The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, July 07, 2008

The Biggest Lie

Kukulkan:

you quoted me talking about Clinton supporters voting for McCaine, thinking that I resent them if their reasons are racial (and am therefore hypocritical because I don't call blacks to task for voting along racial lines). Nonsense. I resent people who don't admit that many votes have been lost on this basis, and do the "Obama has an advantage because he is black" routine. You were detecting sarcasm, not resentment. I know damned well that many blacks vote for him BECAUSE he is black. Maybe even two or three times the percentage of whites who vote AGAINST him because he's black. But because whites outnumber us ten to one, he's lost one hell of a lot more votes on that basis than he's gained. That's people's right. But it pisses me off when people don't ACKNOWLEDGE that that has happened. That's really all. Frankly, I am far too busy being tickled that whites have been as accepting as they have. I would have to have been either incredibly naive, or harboring seething, murderous hatred for whites to be pissed by something that is so glaringly obvious and predictable. Anyone who knows me can tell you I am in neither category. Why in the world would I resent people following completely typical human behavior? It really sucks being on the losing end of that equation, but hey, that's the biz.

I understand people who harbor such resentments (about this and other issues) but unless I was willing to go out and kill some white folks, the anger and pain would do nothing except poison my own life. THAT is the real reason for forgiveness. Not for the other person's benefit, but for your own. The philosophy that I evolved to deal with this stuff is tied intimately to my sense of what it is to be a human being, and how the basic biological drives of our physical shells motivate our individual and social behaviors. It is this reason that I can't be swayed by arguments that men are less than women, or Muslims worse than Christians, whites worse than blacks...or vice versa. This stuff is all tied together. The exact same evaluative procedures that would create any "this better than that" about one of these arenas (say, men less moral or evolved than women) would lead me in an instant to believing whites were less than blacks, for example. I would be one lonely, isolated, unhappy, and unhealthy dude.

#

In the last two weeks, Jason has made HUGE strides in his swimming. From being scared to stray beyond the steps in the shallow end, he's now leaping into the deep end without his Floatie vest. Amazing. Not quite swimming, he is completely oriented to the pool, and knows how to thrash his way to the sides. Heck, I'm not much better than that, and I snorkle in the Bahamas and swim with dolphins. Watching your kids grow up is a neverending circus.

#

I'd been planning to try a new workout today, one of Steve Maxwell's kettlebell complexes. Maxwell is the very best designer of such programs out of Pavel's whole crew (he and Pavel seem to have had a falling out) but at 52 Maxwell is in smokin' shape, and his "Cruel and Unusual Kettlebell Exercises" is an awesome series of 4 KB complexes that are designed to whip your metabolism through the roof in 10-20 minutes. Really amazing stuff.

#

The second season of Dexter is being rerun on Showtime. Simply an amazing show, morbid, violent, sexy, heartbreaking...I just love it. Almost perfectly performed. T and I feel like it's Christmas in July.

#

Apparently, both Hellboy and The Dark Knight look to be superb comic book movies, with real heart as well as spectacle. Can't wait. And of course, both reflect the human reality of love at the center of our existence. Apparently, Dark Knight has six action scenes shot in IMAX, so see it in this format if possible.

#

We can't predict the future behavior of others, but I remember something one of my teachers said: "Do not trust people. Instead rely upon them. Rely upon them to do whatever it is they consider to be in their own self-interest." The only way to do that is to be able to determine what that self-interest is. And in my mind, the only way you can possibly do that is to know yourself. To look fearlessly at your own flaws and fuck-ups, and take responsibility for them, to get real about the way you've lied and sold yourself out...or stood up for yourself and been courageously honest in the face of pain and disappointment. If you take responsibility for all three aspects of your life, you have a good chance to see right through other people's B.S., because you'll know all the rationalizations. Over and over again, I've had people with weight problems straight-up lie about being "unable" to lose weight because of physical issues, when eventually it turned out the problems were really emotional. A student recently emailed me, confessing that when she loses weight her sex drive increases, and her husband's lack of sexual interest frustrates her more deeply, risking their marriage. In other words, she slows herself down to remain hobbled to a man with low energy.

I've run into versions of that many, many times. But here's the trick: I'd bet ANYTHING that there are parallels in the domain of money and relationships: people who blame external circumstances for lack of financial success, but actually cripple themselves out of resentment, fear, or programming. It isn't the economy: in the worst economies, the top 20% are still doing fine. The real question is: why aren't YOU in the top 20% of your field? Or ladies who say that there are more women than men, and that's why they're not in a relationship. Really? All that does is explain why X percentage of your group is unmarried, NOT why YOU are one of them. Stats don't have that much to do with the individual.

But I suspect it is miles easier to blame genetics, or the economy, or gender statistics, or racial statistics or whatever than it is to examine your own motivations, beliefs, values, and actions. So easy. For one thing, when you stop behaving like a typical member of your group, you lose your protective coloration. You stand out and become a target.

You take the chance of being alone. The trouble is that we are all "alone" and the "protective coloration" is just an illusion. I am male, American, of mixed ethnicity, a writer, etc....but all of these are just interesting labels. If I hide behind any of them, I inherit not just their strengths but limitations. It is simple: in terms of playing the game of life, either you take responsibility or you do not. Life doesn't care. You can be happy, healthy, and successful, but the doorway to adult rewards comes from adult responsibilities. And the instant you blame society, your family, or your genetic circumstances for anything that can be modified by action, you are being a child. Adults realize that they are all that stands between the next generations and chaos, and that they are going to die...and vow that their death, and therefore their life, will have meaning. That that meaning will be found in their actions.

If you can't admit the ways in which you sell yourself short, lie to yourself, are asleep, you cannot rise to your greatest level, and walk the world awake and alert. Complaining about injustices is one thing. Suggesting that those injustices control how you feel about life is quite another. Every day, you have to polish your perceptual lens, and take responsibility for living fully and honestly. Either you make that commitment, or you allow the external world to control your internal experience. And that is one of the great existential fallacies.

##

Who you are to yourself influences the way you are with others. The lies you tell yourself will blind you to the lies others tell to you. The more honest you are with yourself, the harder it is to be conned.

And the question of the day is: what is the biggest lie you ever bought into from a friend or lover?

27 comments:

Kami said...

And the question of the day is: what is the biggest lie you ever bought into from a friend or lover?

I think the biggest lie involved the friendship itself. There was no friendship. I'm pretty nice to people and when they do amazing things I often let them know. That's probably why this person and I got along really well in the beginning. I should have known there was a disconnect when I went with her to a wonderful recital. Afterward we had a picnic with a monk and he and I got into (what I thought anyway) an interesting discussion about religion, physics, reality, how science can become an irrational religion and how religion can become an irrational science. On the drive home she was angry with me and said I embarrassed her by sounding like I was an authority in something I was not. I took her seriously and felt pretty embarrassed about it. But then several months later I was visiting a martial arts school I used to attend. She'd recently become a student and was working very hard to advance. I knew most of the folks there so I loitered and talked on the sidelines with spouses not involved in the class. I ended up dressing down because someone wanted to play. The instructor wanted to do something with all the upper belts so he asked me what rank I had. I told him I made it to green belt in this school and that I also had other equivalent or higher belts in other styles (I won't name them all here.) He put me in charge of the white belts which included this 'friend.' I think things went pretty well. We did line drills, I corrected the gross misalignments. Afterward a black belt took over and had everyone do kata. When I did mine he said something I hadn't heard him say before. He said it was perfect and he saw no areas to correct. When we drove home she blew up and called me a dilettante and a dabbler and she thought I was serious about the various things we had in common but obviously she was wrong.

We'd both bought into the lie that we were friends. I won't theorize about the intricacies of the disconnect. The result was heartbreaking, for both of us. I simply couldn't associate with her anymore, knowing that if she perceived that I upstaged her in some way she'd be all over me. I wouldn't have brought this up except that I think it illustrates something--that lies can be complicated and unclear and that they can feel good 99% of the time and then bang, you're hurting and you wonder about fault and what to blame and never realize that the problem wasn't due to an incident. The whole situation isn't real. It's shadows on a wall.

Chavo said...

Dead on what I needed to read this morning. Thank you. Having one of those times where everything seems just mighty fucked up- and then you realize that you removed the net a long, long time ago and yeah, it hurts when you fall!

Maxwell is really good. I just received his joint mobility DVDs this past week and am starting to work with them. haven't checked out his KB work yet.

Enjoying Lion's Blood.

Brian Dunbar said...

That's people's right. But it pisses me off when people don't ACKNOWLEDGE that that has happened.

Maybe a 'Pauline Kael' problem? She didn't know anyone who voted for Nixon .. maybe those guys don't know anyone who votes that way.

I know I don't. But then .. I don't ask - and really how my friends vote ain't none of my business. Also .. it's not polite to say 'I voted for X because his opponent is a damned wog'.


what is the biggest lie you ever bought into from a friend or lover?

That the baby was mine.

Dan Moran said...

Worst lie I ever bought into -- "I want a career," when she wanted to be taken care of ...

Lie makes that sound harsh, though. I don't think it was an intentional lie -- I can't really remember any intentional lies I've ever been told in a relationship. This was just a woman who had conflicts in what she wanted out of the world that she hadn't resolved.

Steve,

Whites don't outnumber blacks 10 to 1 in the U.S. It's about 6 to 1. I doubt that makes any meaningful difference from your perspective, but it's certainly a meaningful difference at the level of the math.

My kids are home from school, and I've recovered almost an hour and a half a day I was spending getting them ready for school and driving them about -- I've been making use of my recently converted workout room in the mornings. Great start to the day ...

... I don't do situps much. So I did 50 a couple mornings ago, as, you know, a warm up. All I have to say is, 50 situps should be covered as a form of torture under the Geneva convention. Two days later, it's the worst pain I've experienced in years.

If you don't have a sense of the ridiculousness of your own life, stuff like this is embarrassing. If you do, it's material. Thank God for perspective. :-)

I do love my jump rope.

Pagan Topologist said...

This one has probably been told so many times by so many people that it is cliche, but here it is: "If I just work hard at treating her better, the woman I am in love with will stop abusing me emotionally." Note that this applies to previous relationships, not my current one.

Steve Perry said...

I think Kami's post hits squarely upon my biggest ongoing personal demon, Ole debbil Expectation.

"I'm your friend." When it is true, it is wonderful. When it isn't, it can be really nasty.

Me, I keep defaulting to the idiotic idea that reasonable people will behave as I expect them to behave.

Lord knows I ought to know better by now, since such like-I-expected behavior happens so infrequently, but I still get caught flatfooted now and again. I think I've got it wired, but the devil out in the darkness puts on a slightly different mask, and when they show up at the campfire, I still get fooled.

In an ideal world, I'd have no expectations, I'd just see what was really there and deal with it accordingly, but that's not this planet, last time I looked.

Thinking that somebody is as much your friend as you are theirs when is not so? That is a killer.

I like the old saw about what a true friend is: Somebody who, when you call them up at three a.m. because you have a body you have to get rid of, comes over to help you, no questions asked.

You don't get many of those.

If you think you have one, and you find out it ain't so, that does sting.

Christian M. Howell said...

Stats don't have that much to do with the individual.



But I suspect it is miles easier to blame genetics, or the economy, or gender statistics, or racial statistics or whatever than it is to examine your own motivations, beliefs, values, and actions. So easy. For one thing, when you stop behaving like a typical member of your group, you lose your protective coloration. You stand out and become a target.



I actually know that personally. I like it though, because it's much easier to deal with people when they all look at you the same way.

Plus I don't care what people think about me anyway. I can shop at Macy's.


I've never caught anyone in a lie, but that may be because acquaintances know there isn't enough wool...

The key to real harmony is hard work and a desire to improve day to day. Most people don't believe in either one.

The middle age white man is the worst. He hides behind his "positive stereotypes" knowing he is very low on the totem pole of intellectual accomplishment.


I was thinking about being like that asshole who says only white people invented anything.

I would like to challenge anyone with a stereotypical view of black men. Personal choice is the key, not cultural or racial groups.

It's personal choice to wear clothes that are too big or to wear a sports jacket with ratty jeans.

Steven Barnes said...

Dan--

thanks for the correction. I trust your numbers, and it does make a difference.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

The biggest lie was "I'm sorry."

What I thought it meant, "I'm truly sorry for pushing your sexual boundaries in such an outrageous way. I now respect your right to say that you never want to have sex with me, period, that friendship is all you have to offer, and that that's your call to make, and not something I have the right to push you on, once you've made your 'no' clear."

What it actually meant: "I'm going to placate you until I can get you to let your guard down, and then I won't give a damn about your 'no.'"

The excuse I have for buying that lie was that I was very young, and he was about ten years older.

The next biggest lie was more, I think, a case of the guy not knowing himself as well as he thought than deliberately lying to me.

Marty S said...

Steve: I have said being black was an advantage for Obama in the Democratic Primary contest. Not in getting to the point of running nor in the general election. The 6:1 ration Dan gives is the general population. If you look at just registered democrats the numbers I've seen put the white:black ratio at less than 3:1.

On the subject of success and what makes a person successful. Some of it is controllable and some of it is genetic. My favorite line in all of literature is " This above all to thine own self be true and it follows as the night doth the day thou canst be false to no other man." I have always tried to be honest with myself, and I have many faults I know I could have, or still could do something about. I also know that there are somethings I was never destined to accomplish because of limitations I was born with. To my way of thinking accepting these limitations is part of achieving happiness and contentment.

Steven Barnes said...

Marty, I still disagree, but by a considerably narrower margin if your stats are correct (I have a hard time believing that 3:1 thing, but, O.k.)
#
To thine own self be true? That way lies wisdom, absolutely.
#
Lynn--as a guy who felt guilty for YEARS for pressuring a lady into a kiss, I have nothing but cold rage and contempt for a man who would pressure a woman into sex. Allow me to apologize for my gender, honestly.

Josh Jasper said...

The biggest lie I was told was that people would be there for me when I needed them badly.

I think I've forgiven people for that, but it damaged my sense of trust.

Pat Logan said...

Josh: same here.

Pat Logan said...

"Do not trust people. Instead rely upon them. Rely upon them to do whatever it is they consider to be in their own self-interest."

This is all too true, and I've spent way too much of my life blaming others for why I'm fucked up. Thanks for the reminder.

Paul said...

"There was no friendship. The whole situation isn't real. It's shadows on a wall."

"If I just work hard at treating her better, the woman I am in love with will stop abusing me emotionally."


That about sums it up. I finally pulled the plug on the marriage at 14 years. The scary part is the lies I had to tell myself in order to choose tolerating this. I'm now looking into how I got into this condition and then making better choices.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Thanks, Steve.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

What I've seen from the fat acceptance community is not so much people who say they can't lose weight for physical reasons (except that polycystic ovarian syndrome and hypothyroidism make weight loss very difficult) as people who say (frequently after substantial weight loss) that they're saner, healthier, and happier when they stop trying to lose weight and stop judging themselves for being fat.

Maybe the sensible thing is to seek sanity first.

Marty S said...

Nancy: From my point of view you have hit the nail on the head with respect to weight loss. I have great difficulty losing weight, but I could lose at least a reasonable amount of weight if I made it a campaign. So it is to some extent my choice. But when my weight was really high and I went on a diet to lose weight, it drove me crazy. I was hungry all the time and I had to give up the foods I enjoyed. The same thing went for exercise. I enjoy sports, but during the time I went on my diet I bought a treadmill. I used it for about three weeks and it was just too much of a chore. I hated it. So, I opt to accept my weight and enjoy life rather than depress myself to in order to be a little thinner.

Josh Jasper said...

Marty: Not every method of weight loss is going to work the same for everyone else, and despite what people here say about good intentions, fat people are treated poorly, judged harshly, and then told that they should feel bad about themselves.

If the goal is to get people to be healthy, it has to be gotten to by treating people kindly, and not encouraging them to hate themselves while they're fat, which is what's being done.

There are active groups of fat people, men and women, who're trying on their own to find fun ways to keep active and be healthy. They've got to do it on thier own, because the "fitness community" insists on methods and speech that are insulting to fat people.

If loosing weight one way is a chore, but you still want to do it, exploring ways it wouldn't be a chore is a good idea.

Me, I do well in getting a workout in the morning before work, but I have trouble maintaining it without a workout buddy. Was your treadmill work alone? Would having someone else to work out with have been helpful?

For "the foods you enjoyed", did you have to give them up, or would cutting portions help?

I find that cooking for myself is a great way to keep to an enjoyable diet, but not overload myself.

But mostly, don't feel bad about yourself if you're not where you want to be weight-wise. Associating feeling bad, unpleasant deprivation of things you like, and boring workouts with weight loss is just going to fail.

Steven Barnes said...

I don't think anyone here denies that there is cruelty regarding weight issues. Not everyone has good intentions: in fact, my point was that disdain conceals fear.
#
Note the constant references to "diet" when we all know that diets don't work: lifestyle changes do.
#
I find many things I must do to be boring. So does my son. So did my daughter. I fail to see what that has to do with anything, unless you are to say: I can't get myself to do boring things." I suggest that the problem isn't "boredom" it is downright aversion, pain anchored to connecting to the body. The Hawaiian Hunas say that the body is a "black bag" where we store unprocessed emotion. Working the body puts us in contact with this stuff, and unless we're ready to deal with it, the unconscious will find any way it can to distract us.
#
Seek sanity first? Yes. But The best approach would be to seek sanity and self love SIMULTANEOUSLY. People stay in therapy for decades, and still marry their daughters. It can be another way to delay actually dealing with life. Be careful.

Josh Jasper said...

Steve - I don't think anyone here denies that there is cruelty regarding weight issues. Not everyone has good intentions: in fact, my point was that disdain conceals fear.

No one is denying it, be no one is really talking about it either.

Note the constant references to "diet" when we all know that diets don't work: lifestyle changes do.

Changing the relationship you have to food is something I often suggest, as opposed to some sort of calorie counting fad diet.

Americans, on average, have a very bad relationship with food and eating. Proportions in the average person's daily meals are too large, composed in large part of food that's not healthy.

On the other hand "diet food" mostly tastes awful, many busy people don't have the time to cook for themselves, and don't think too much about what they eat.

Getting food that's healthy *and* enjoyable isn't as easy as it should be.


I find many things I must do to be boring. So does my son. So did my daughter. I fail to see what that has to do with anything, unless you are to say: I can't get myself to do boring things."


I can get myself to do boring things if I have to. But you're now entering into territory where you're not being encouraging, you're being critical.

Of course, I'm not asking you to help me motivate myself to work out. You'd be one of the last people I'd ask, to be honest, because of how you talk about fitness. I know what motivates me, and you'd do just the opposite.

I suggest that the problem isn't "boredom" it is downright aversion, pain anchored to connecting to the body.

I was suggesting that, for some people, attaching a workout to some form of positive gratification, like being social might be better, whereas some people have no problem just doing it on their own.

It's fascicle to say that people who don't "just do it" somehow don't love their bodies enough, but it's not treating people like individuals.

suzanne said...

any eating plan
that tells you
you must give up foods you love
permanently
is unlikely to work

eating healthy is more expensive
than eating junk
but the benefits are well worth the increase


fresh produce
a huge factor in eating healthy
and losing weight
has increased dramatically in price
over the last six months

I buy what is cheapest
green beans are $.99 per pound
so
lots of green beans
frozen fruit is usually less expensive
than fresh

I've switched almost exclusively to whole grains
high fiber
(35 or more mgs of fiber a day)
makes a huge difference in how I feel

barley
millet
quinoa
cracked wheat/bulgar

lots of large fresh salads

though I admit
I still prefer white rice to brown
but even better is wild rice

I've found that going low fat
and lots of raw veggies
as in salads
in about a week
I crave it!
and high fat
or processed food
or sugar rich foods
become almost nauseating

I've been doing well at changing my long standing
(from childhood)
habit of not eating breakfast
now having a bowl of
Bobs Mill Hi-Fiber breakfast cereal
with fruit additions
or sometimes veggies and a bit of cheese

main protein is
beans chicken
which are cheap (especially beans)and fish
only occasional
pork and beef

result is no blood sugar problem
excellent BP readings
low bad chcolesterol and triglyceride readings

taking no prescription meds
have no health problems

I'm 68.

I could be
MUCH better at working out
but I'm getting back into it

and
I quit smoking
(3 packs a day)
cold turkey
on June 6th
without much
physiological reaction

Steven Barnes said...

Josh--

I wouldn't suggest people motivate themselves with the same things that motivate me. If being social motivates you to exercise, GREAT! Unless...you can't find people to exercise with, in which case you might use the actions of others as an excuse not to take responsibility.
#
I'm not sure I referred directly to "loving your body" although I do speak a great deal of "loving yourself." Not that I don't approve of the concept. As far as "just do it" I never said that either. I've spent years learning how to motivate myself to do the things I need to do. I have no illusions at all that it is "easy." None. What I DO think is that you either take control of your life, or entropy takes control of you. If it isn't fun, you do what needs to be done because it needs to be done. However, as Mary Poppins said: "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and poof! The job's a game!"
#
No I'm not just encouraging, I'm also critical. I speak to others FAR more kindly than I speak to myself. Some things should be criticized, others discouraged. If you haven't learned to attach pain to your negative behaviors AND pleasure to your positive ones, you're missing a core motivation technique that can change your life.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

We all have different levels of critical vs. encouragement that we need, though. It's like with our dog, that we just put through obedience class. The instructor was going around showing how to instruct the various dogs in "Leave it," and our dog went away from the instructor and behind my leg at a level of raised voice that the previous dog, Howie, hadn't been phased by at all. So the instructor said, OK, your dog's sensitive, you'll need to raise your voice less for him than you would for Howie.

The key is finding the mix of positive reinforcement and negatives attached to what you don't want to do that actually work to motivate you.

Steven Barnes said...

True, Lynn. With private students, I can assess the right amount of negative as opposed to positive. Here, I'm mostly talking to myself while remaining aware that others are listening. Each individual must be approached AS an individual, while remaining within whatever universals the teacher holds in his heart. Then it is the student's place to decide if that teacher is right for him...not for the teacher to change his truth to suit the student.

Josh Jasper said...

I wouldn't suggest people motivate themselves with the same things that motivate me. If being social motivates you to exercise, GREAT! Unless...you can't find people to exercise with, in which case you might use the actions of others as an excuse not to take responsibility.

I wouldn't say that I use actions of others as an excuse, but I do see it as a reason that I don't work out as much. I accept that I'm responsible for not doing things even without the fun of social contact, but at the same time, skipping a workout is not currently costing me much. Skipping work on a nice day might cost me much more. It's easier for me to keep my weight constant by just eating healthy. Getting it down is something I'd like to do, but I don't feel it's something I need to do.

It's a "there are benefits that would happen if it's done" vs "it needs to be done" thing. Health wise, I needed to quit smoking, and did quite some time ago.

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