I’m guessing that it’s far lower than the amount of young women who encounter the same thing.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning light hazing. I think it’s a vital part of human interaction, and a very common one at that (case in point; whenever I am walking my dog by myself, and I am passed by a gentleman out for an evening stroll I almost always hear some variation of “who’s walking who?” which, aside from getting monotonous after a while, hurts neither me nor my dog. Although it could be seen as derogatory, I like to credit myself with more sense of humour than that.) So, teasing and hazing are awesome (kinda), but what is not awesome is the instant judgement that is made when anyone, particularly women, are seen with an unexpected amount of food or drink. I’m not fat, I promise. 

How dare we tell this girl that she can’t have two large milkshakes? How dare we make it so that she must justify her completely innocent actions by explaining her reasoning to a total stranger? If she had fifteen milkshakes, twelve hamburgers and a trash bag full of McDonald’s fries, it is neither mine nor anybody else’s business what she intends to do with that food.

Now, of course, she’s a teenager and all teenagers are insecure about how they look to other people, right? Well, yes and no. Of course teenagers are insecure about pretty much everything to some degree, but once again, what teenage boy is going to assure his bus driver, of all people, that he’s not fat?

I don’t care if your fifteen or fifty, actions that don’t impact upon others are not the business of others and hold no shame, no matter what. Now, if you’re torturing a cat, or breaking other people’s property, then the police and a few other people (myself included) might have something to say. But eating? Drinking? Are we really so obsessed with our own fucked up notion of beauty that we deny people, anyone, the right to eat as much as he or she likes? Because, Lord forbid, they might stray into the dreaded realm of ‘Fat’. What a calamity that would be.

Not much humour in this one guys, sorry about that. I’ve been wanting to talk about something like this for a while and this particular instance stood out to me. Words have power, the words we use can define us. We all know this and yet we fling them around like they mean nothing. Anyway, if your looking for a really awesome exploration of the ideas discussed in this month’s blog post, I heartily recommend you read Robin Hobb’s Soldier’s Son Trilogy. Politics aside it’s also got solid characters, and a compelling storyline. I may write a review of it in the future, but only if you’re good.

And with that, Ladies and Gentlemen, I bid you adieu.

Ashlee.