Wednesday, 19 February 2014

"This is How"

Speaking of charlatans. There's someone out there with a message again. He has all qualities which regular preachers lack of. And what he has to say is somewhat surprising.

Augusten Burroughs carries a history of writing very personal books, recognized by critics and loved by readers. It's not usual for serious, successful authors to turn into self-help gurus. The more intrigued I felt reaching for it. 

The book is promoted as a satire, but I would argue it is pure in the genre. However again, it would be hard to find another self-appointed teacher, who explains his work as follows: I am a complete and total fuckup. Which is exactly why I am equipped to write this book and tell you how to live.

Except of being an acknowledged author already, he has at least two more strong reasons for taking a stand. First one is that he was supporting a close, terminally ill person and witnessed death. Second is that he is a an alcoholic, AA groups veteran. That makes him believable and interesting in many ways.  

He finds AA groups useful, but feels that philosophy behind it is a joke. He states: My problem with admitting to powerlessness over alcoholism is that it isn’t true. In getting rid of any addiction he advocates immediate, harsh and complete quitting. You need to discover something you would love more than alcohol or drugs or you name it. Because it's impossible to quit what you love.

Opposed to the mainstream, author doesn't recommend any new age solutions like mantras, karma adjustment, feng shui upgrade nor prayers. When multiple bad things happen, it can feel like “life is out to get you.” It’s not. And it’s not a sign, either. Which is both good and bad news, but most remarkably a real one. 

He strongly objects obsession of significance and hardcore individualism. Fate is not fully to be shaped by us. The life you have is a life you were given. There were people there already. And a town that had a name. 

If these things are so obvious, why do we get stuck so often? It's because we over-analyse and avoid the most simple and direct solutions. Dry truth is worth swallowing. So, here we go: there's no such thing as soul mate waiting for you. However destiny and chance are the oldest poker buddies in town. If you're looking for someone, go out more often. As simple as that. Shake you pattern of daily commute. Change your entertainment habits. Go to a place that you don't usually visit.

Imagination is shown as a double-edged sword. It's been developed to help us in life, to come up with solutions. But it brings burden along, either in ideology or in regret. The past—and all the moments it contained—are no longer sharing this world with us. They are no more real than Cinderella.

Burroughs is like a child shouting in your face: The emperor is naked! That might come as a surprise from a gay New Yorker. One could expect him to be metropolis-biased & exalted. He defended himself from this threat by discovering the power of plain distinctions.  
Pain can make you want to die. Discomfort can make you want to kill.
Confidence isn’t competence
Limits are actually opportunities.

Tired already? How about some death, life and love quotes?
Death, when it finally arrives, does so in a surprising fashion: it adds nothing to the room, not a light or a spark or a sound; death does not stir a molecule of the air.
Life is too huge for you to possibly hate.
Love does not maintain a list of your flaws and weaknesses.

Everyday life is tricky. Laundry won't do itself. But we shouldn't explain ignorance with being busy, as we do. We shouldn't agree on some presumed reality, which is defined by salesmen. Burroughs slides in the middle of it with his honest message. I argue it's worth hearing. 

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