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6:40 p.m. - 2012-07-24
For a smart person I am really dumb in some ways.

Errand Day was about as close to Hell as I ever want to come. It was fucking brutal out there today. The next person who exclaims, "Oh, I love summer! Hot weather is wonderful!" is going to get a smack in the snoot. It was Hell out there. Sheer Hell.

Actually, I have no fear of Hell as the place where the bad kids go; for one thing I don't believe in an afterlife, for another I never could figure out Satan's gig. Okay, Lucifer was an angel who tried to thwart God's ultimate authority, right? He had pride and was jealous. And was sent to Hell as punishment after he lost his fistfight with the Archangel Michael (God's personal pit-bull, I guess). So banished to Hell for his presumption Lucifer/Satan is forever bent on subverting God's work and spends his time coercing and conniving people into doing evil. Basically the Devil is dinking with God any and every way he can think of, and yet when people die in sin they go to Hell and Satan spends eternity punishing them for disobeying God's word? Huh? Wouldn't it make more sense if Old Splitfoot met folks at the gates of Hell with a high five and a cold martini? Why would Satan be doing God's work by punishing those who were on his (Satan's) side? If I were Satan I'd be all, "Go screw, Big Guy, you want to get even with all the thieves and masturbators? Punish them yourself, lazy bones." And I'd greet the sinners with a big grin and a hearty, "Well done, you!"

Then again I don't believe in the Big Sky Daddy either, so any and all wonderings about theology are those of a confused outsider. Because, frankly, none of this stuff makes the least bit of sense to me. Sure, I get it that people fear death and they want to think their crappy lives will be redeemed and rewarded eventually so they have a reason to get up in the morning and face the grim reality that is life on Earth. And what better payoff is there than being admitted to God's VIP room and that all the people who gave you shit in this life are going to spend eternity in a lake of fire? It's the ultimate revenge fantasy. But that's all it is- a fantasy. Just like your imaginary football team and that you with your baldy head and big gut are totally going to score with the hot 24 year old across the street just as soon as she realizes it's her destiny.

And seriously, if you can't figure out how to be a decent person and contributing member of society without some cosmic paternalistic watchdog keeping an eye on your every move and to do right you need the threat of eternal damnation hanging over your head, well dude, you have way bigger problems than whether you're on St Peter's kool kids list or not.

Do you really need God to threaten your eternal soul before you understand that it's in society's and your own best interest not to kill people? Or hurt them or steal their stuff or molest little kids or rip-off the less powerful and educated? Do you really? Is your decision-making truly that poor? Wowzers.

It must suck to be you. For reals. It hurts me to think there are those who have so little understanding of the way things have to work that they need some kind of heavenly girdle and goad on their actions just so they can manage to behave themselves. Without God's big punishment stick would you honestly just run amok? Rape, murder, scams, lies, hatefulness, cruelty, you'd be doing those all things if you didn't fear retribution by some smiting God? How disgusting. How sad.

Mick is forever telling me how different I am. He's a bit wonderstruck because getting even, gaining advantage, putting myself before others and taking more than my fair share is so foreign to me. Personally, I think he's the strange one. This war he wages against everyone else. His harsh disapproval of the way everyone conducts their lives- from the way they drive to their poor etiquette at the gym to the shape of their bodies and their choice of clothing and what they name their kids, Mick is always banging on about how stupid people are, how they don't measure up, how much they suck. He's angry and vindictive toward and frustrated by other people's actions. All the time. It's like he needs other people to screw up so he knows how HE should live. Mick craves constant reassurance and validation that his choices are THE correct ones.

I don't get it.

Mick's built-in competitiveness, and judgmental attitude and scorn and his constant self-congratulation over being so very, very right all the time mystifies me. Why does he need to measure himself against anyone else? What good does it do?

I remember when I first started regaining the weight and how low I felt because I'd broken a promise to myself not to get fat again. And Mick tried to give me comfort by pointing out that most of the women at Shoprite had bigger asses than mine. I was confused. My butt wouldn't be one millimeter smaller just because someone else had a bigger one. What did some stranger's rear end have to do with mine? I'd disappointed myself. It didn't matter at all that there were others worse off than I was. Why would it? But in Mick's view my ass size was okay because there were bigger asses out there.

He and I hit a wall that day. A wall that's never really been breached. Mick might not believe in the God of the Bible, but he is always looking outward to measure himself. He needs to feel superior or his own life is worthless to him. Mick needs to win. Against everyone! Without the validation that he's better, stronger, more moral, a more complete educated person Mick's life is empty. He finds no peace in doing his own thing, without his contempt for others' efforts and his satisfaction that he knows more, lifts heavier weights, drives more competently, grooms himself tidier, owns cooler shit, shoot, he might as well lie down and die.

And this I cannot understand. No one else's misfortune or weakness or ignorance is necessary to me to understand myself. Or are used as the markers for my own progress. I can only judge myself. I've only ever lived my own life. I don't know what that other guy has had to live through. I haven't lived their horrors or had their advantages. So it's moot what they might have done with my life. I cannot hold my choices against theirs and find theirs lacking. I can have an opinion about their actions, of course, but as to whether their choices sway my own, no. My life is not less or more meaningful because someone else messed up. As an extreme example, I won't be buying assault weapons and killing strangers in a movie theater now just because someone else did it and I want a higher kill count.

Bigger ass, higher death tally, it's the same to me. What others do is NOT the measure of MY life.

Always has been this way, always will be. I know what a weirdo this makes me. I know my atheism and the blank place where competitive 'morality' is supposed to be my motivation and guiding force, I know these things mark me as an outsider. Just as my outsized physical self has always made me the target for the schoolyard bullies, and how my oddly erudite vocabulary and intrinsic understanding of others' thoughts gave me something of an advantage that others resented. Shit, I've always been odd. I've never wanted or needed anyone else's moral compass or doctrine or beliefs to formulate and hold my own. Never. Neither your failures nor your successes will change the way I behave. I've always had my own thing going on. 'Winning' is a foreign concept. At least as far as besting anyone else goes. I do and have always challenged myself.

I've always knocked heads with myself to cook a thriftier, tastier meal. Write a wittier more informative essay. Do better by my second son than I did by my first. Go another year without a traffic violation. Or a bounced check. To offer a bit more kindness and wiggle room to someone having a rough time. To mind my own business and vote my conscience and try very hard not to despair when others strut their gleeful ignorance and embrace self-defeating economic destruction.

Truly it's not that I'm so good. It's just that the gene to look outward and find my inner power through outward dominance and control was left out of my DNA. It's simply that your decisions haven't ever chosen what kind of person I am. If I can help when you've screwed up, I will. I've screwed up plenty and have been offered a helping hand and a listening ear. If there's an opportunity to go down a path where even more people will be allowed to pursue their dreams then that's the path I'll go. If I am given the chance to give those who've had a crappier deal than me a leg up, I'll lace my fingers and offer a bridge upward. Why? Because it's ultimately to my own advantage. The tide that lifts some boats will eventually lift mine too. I'm selfish enough and honest enough to not need a God or a smiting Devil or to stand on anyone else's neck to see my life will be better and brighter. When those around me (black, white, gay, straight, native English speaker or ESL) have hope and opportunity then I will too. It's just plain old common sense. Do for you today, you'll do for me tomorrow.

Can anyone explain to me why this is so very difficult for most others to understand?

Thanks, ~LA

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