|"I wanna go fast!"|
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1Kings 19:12
I was seized with an acute perfectionist attack recently. Details on that to follow maybe some other day. Let’s just say that in the reviewing of this "attack," it struck me that I’m just like Ricky Bobby in the movie "Talladega Nights." I blame my attack on a bizarre adherence to the (deeply flawed) fundamental precept of the movie:
"If you ain't first, you're last!"
Ricky's incredibly high, absentee, stock-car racing father slurred this doozy during his dramatic exit from career day at school. Rather than take this crumb of anti-wisdom as the meaningless, drug-fueled, vacuous, metaphoric rant of a dumbass, Ricky took it to heart and built a life around it--a life that eventually unraveled. Of course, that's when the movie gets really funny, but I digress.
So often we take these crumbs of anti-wisdom to heart, we sensitive perfectionists and then we build giant life structures around this misinformation as if it were somehow scientifically absolute. I'm not really interested in the why. It's a wholly unsatisfying question, 'why?' with no real answers. We can't fill in the gaps created in childhood (or the womb for that matter); those that make us susceptible to this kind of error-filled sophistry. We can't therapy our way to "doggone it, people like me!" either. Trust me on that one. You can only get so far in a shrink's office. The 100-lb. sacks of grain I have to unload await me in the back of my truck. This is a Higher Power job. Sorry to those of you offended by the Jesus/God thing. But it's true for me. That kind of heavy lifting cannot be done by man alone. In my case, I need a "dolly Lama," if you will.
I'm finally (at 48) learning to first listen to the still small voice inside rather than the voice that tells me "there's a kilo of Colombian Bam-Bam taped to the undercarriage of your '69 Chevelle and I called the cops!" I wasn't always so willing to listen to that quiet, sweet voice. The still small voice of my childhood was indistinguishable from the myriad other internal critical voices. All were asking me to do things I was too afraid, unprepared or unwilling to do.
I was paralyzed by nearly all of them.
Reese Bobby, Ricky's dad, is the epitome of the severest, most obtuse, fickle, arbitrary, critical voice inside all of our heads. This is the voice that will malign a sweet elementary teacher in front of her students. The voice that belongs to a person who bestows upon his son a beautiful, vintage, muscle car--but puts a cougar in the front seat. The voice that can turn lovely family dinner conversation at Applebee's into a tear-filled run down the double yellow of a two-lane highway on a rainy night.
When questioned by Ricky about the "first/last" comment during this very scene, Reese just looked at Ricky like he was nuts. He said, "What are you talking about? That don't make no sense at all. Oh Ricky, I was high! You can be second, third, fourth, hell you can even be fifth!" The protagonist's emotional scaffold crumbled in that scene. It's cool because the background music is Steve Earle's "Valentine's Day," one of the saddest songs ever written about addiction and love and the impossibility of it all.
The thing that struck me about this was that Reese Bobby changed his whole story, changed his mind, changed his ethos without so much as a backward glance or a postcard. He didn't feel compelled to inform his son. He just let Ricky continue to believe that he had to be first and never nothin' but first so help him God. That first/last meme burrowed into Ricky Bobby and took root. It rearranged his molecules and made him different. Hell, what am I talking about? That same meme burrowed into me and 95% of the women I know and about 75% of the men. The big problem is that our critical voices—like Reese Bobby's--have no conscience. These voices are unencumbered by social convention so they can slice through a life at will, without regret or responsibility. Worse, they drown out any contradictory input.
You'll know the critical voice because it's generally sarcastic, funny, cool and sort of alluring. It sounds very convincing and vaguely philosophical until you actually listen closely to it and realize that it’s full of just pure unadulterated horses**t.
And it's mean as hell.
(to be continued--maybe)