Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Trick to Life

"Be nice," is one of the more annoying platitudes in life. Every time I hear it I'm transported back to kindergarten play time. It's similar to "be careful" in the sense that we hear it so much (especially from authority figures) that it loses all meaning. It's extremely vague to begin with; what is "nice" anyway? It could be a million things to a million different people. Not to mention, these phrases don't help when it comes to outside influences. That tractor trailer blew through the red light and plowed into your Nissan and didn't give the slightest fuck about how careful you were. And no matter how nice you treat Bruce McShitstain during lunch period, he still gives you an atomic wedgie. So what's the point of even trying?

When it comes to being nice, there is a point. It's the whole point of living, in fact.

I just watched the entire first season of Maron on Netflix. It is a quasi-autobiogriographical account of the comedian Marc Maron's life, in the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Really, in the style of all "angry white guy strolls around and interacts awkwardly with others while pontificating on the peculiarities of life" shows(Curb, Louie) and I'm a sucker for all that shit. In the show, and in real life, Maron has a podcast where he interviews comedians and talks about his messed up life, especially his ex-wives and his former drug addiction. Maron is trying to become a better person by working though his issues. It's not easy, and he usually makes things worse, but there is an uplifting aspect to the show that keeps the viewers interested. Nobody wants to see some loser shlepping around and continually being a loser, we want some kind of arc in the characters we watch. Even Larry David grows as a person over the course of the series. He's still a complete neurotic asshole, but he also gives a kidney to his friend and takes in victims of Hurricane Katrina. He has an arc.

And we should want that arc for ourselves. When a character in a movie or show remains static and doesn't try to improve (whether they succeed or not) we get bored, but oftentimes, we're perfectly happy remaining static in our own lives. Even if our lives suck, many people would rather stay in the rut than make any attempt to get out of it, because trying is hard. Making improvements is hard. And that's not sarcasm, I'm completely serious. Trying to improve your own life is one of the hardest things in the world to do, but it's also one of the most important, and when you think about it, it should be your one absolute goal in life. Improve. Always improve.

It doesn't always work out, and sometimes we have to take one step back to get two steps forward (shoutout V.I. Lenin and MC Skat Kat) but I believe it is that struggle to do better that defines people, even those not trying to do better. Especially those not trying.

And I'm not just talking about financial or career success, although that's a part of it. I'm talking about becoming a better person. I believe that most of us want to do it, some are just more proactive about it than others. How many smokers have you heard say, "I'm trying to quit," or "I want to quit." Just because the majority don't actually quit, or lose weight or whatever, doesn't mean they don't want to or that they are not trying. Even those who are proactive oftentimes relapse, just ask any recovering addict; it's a never-ending torment. People who are unemployed, or unhappy at their jobs, or unhappy in their relationships, they want to change and improve, they just don't have the willpower or the know-how, and maybe outside forces are working against them, or maybe it's a combination of reasons. Life is just really hard. Waaah. (Seriously though.)

Unlike many people, I believe that humanity as a whole is improving and we are living in the best time to be alive; however, that doesn't negate the fact that being happy and successful is extremely difficult for the majority of people.

Everyone struggles. Some people have a much harder struggle, but all of us have some kind of personal struggle we deal with every single day. Don't discount other people's struggles. And be nice.

That kindergarten cliche is really the key to life. I promise. So does Robert Fulghum. No matter your outlook on life, being nice will help you become happier and more successful. Those who are naturally nice are better off, because they just get to act natural and it pays off for them. I'm naturally kind of an asshole, but at least I'm trying.

Now, even if you look at it from a pessimistic, selfish angle (or a "business-minded" angle, if you will) being nice is still in your favor. You want people to be on your side because you need them, whether it's to do work for you, or buy something from you, or maybe protect you from the Bruce McShitstain in your life, and the easiest way to get their trust and loyalty, or business, is to be nice. You catch more flies with honey and all that (even though that phrase has actually been proven inaccurate, the meaning behind the idiom is still true). What you put out in life is what you receive, and even if you're faking your niceness for your own benefit, when you do it long enough, it becomes natural and right. Besides, it's contagious, so you really can't help it.

I'm basically just reminding everybody of the golden rule and letting everyone know that being treated nicely is the best way to be treated. So be nice everybody. Take it from this kid...

Wouldn't life be better if we all acted like that?

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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