Enough with Niceness

This morning my philosophical friend said, ‘We keep calling spade a feather. Let’s call a spade a spade. We need to dig into the truth. The truth is rude and blunt. Truth empties out all the bullshit.’

One colleague told me recently, ‘Religion is not nice.’ I told this to my philosophical friend and she replied, ‘That’s true. And Jesus was tough.’

Niceness is everywhere and nowhere is it sincere. The UPS guy apologizes after hearing that my bike is damaged. Why the knee-jerk apology? I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t need it. Flight attendants apologize when your plane lands five minutes behind schedule. So what? Customer service is so very, very nice, and businesspeople are delicate, polite, squeamish.

Nobody wants to hurt anyone by being direct and truthful; nobody wants to be hurt by anybody by speaking up; everyone believes that he or she is on the verge of being hurt or of hurting others, it seems. We refrain and restrain, and we’re vigilant. We are always watching and scrutinizing ourselves, careful not to say anything that might upset someone else, jeopardize our social standing, or compromise our position. The business word is strategic. The vague pseudo-ethical term is empathy or compassion.

Everyone is strategic, and that’s shameful. Niceness is false.

Sentimentality is nauseating, bullshitting (i.e., a lack of care for truthfulness) is unpalatable, and niceness is enervating. Meanwhile, the truth is hard, it’s blunt, it’s rude, it’s feisty. It also can be cheerful, relieving, joyful. Anyway, it does ’empty out of us all the bullshit.’ To find the truth, we need to cut out all the bullshit, forgo squeamishness, go for broke, examine ourselves, come what may. Who knows what we’ll find?

Make no mistake: rejecting niceness doesn’t mean embracing meanness. Both go down hard. Without both, we can put ourselves on the line.

And if we don’t? Then niceness will continue to keep us from knowing ourselves and from getting to know our fellows. Don’t hurt me, don’t get hurt by me. Well, that’s no way to introduce yourself to yourself or others.

Stop Holding Back!

Stop holding back! Just stop it! Stop giving up, giving in, shrinking back. Just–just stop with all the restraining!

(We need retraining in overcoming restraining. Well, better go get a high paid consultant. Or some facilitator to ‘open the space’ and ‘hold the space’ and ‘take us through a process.’ Go on: can we finally admit that all this stuff is nonsense?)

Don’t you feel the dissipation, the cowering, the smallness of shrinking back? Can you still remember what it felt like to burst forth into life and to become alive with Life?

Come on! 

I mean: Come on!

Hell is ‘I feel hurt.’ Hell is ‘What I hear you saying is….’ Hell is flatness, the flattening out of liveliness.

You don’t kill people anymore. You kill their fieriness by making it impossible for fieriness to achieve form, utterance, articulation. Take the air out of everyone’s lungs: that’ll do it!

Nobody is great anymore and nothing is grand. None of it got killed, only stifled, stymied, put out. So went greatness and grandness without notification or notice.

Let the heart-fire loose! Let it breathe, let it burst forth, let it ignite into who-knows-what. Only let it! 

Letting loose isn’t the same as physical violence, isn’t brutality, isn’t aggression, not necessarily. Letting loose pours one into speaking, acting. Let loose and articulate clearly.

Wildness: the spirit howling in controlled song.

Too much of this ‘non-violent communication.’ Too much of the ‘From my perspective,’ ‘In my experience…,’ ‘For me…': holy shit! Enough of the bullshit! Aren’t you feeling nauseated? I am.

Here’s a way to stifle the fieriness of the spirit: have everyone go around in a large group and give feedback. Feedback? Blah. I remember the creative writing group I was in some years ago. The tacit rule was that you had to begin with four ‘I like…’ statements and then you were ‘given permission’ to make one watered-down criticism or vague recommendation. De-oxycenating.

Where are all the thick skins these days? Huh? Where are all the tough ones? Whence all the soft souls, the meeknesses, the sheer timid, whispering, quilted voices?

There’s so much bullshit today, I mean seriously, and it dries up, squashes, crushes the power of speaking up, of staking oneself, of becoming alive, and of daring to be wrong. I prefer the one who dares to be wrong to the one who says what’s appropriate and probably right. This is an aesthetic judgment: boring.

And there’s a massive amount of crap lingo these days: ‘being vulnerable,’ ‘being raw,’ ‘being present,’ ‘being open.’ And everything and everyone is ‘really’ genuine and ‘really’ generous and everything. And we’re all so grateful and blessed and kumbaya. How any, not to say all, of this is possible I don’t know. In any quantity, let alone such high quantities, flattery is nauseating. So is bullshit. And sentimentality.

Sentimentality destroys the proper value of all things.

Can’t we just stake ourselves on speaking the truth? On acting bravely? How about facing up to things: for once? For once?

Come on now! Have a real go at it!

Courage lies in the conceptual space of Fear and the Good. Look at fear, confront it, face up to it–and transcend it by grasping the Good so firmly. Get tough and growl a little at life. Don’t expect awards or even to live. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Relativism says there’s nothing worth dying for. Then who cares about the relativist? Most think there’s no reason in confronting our fears, just in finding a cure-all. So much the worse for the myriads of fearful. 

We must become a Power like the wind, the sun, a Power that gets poured, concentrated, cultivated into clear thinking, right speech, right conduct. Our foes: bullshit artists, namby-pambyism, and kumbaya. Don’t respond to any of them because you’ll lose if you adopt their terms. Simply: own the center line.

Time to Get Tougher Ourselves

The following character is not so easy to describe in a single word, yet one can get good at spotting him. He is strong, tough, courageous, brave, properly proud, free-spirited, lighthearted, dispassionate, hearty, lively, enlivened, thumatic, vibrant, bursting with life, ‘crazy,’ wild, bloodthirsty, full-throated and big-hearted, ruthlessly committed to discovering the truth, occasionally enraged or outrageous, a lover of pain for the sake of the Good, quiet in such a unique way of ‘being quiet,’ full of bold laughter not least when it comes to himself and his own faults, a risk-taker based on reason, someone who lusts to stake himself to what is grand, a maker of challenges beyond all imagination, a generous spirit, a figure of exhilaration not flowing from imprudent acts, a being antipathetic to creaturely comforts, a rollicky yet self-controlled person, preternaturally cheerful especially amid tension and extra pressure.

The tough person is not at all meek or soft but all stoutness, openness, intense flexibility, fierce agility. What made him so? Hard to say. Surely at least: adversity but, more notably, his facing up to adversity. But surely not that exactly either. Facing up to it by thinking hard about it and by adapting in ways that overcome that particular kind of adversity. Overcome, though, not by forcing his way through like a dumb bulldozer but by making that form of adversity either obsolete or under his control.  Increasing pressures withstood. Aching surprises responded to with alertness and agility, with a warm tranquility. Muscular flexibility. Mental power akin to casuistry. Thinking slowly, very slowly, and acting surely and quickly like a lightning bolt.

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Toughness, not meekness!

There is too much giving in and folding up these days, too much softness and namby-pamby. What has been cultivated oh for many years is meekness as if all forms of power, even the power to live superabundantly, were corrupt. The great act crackling with tension is stifled summarily by the resentful complaint, and ‘every complaint,’ writes Nietzsche, ‘contains revenge’ in its heart.

Too much! Too much! We are overwhelmed! Stop! Do not push us to our limits!

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Vulnerability on the wrong side of the ledger

Claiming that vulnerability is a moral virtue makes the mistake of putting vulnerability on the wrong side of the ledger. An existential term, it is made to pose as an ethical concept. Jonathan Lear helps us see why this is the case.

For in Radical Hope Lear advances the metaphysical thesis that human beings are finite erotic creatures. We are creatures of finitude in the sense that we are limited in a whole range of cognitive, affective, and volitional capacities: there are unsurpassable limits to our knowledge, to our emotional states, and to our wills. We can only know so much, feel so much, and do so much and no more, and there is no getting ultimately beyond this (call it) existential state of being human.

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