Monday, July 29, 2019

Getting Out of the Way

Do you ever get out of the way of people who need something more than you do?

The guy who's got D-Day stress levels in his eyes because he needs to make a tight flight connection. You let him pass so he can get off the plane. You'd love to get off ASAP, yourself, but he clearly needs it more. So you get out of the way.

A blaring ambulance appears behind you. Though you're within visual range of sorely-needed coffee, you get out of the way.

A kid really really needs ice cream, in a way you haven't needed anything since the 1980s. You're certainly not going to compete with her. It's not that you don't like ice cream - or wouldn't prefer ice cream sooner rather than later. But you know you don't need it as much as she does, so you get out of the way.

If you develop a courteous habit of getting out of the way, you will eventually observe that everyone needs everything more than you do.


1. They don't actually need it either, but they don't know this. Need stems from ignorance.
2. If needing is ignorance, not needing is wisdom.
3. Stepping out of the way is an expression of strength, not weakness.
4. Not needing + stepping away = wisdom + strength.
5. This equation explains Asceticism - which is so ridiculously out of style that westerners drop their jaws at the befuddling mystery of it, deeming it self-abuse (which is, not coincidentally, precisely how you, in getting out of the way, look in the eyes of needy, ice cream-grubbing little kids).

Three clarifications:

1. Ascetics aren't just naked wanderers with leathery skin or dour self-flagellating monks. Anyone who gets out of the way with any regularity is an ascetic, whether they know it or not.

2. I'm not saying asceticism is always about taking less so everyone can have more. I'm just describing how self-denial feels. The truth is topsy-turvy: neediness is deprivation, so who's actually deprived?

"Needing/Having" isn't winning, it's endless entrapment in a humiliating and senseless Skinner Box. "Not-Needing/Not-Having" is freedom and happiness. It's possible even to Not-Need/Have, but that's so beyond Western sensibility and understanding - super zen or whatever - that people have written impenetrable books to try to explain it.

3. Anticipating pushback re: the word "needs"....

When people in the First World talk about "needs", we are really talking about preferences. 90% of us have our basic needs met as a foregone conclusion 90% of the time. As I once noted, America is so rich that we mistake mere discomfort for bona fide poverty (which has led to an aberration I've termed Liberal Materialism).

But all the above applies to genuine need, too. Ascetics don't need their needs until the tank's pretty close to empty. Why? They've reframed to a broader view (which gives them character). And as I said in my previous posting, "Once you've framed something...a clarity arises that makes everything feel easy. It helps immensely to have a framework for understanding who you are and what you do." Kids (and most adults) view ice cream, et al., in extreme closeup, and can't imagine any other framing.

Note: I'm coming at this from a slightly different angle from two previous efforts:
An Adult View on Preference
The Inside Story on Asceticism

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Yippee! I'm a goddamn ascetic Jim. Woot! Happy snoopy dance. And here I was thinking I was a sheep in a world of Shelties. Gonna have to think on this. I have told my food group that the North East Us has a different vibe. I thought we northerners could be rude and pushy but I guess we are just needy. I almost always get out of the way. A woman in Aldi tried to step into the space I was occupying because I paused for a second at the butter to make sure I was getting the unsalted kind. I moved and let her grab her butter (four!) first and told her I always let the person who is more in a hurry go first. She told me she was always in a hurry and always out of butter. I go the speed limit and people beep at me and pass me illegally a lot. I really have to move slowly in the locker room sauna shower area at the gym. I never stand too close to the paper towel dispenser. I almost got accidentally punched in the eye once while standing there. My big tech is to never be in a hurry if I can possibly help it. Got to get to the post office and Frankenfield but I will re read your post later when I can slow down even more. Other people seem to find being in a hurry energizing like they are in an action movie, alsway the hero but I find it wasteful Thanks again Jim

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