I want to write this article using as few words as possible. My father was a man of few words I can be, too. I usually am. Except, sometimes when I start talking and sometimes when I start writing, I get so interested in the thoughts that are coming out and so interested in what thought I am going to express next, that I have trouble stopping.
I never have been good at looking people in the eye. It’s a common guy thing. It is not because I feel guilty about something. It is not that I find the person I am talking to to be frightening. It it just that I feel fear when I think about looking anybody in the eye. I don’t feel like this makes me any less of a man. I don’t think me telling you this secret makes me any more of one either. It just is what it is.
What not feeling comfortable looking people in the eye has given me is good peripheral vision. I used it a great deal when I counseled people as a professional social worker. I was a little like the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He sat behind his patients who were lying down. The reason was he knew that his facial expressions could stop his patients from expressing themselves. If a patient told him something a little disgusting and Sigmund looked disgusted by it, the patient might not get to the really disgusting stuff.
My clients didn’t lay down, unless a physical disability made it impossible for them to sit up. I didn’t sit behind them. I was not a psychoanalyst and have some problems with much of what Freud believed in. I tried to keep a poker face when a client told me something ridiculous, but was particularly good at seeing facial expressions of clients giving me feedback as to what I said to them. I was good because they didn’t know that even though I wasn’t looking right at them, I could see their facial expressions and sometimes right through their nonsense.
This is a long set up to saying that when I talk too much, sometimes I keep right on talking and sometimes I don’t. When I keep on, it is because I often miss noticing the eyes of my listener rolling, rather than glossing over. Sometimes I miss the facial cues of: “Oh my God” and “What the fuck?” and You have got to be kidding me.”
Of course, as I am typing this, I am getting no such feedback. If you are making funny faces as you read this, it is too late for me to do anything about it.
If you are reading this at all, you can thank editors at goodmenproject.com. If you don’t like what you are reading, that is not their fault. You can blame me. Whenever anything I write gets posted on the goodmenproject.com website, I give thanks to the editors who tweaked it and more thanks to the editors who have taught me so much about writing—that has resulted in my stuff not getting edited much. I get the feeling the Good Men Project editors feel good about their previous work with me, too.
If you have read this far, you are not like most other Internet information consumers. Your brain hasn’t been rewired to the point that you can’t stand reading anything over four sentences, unless it is illustrated with pornography.
I hope something I’ve written so far has made you laugh silently at least, if not, out load. I hope I will get around to writing some things that will make you think and that I will be able to do it with few words.
Okay, I guess I am ready to give you guidance on how to live the rest of your life in eight words. I call them them the Four Knows.
Since the very popular Ten Commandments had ten “no, no’s,” I thought I should have at least as many “yes, yes’s” to live by. But sadly I could only come up with four.
- Know Fear
- Know Now
- Know Nothing
- Know Complaints
Before I help you to know about these knows, know that I probably stole all of this wisdom from sources I mainly forgot. I can’t help you get interested in any of this by telling you that I got it all from a great philosopher, a renown team of scientific researchers, a celebrity, a tradition of indigenous people, your favorite religion, media sources you trust, or your mother because I don’t remember who is responsible. I could suggest you believe in this stuff because I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it from Donald Trump, but I won’t, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t.
Your going to just have to take it from some random old guy with a gray beard that this is some good stuff right here.
KNOW FEAR means to know that the only thing to fear is fear itself. (Okay, I think I know where that one came from, but let’s keep this moving.) Know that when fear is helpful for you to know what to do, be grateful that you know what fear is good for. When it makes you anxious for a few hours then you have more knowing to do.
KNOW NOW means knowing that living in the past or in the future is not only impossible, but they are not the best places for you to even want to live.You may already know that you don’t want to I’ve in the bad places of your past. You may already know that you don’t want to live in the scary places that the future is going to serve up for you, but you may not yet know that you don’t want to live in either place at all. To know this, get to know the present moment better. The present lives in a great neighborhood, even if you don’t. Some people think they are living in an infinite, eternal paradise.
These people Know Now.
You may already have some sense that there is a world much better out there and you can find it by spending more time looking within. To do so is to spend time understanding that time does not exist.
Okay I know I just lost much of my audience. If you are going now because I am boring you, because you know everything I’ve written about already and more, it is your time to go. If I got you interested in going away to meditate or consume some media on these matters that you trust, glad I could point you in the right direction. If you are leaving because you think I am some pompous know-it-all and actually know nothing, well the next Know is the one about Nothing so you might want to keep reading.
KNOW NOTHING KNOW HOW. The art of knowing nothing or what I shamelessly call Know Nothing Know How, can’t really be put into words, because words are things. You just can’t describe nothing with using things. You need to use something else.
One of the best non-things to use is meditation, which is essentially the art of focusing your attention on nothing, where you feel very alert and not there at all. Practicing this by paying alert attention to something very boring is the essence of all meditation practices. If you Google mediation you’ll see what I mean. Unfortunately, many men find paying close attention to boring stuff to be…well, boring and the opposite of enlightening. Many men will never know what they don’t know and that is okay, too.
When you do even a little thinking you come to know the obvious thing—things don’t exist. Take the moon, for example. Have you ever seen an image of the moon with the label MOON on the surface of it. You don’t see this because how the moon became the moon is that a person at a point in history saw that thing and said “moon” and it caught on. We forgot when, but that is how it happened with every single thing that there is. (If you just thought it was Keith Moon, drummer for the English rock band The Who who named the thing, you are trying to be a wise ass, so please just stop.)
Now an important side bar is that while there are many things named after women, there are very few things named by women. I know this is a big problem, but this article isn’t about that. Please don’t hate me for not writing more about that. I said it was important. My readers’ attention spans are good, but they have their limits.
Now,don’t think for a moment that the things are real and that it is just their names that are not. Don’t believe there are things out there we haven’t discovered and named yet. Don’t believe there are separate things we will be amazed with when scientific research provides evidence they influence each other in some way. Of course everything influences every other thing, because there are no things.
It is all just one thing. That includes us by the way.
Once you know what you may have expected for a long time, that there are no things—ta da— you know nothing. Knowing complaints can be more tricky.
KNOW COMPLAINTS. A guy named Dale Carnegie wrote a book entitled, How To Win Friends and Influence People. This book still sells. Dale Carnegie seminars continue to make millions. I have never read the book. Never gone to a seminar. I have talked to people who have. They’ve had some influence on me.
One of Carnegie’s gems is “Don’t Complain.” You may think other people like your complaining just as long as it is not about them or someone or something they like. But they really don’t like your complaining as much as you may think. You may complain that I am wrong, that your friends complain all of the time themselves and seem to be liking it. I know that, but watch what happens when you stop.
Some complain Dale Carnegie seminars are too expensive. Many think they are worth every penny. I know I can’t afford them. It is screwed up, that as hard as I have worked, I don’t have enough money to feel at all comfortable in my retirement. Oops! Now, where was I? Oh yes, Know Complaints.
It is one thing to have complaints and keep them to yourself or to save them to dump on someone you love. It is another thing to have no complaints at all.
Many people feel the universe could use some fine tuning. Others feel it is beyond repair. Others feel the universe is perfect just the way it is. The way it is perfect just the way it is often escapes us, but the way it is perfect, is the way it is.
Don’t get me wrong, to know complaints is not to forget what your landlord will do if your rent is late. It is not to forget what complaints you may later have if you don’t floss your teeth or eat too much sugar.
To know complaints is not to just not care about the cries of the oppressed and the abused and those too hungry to be able to cry. To know complaints is not to just forget about the complaining our planet is doing more and more.
To Know Complaints is to act to stop these things when the opportunities arise. Knowing complaints is to not feel too good about your values and good intentions and even your righteous actions. It is not to feel too bad that you are not Superman.
Know Complaints is knowing that we are each on a unique path. That we each have our part to play in the universe’s never-ending story. When we divert from the characters we have been assigned, the universe will let us know. When we don’t pay attention, it is to our greater or lesser peril.
Why the universe includes what we perceive to be evil, is but the ground good grows out of and returns to, over and over, forever. We can not know with our minds, but when you know it you know it. I might not have set up the universe this way, on second thought I did and you are doing it, too.
Whether reading this blew your mind or wasted your time, thank you for reading and for maybe believing that we are all in this together.
I have nothing to try and sell you. You looking at this won’t make me any richer. If you actually believe you can live your life well in eight words you may be an idiot or you may be right. I just don’t know.
Photo credits: Getty Images