The Misanthropist’s Tale — Part 1

“I’ve talked about grief, how we are tempted to minimize, to look on the bright side, to do this thing they call ‘moving on.’ I told you everyone was going to give you conflicting messages, ‘Oh, we know how sad you must be, give yourself time to grieve, blah blah blah, while the next thing out of their mouths is something like, ‘But one of these days you will feel better.’ In other words, your misery is making us uncomfortable so hurry up and get over it.

“You know better. Grief, like any emotion, should never be minimized. It’s like those people who gulp aspirin every time they have a little headache or their temperature goes up. Nature gives us pain for a reason and many a research study that shows that letting a fever run its course is actually healthier than getting rid of it. Though I would never tell you to toss out your pharma-widgets, your anti-depressants and whatnot. I just ask you if you really understand you’re taking them to avoid your unhappiness.

“Let’s go back to some basics.

“One of the primary benefits of Transcendental Misanthropy is empathy expressed as hostility. I just love paradoxes. When you take the time to set events in motion that make others unhappy, you’re helping them understand your pain better. It’s a win-win.

Transcendental Misanthropy improves communication and engenders altruism through Reflexive Triangulation, known to those who are not on the path as ‘a helping hand.’ You will notice how much richer and more nuanced your conversations are when you start embracing misfortune. I swear to you, nothing inhibits relationships like good luck. There are studies I could show you that demonstrate how phone calls announcing engagements are shorter than calls announcing divorces. It’s a fact. Happiness makes people stop talking, and we all know that good communication is essential to good relationships. Human beings are drawn to each other to complain and disagree. What do you say to someone who says, ‘I’ve met the love of my life and I am so happy I could sing,’? You say, ‘Wow. I’m so glad for you.’ Dot dot dot. Pause. Awkward silence. Somebody says, ‘I’m leaving that son of a bitch,’ and you say, ‘Oh thank god, I never liked him, are you okay,’ and you talk for three hours. What gender gets clobbered more? What gender is known for its communication skills? Women on both counts. Women have it all over me. Face it, none of us are built for joy. We’re built for misery. The key is to work with it, not fight it, not deny it. Joy. Joy is a great thing and maybe one or two people get it but most don’t. So Transcendental Misanthropy takes people where it finds them – usually on a hamster wheel of numbed resignation – and applies shock paddles.

“The paradoxical thing is that TM, for all its bad-boy sound, causes people to reach out to each other. I remember when I tripped my first student on the sidewalk during our first week together. She met the woman who’d been her neighbor for six years. She thought I was some Snidely Whiplash, a classic TM moment, and they had coffee. Reflexive Triangulation at its best. The neighbor didn’t think twice about helping my student out and getting in my face. Connections where there were none.

“None of this happens on its own. If you can’t give it up, you can get out. Sustained but varied deprivation is essential. If you’re not cranky and irritable, how do you expect to keep to the program? I don’t care what you give up, be as arbitrary as you want. Give up coffee, making your bed, curtains, doesn’t matter. Food stuff’s easy, especially if it gives you a real physical reaction. But don’t get crazy – anephalactic shock doesn’t make you grumpy, it kills you.

“And deprivation doesn’t always come from scarcity. Too much of something can be as annoying as too little. 250-watt bulbs in your bathroom are good as long as you drink a lot of water before bed.

“Haven’t things been better – and therefore worse, paradoxically — since you started the program? We’ve done good work – you’re starting to value yourself through not downplaying your unhappiness. Maybe you screamed at that cashier tonight when he forgot to double-bag you. It was a nothing mistake and you were a big, vicious Harpy. Did you notice how nice that guy behind you was to him? You took the grief that used to make you sit home alone for days and you spun it into a shining ball of rage that you threw straight at someone else. When you make this happen, it’s a very good sign. When the little things get to you, it’s a very good sign indeed.

“If I could get one message out to people, just one message, it would be that their misery is big. That it isn’t, ‘Oh, just some bad time I’m going through,’ Of course it’s not. It’s the end of the world, because we each are our own worlds, and if our world is disrupted, then, hey, it’s the end. Who cares if it matters to anyone else, it’s Me time. Be bold, be dramatic, sweep others into the wake of your doom. If nothing else, it’ll distract you from the real source of the pain.

“The thing that I love most about TM though is that even while it’s doing all that it can do for you, it’s simultaneously forging important new relationships by teaching you how to make them happen. Misanthropy sounds insulating, alienating. As it is most commonly practiced, by corporations and what not, it is, because it’s misanthropy that wears a mask. But I’m talking about in your face misanthropy. Grabbing the ice cream from Junior stuff. In other words, you transcend misanthropy by becoming a misanthropist. You don’t wait for the perfect disaster to conveniently happen. Courting disaster is for wimps – you seize disaster, you stalk it. When no disaster is available, you manufacture it. You take initiative, like I did when I tripped you on the street, or by deliberately breaking a friend’s confidence about an affair. This isn’t about playing god – it’s about making the choice to be deeply, profoundly human.

“Things have to be done the hard way. I’ve had many students who wanted shortcuts, or thought TM was some kind of reverse psychology gimmick. This is so far from the truth. You’re not paying me to teach you how to put up with unhappiness or wiggle out of it. You’re paying me to teach you how to be its master. I really think people have it wrong. They act like negativity, conflict, unhappiness, disease, death, what have you, can be cordoned off and minimized. The quarantine attitude. I’ll teach you how to make that bull see red, and all that energy will not only make you feel better – it’s a paradox – it will help you value all those discarded hunks of your life that you were so sure weren’t the real you. With you, it’s all about inflating your ego, or what you’ve heard me call Hyperbolic Reclamation.

“I love babies. They’re all ‘me, me, me.’ Unfortunately, they have no ability to manipulate their surroundings to get what they want, aside of course from crying, and all that attendant love they provoke with facial contours and hormones like oxytocin. They’re like beautiful flowers that sit and make bees come to them, and yet they are so incredibly annoying that we’ll do anything to make them quit their racket. Don’t think I haven’t toyed with the idea of giving people babies to up their grumpiness. Problem is, people would start focusing on the kid instead of themselves. Shame, really. There they’d be, with this great model of self absorption right in from of them, and they’d make the classic mistake of caring more about someone else’s welfare than their own. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not wrong to care about someone else, especially milky little people who’ll die if you don’t go that extra mile for them –,”

Excerpt from The Cure for Gretchen Lowe

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