2019 is upon us and I feel like maybe we ought to talk about fables. I’ve read Aesop’s Fables.
Beyond being this bizarre tool for both anti-authoritarian propaganda and “know your role” classism (amongst the various racist and misogynist tendencies it has), it makes me think of New Year’s resolutions and the fables we tell ourselves about how we are going to behave.
For example, like most people, I make the same weight loss resolution every year, only to find myself a year later coming off a holiday gorging that puts me right back to where I was.
This year, we’re trying keto. Well, modified keto for me, because I have high cholesterol and the idea of eating that much fat and processed meat makes my heart valves cringe.
I’m sure it’s fine as a short term weight loss tactic, but I’ve now seen multiple studies screaming, “Don’t do it!” as any kind of long term diet plan. Who knew eating a bunch of cheese and bacon would be both a solid weight loss plan and a life-threatening long-term problem?
Oh, wait, for the latter, I suppose it would be all of us, particularly those in the medical field.
It’s interesting the fables we tell ourselves. Eating fat is a great way to lose weight. Only focusing on the positive means everything will be wonderful and the universe will just give us stuff. Pushing a bunch of inspirational quotes on social media will mean that people will think of me as being a good, inspirational person, regardless of whether my actions live up to said standards.
Of course, the reality is different. My cholesterol levels knock off the first one, as does the fact that the WHO now considers processed meat like bacon to be a carcinogen in the same class as smoking. If we ignore the negative, we’re only getting half the story, and there are valuable things to be learned from the bad stuff. Most of the folks I know that focus solely on the positive are often living in a dream world, and missing key understandings of their own behaviour, which results in shitty behaviour for which they refuse to take responsibility.
I think Instagram essentially speaks for itself on the last point.
No, that quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson doesn’t mean that you too are living life to the fullest. You’re on Facebook, on the fucking couch.
No, that selfie you took at a sweet club doesn’t mean you were out dancing and living it up. It more likely mean you turned around and gossiped about your friends, before getting drunk or high and doing something you regret.
That picture of your legs on the beach or of you sailing off to the Bahamas? That doesn’t mean you weren’t shitty to your children or overbearing to your spouse or a terrible employee.
No, you’re not a bitch who tells it like it is, you’re a drama king or queen who needs to think before they speak, or perhaps spend some time considering other perspectives.
Social media is largely all fables. It’s us pretending to be something we’re not, internet tough guys or inspirations or misery porn. Our realities are much different, and much more significant. Who you are is much more important than the illusion of who you want people to think you are.
Honesty is the true bravery these days; admitting we’re not all paragons of virtue, that our faults, our internal contradictions are what they are, that we are all imperfect, incomplete beings just trying to succeed and be happy, with mistakes a-plenty…
This is not a fable. No one is perfect. No one is a paragon of virtue. We are all fucked up in our own little ways, with a thousand different perspectives on who we are, and we should own that.
We’re incomplete, but getting better. There’s no such thing as complete. There’s no such thing as perfection. It’s all transitory. Everything grows. Everything decays.
The only true constants, the only non-fables, are growth and entropy. We are either growing or falling apart.
Faking one while being the other only leaves us self-destructive frauds.
Fall apart or get better.
I know which one I choose. At least, most of the time.