The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Why I chose these three standards

Body, Mind, Spirit. Fitness, Career, Relationship. It is perfectly valid for people to criticize my choices, and say, quite accurately, that not everyone wants these things in the way I have defined them. True. But there is, I think, a very good reason why I have based my entire philosophy around them. I think that the simplest expression of my reasoning is that, throughout human history, more than 90% of people have wanted
1) Healthy, fit, energetic, disease-free, attractive bodies (whatever "attractive" is in their culture.) efficient for hunting and gathering and evading predators.
2) Sufficient surplus of resources to provide for themselves and their loved ones, along with the power to resist the aggression of thieves and vandals.
3) A family. A bonded relationship to another human being. Children.
I'd actually guess closer to 98% or higher, actually. Now, then...this doesn't match what people say, does it? Am I saying they're wrong about what they want? That they're lying? Or what?
Well, once upon a time I trusted my instincts. I was a child at the time, and I was told that I was wrong, that I should listen to what people said. I did. And the world went crazy. Because people don't act the way they say they are. They say one thing and do another. They claim not to want relationships, and cry themselves to sleep because they don't have them. They claim not to care if they are fat, then complain about aching joints, lack of energy, zero sex life, and rejection by people they desire. They claim not to care about money, then complain about their lack of resources, how they can't help their families, how they are stuck in dead-end jobs, how they can't go back to school...for lack of money.
In other words, people lie. And somewhere along the way, I asked myself: "what if I stopped paying attention to what people said about themselves, and instead looked at the way they present their lives, what I can actually SEE?" My ability to understand human nature skyrocketed, even as people protested, called me egotistical, sexist, humanist, yada yada yada. And too damned often, after years of protesting, they came to me quietly and sheepishly and admitted I'd been right all along.
But then, I would need standards to measure people against, to have some way to determine when they were out of alignment. Were there any human universals? Well, survival is the closest you can come. And what relates to survival?
1) health and fitness
2) reproductive success (healthy families)
3) ability to attract an attractive mate, and create a healthy, stable, long-lasting bond.
4) Ability to create goods and services so valued by the society that compensation is sufficient to create a surplus of wealth that can then be used to strengthen and support loved ones and family.
There is more, but based upon what I have heard virtually every human being I know say from one time or another, these four are just about universal. But people lie. They lie to themselves, they lie to their friends, and they will d**ned sure lie to me. I know people who legitimately don't care about money--but then they never complain about lack of it. I know people who legitimately don't want a bonded relationship, but not many. Most of these are people who have no role model for one, deep down inside don't believe it is possible or that they could have one, and so substitute pets or children or work or a series of quasi-casual lovers for the intense mirror that a one-on-one relationship inevitably becomes. I know people happy with being comfortably cushioned, but they don't complain about lack of sex, bad joints, lack of energy, or social rejection--they aren't holding pain and fear in their bodies, or using bodies as armor. They just like pancakes more than they like exercise. I can dig that. But by the time that weight creeps up beyond about 20 extra pounds, my bullshit alarm starts going off, folks.
So there you have it. If I believed what people said, I wouldn't be able to help anyone, because EVERYONE has a story about how they're content in the arenas where the deep work actually remains to be done. If you are one of those few enlightened souls, well, great. See you on the mountain. But please excuse me if I don't quite believe you. I can't afford to. I've been lied to too many times. And my commitment to being the best teacher and mentor I can be means that I have to adapt simple heuristics to penetrate through the defense mechanisms. And I believe anyone who is ACTUALLY at peace in these arenas will:
1) never complain about lack in them, and
2) perfectly understand why I have to take the approach I take.
I don't have five years of thrice-weekly therapy sessions to sort stuff out. What I am doing here, I hope, has value for even the casual reader. But it will, admittedly, be most useful to people who can commit to:
1) A healthy, fit, lean body.
2) Being fully invested in a career, or in learning to love the job they do.
3) Finding, having, and holding a fully committed relationship with another adult human being that they wish to keep for a lifetime. It can be an open relationship sexually--that doesn't negate the "mirroring" phenomenon. But it must be primary, and committted, and non-disposable.  If it fails, you have to take this as a sign that YOU made an error. It wasn't just, in the words of Bartholomew Cubbins, "something that happened to happen, and was not very likely to happen again."



Anonymous said...

Hi Steve - I feel pretty good about my body, mind, spirit, fitness and career... it's all a work in progress.

What leaves me stumbling is the relationship factor. I'm currently in the rut of being sick and tired of all the liars 'out there'. All the people who put on a false facade to make themselves appear to be a guru (local people I know), and then the followers, who are so blinded by their devotion to the guru, that it's really disgusting to be in the presence of this bullshit.

So I find myself 'hermit-ing', feeling it prudent to stay at home and not associate with this type of environment, until I can find it within myself to move past the illusion of deceit, attack, and downright manipulation of the masses.

You seem to be a fairly level-headed individual, through what I've read. I send this message to you asking what you would suggest the 'next-step' be.

Sorry there are such harsh critics out there that don't want to look at themselves through whatever philosophical approach is given and free at that. Know that there are people out here that appreciate your gall, your open-minded focus.

Anonymous said...

I am totally in alignment with your philosophies. It's good to hear someone get real about what is really important...keep writing.