12 Rules of Life: first rule

Considering what might be my twelve rules of life (after Jordan B. Peterson):

I wrote about my first ‘rule’ in 2019 BC (‘Before Covid’): Be Yourself – or, Don’t Pretend To Be What You’re Not. I know this is the theme of every Disney movie there is, but just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean it’s not true. Don’t spend your life at war with yourself. I spent too much of mine doing just that and it leads only to self-hatred and depressive illness. The only way out of the resulting inner conflict and its consequences is to accept yourself and live with who you are.

Life isn’t a box of chocolates but it is like a hand in a card game. You can only play with what you’ve got, not with what you wish you had, nor with what you’re pretending you’ve got. There’s more chance of winning on this basis, though it’s not guaranteed. At least you stand a chance of happiness. 

 

I find that, although I have this as my first rule of life, I haven’t actually written much about it. I wrote more, and more despondently, when I wasn’t being myself. The story that follows, based on something that actually happened to me, perhaps conveys some of what I’m saying here about being yourself. Or maybe not. You decide.

O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive

Frequently and erroneously attributed to Shakespeare, the couplet is from Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion, published in 1808. I read this story on BBC Radio Cumbria a few years ago.

‘You told him what?’ I said incredulously.

‘I told him you played the piano.’

‘But I don’t play the piano,’ I said.

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘I thought you did. I must be confusing you with someone else.’

‘Like who?’ I said, ‘Liberace? Mrs Mills?’

‘There’s no need for sarcasm,’ she said. ‘I’m sure I’ve heard you play.’

‘I’ve never played the piano’ I said, ‘unless you include ‘Chopsticks’ and the first line of ‘We Three Kings’. That’s the total extent of my repertoire.’

‘Oh,’ she said again, ‘but you can’t tell him that. You’ll have to go along with it now. When he asks, tell him you do play.’ She smiled sweetly as if she’d somehow resolved the predicament she’d created for me.

‘Why would I do that?’ I asked her. ‘He leads a world famous orchestra. He’ll see through me in a second. I’ll come clean, tell him you were confused and that I can’t really play the piano.’

‘Oh, please don’t do that,’ she pleaded. ‘You’ll show me up. I’ll feel a right chump.’

‘Surely not,’ I said. ‘Look, honesty is the best policy, Janice, so if he mentions it, I’ll tell him the truth.’

The man himself was coming towards us. My sister-in-law turned, pretending she hadn’t seen him, and launched herself at the buffet. He held out his hand and smiled broadly. ‘Pleased to meet you,’ he said. ‘Janice tells me you’re something of a virtuoso.’

‘Ah yes, about that…’ I began.

‘Yes,’ he went on, ‘it’s so good to have another musician here, especially one of your calibre.’

My calibre? What had Janice been saying to him? But instead of asking him this, I found myself saying, ‘Ah, well… yes, thank you.’

‘Who did you study under?’ he asked.

I hesitated before spluttering, ‘Miss Marjorie Roe’, the name of my music teacher from primary school. Had he spotted my hesitation? Why was I even worried that he might have done?

‘Can’t say I’ve heard of her,’ he said, puzzled. ‘Still, she was obviously capable of nurturing your considerable talent.’

‘She was very good,’ I mumbled.

‘They should have had you play at the ceremony this afternoon. It would have been infinitely preferable to the noise we had to endure,’ he said sniffily.

‘Oh, quite,’ I said. I had thought the little ensemble at my nephew’s graduation was rather good – though evidently not of the same calibre as myself; not if Janice were to be believed, anyway.

‘Listen,’ he said, ‘some students of mine are looking for a little extra tuition and, obviously, with all of my engagements, I just haven’t the time to oblige. I wonder if you might be …’ he left the implication hanging.

How could I extricate myself from this tangled web? Whatever I said, or tried to say, only ensnared me further. ‘No, really,’ I said, ‘It’s just that, you see, I can’t actually…’

‘I quite understand, old chap. So many commitments and demands on one’s time. And it is quite an imposition, I do agree, to have one’s time taken up by the less capable and – let’s face it – less talented.’

‘No, it’s not that…’ I started again to protest.

‘Then you’ll do it? Splendid!’ he cried. ‘And it does pay rather handsomely. Not that that’s a consideration, of course.

‘It pays rather handsomely?’ I repeated. Why, oh why, was I even considering it? It didn’t matter how much it paid; I couldn’t possibly take on his students when I can’t play the piano!

So here I sit, next to the baby grand in the university’s music room, jotting down the conversation as I recall it. My first student will be arriving any minute and I’m hoping against hope he’s interested in learning ‘Chopsticks’.

A Change of Direction

I started this blog in 2013 because I really needed to work out for myself what it was that had taken (away) so many years of my life. Christianity.

I feel now, 7 years and 436 posts later, that I’ve done that. I’ve demonstrated to my own satisfaction that Jesus and all that goes with him, is a myth, a make-believe based on the visions of a few religious nutcases in the first century. (Yes, nutcases. I can’t use any other word.) The imaginings of these zealots and those who perpetuated the lie, duped me, deluded me, took years of my life and stopped me from being myself. It was my fault. I should’ve had more sense than to fall for it. But now I know.

So what to do with this blog? The new, ‘improved’ WordPress platform is far less user-friendly than older versions and over-complex (for me and many others) and I need to simplify what I’m doing with it. I have only a few followers, and even fewer who comment. (I’m grateful to everyone who drops by regularly and to those who leave comments.) I’m sure that from time to time, I will feel moved to write about Christians’ doings and idiocies, but for now at least, I’ll be taking the blog in a different direction.

I’ve recently finished reading Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos. Perhaps you’ve read it. If you haven’t, save yourself several hours of your life that you’ll never get back. While some of the book is undoubtedly interesting – who knew about lobster hierarchies? – it is completely devoid of humour and takes itself far too seriously, reflecting, I’d venture to say, its author’s disposition. Peterson is undoubtedly erudite and uses much of the book demonstrating just how erudite he is. He indulges in interminable digression, replete with chunks of scripture, from whichever ‘rule’ he is ostensibly discussing. And what rules they are! ‘Pet a cat when you encounter one in the street’. ‘Stand up straight with your shoulders back’. ‘Do not bother children when they are skateboarding’. Try living your life according to these profundities and see where it gets you!

Thinking I could do no worse, I’m going to attempt to outline my own 12 rules for life. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief, and I won’t presume to offer an antidote to chaos. Some of the ‘rules’ I’ve already written about in earlier posts so I’ll just précis what I’ve already said or at least attempt to come at them from a different angle.

I’ll follow each post with one of my short stories that (hopefully) illustrates the rule in question. That’s the plan at least. We’ll see how it goes. I would of course appreciate your comments on both of these new elements when they start to appear.

Meanwhile, may 2021 be a much better year for all of us. Surely it can’t be any worse…

 

Lost and Found

Blog362

Be who you are…

because in the end those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

(attributed to Doctor Seuss)

But what if who you are is pretty horrible? What if, when you’ve discover your true self, you find you’re actually mean-spirited, selfish or greedy? Worse: what if you find you have paedophile tendencies or a compulsion to harm others or to murder?

Perhaps I’m naive (I am naive; perhaps I’m now being excessively so) in thinking that an individual’s true nature can never be like this. Someone who is hateful, spiteful or cruel has not discovered their true self nor are they acting from it. Being oneself does not lead to the exploitation of others. Think of the self-actualised people you know, those who are most themselves; they have no need, and no desire, to manipulate or hurt others. Those who do behave like this, act from a damaged part of themselves not from their essential selves.

Am I saying all people are inherently good? No, evidently they are not (though I’d argue nor are they inherently bad). But those who are in touch with themselves have a sense of completion and wholeness that transcends the petty, the unpleasant and religion. It is these people we like being around, because they inspire us to be like them. Others – the majority, perhaps – continue to be dictated to by whatever it is in life that has soured and distorted them, and the world continues to reflect both kinds of people; those who are lost to themselves and those who know who they are.