Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sometimes You Gotta Be Bad

Laozi

One of the hardest things about writing a series of essays is moving on afterward. It's tempting to go back and tweak, tighten up and fine tune, because anything new seems out of place. It's kind of like swearing when everything is going well. Ever hear of that? Not swearing because you're angry or frustrated, but because you're not. Swearing just to give the shadow side of your personality its due.

I realize that sounds superstitious, but there's something about the underbelly of consciousness that says, recognize me or else you'll be sorry.
It's a bit yin and yang, but it's as though we can be good for only so long and then we have to be bad. We can give in to it deliberately or we can always rely on the unconscious to do it for us. Since the latter tends to get me in trouble, it would probably be a better idea to try and anticipate the inevitable and give oneself permission to do something usually forbidden -- within the limits of the law, that is. Not "bad to the bone," just a little bad.

But since doing so goes counter to all the things mother taught us about being polite and decent, we're naturally skeptical. The problem is, the "or else" happens with striking regularity. Everything is going well, we're on a roll, nothing can stop us now, and then something comes along bringing everything to a sudden stop and we have to do damage control. Maybe there's something to this, after all?

If there is, here's the thing: satisfying the unconscious can't be like having ice cream when you're on a diet. That's too much like a treat. It needs to go counter to nature. It would be better, for example, if you're the kind of person who feels compelled to comply with the requests of others, to go off somewhere and say the word "no" for a change. Say it to yourself and repeat it several times with increasing intensity. It might feel strange, but it might also feel pretty good and the next time someone hits you up for the umpteenth time, you could be a little more assertive.

Or you could just swear -- outside, where no one but you and the unconscious can hear -- letting fly with a stream of explicatives that would make Aunt Suzy blush. Of course, for this to work, you've got to be hypersensitive about "bad" language. Rather like I was in seminary. One evening while working in the library, everything that could have gone wrong, had, and to make things worse I was dealing with a professor in the middle of it all. As he was about to leave, he turned to me and said, completely deadpan, "Sometimes you just have to say 'damn.'" Well, shucks, I knew that.


(Public Domain image via Wikipedia)
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