On Gurus

Social media confuses me. Heck, social interaction at all confuses me.

I always think I should say something, something witty, something intelligent or insightful.

What I end up saying is usually a joke, if anything.

Indeed, whenever I go to join the conversation, as we’re so often encouraged to do by companies and politicians and movements and fandoms everywhere, I tend to find that anything I can or would say has either already been said, been said better or that I’m operating at a level of intelligence well behind most other (non-Trumpian) individuals.

More often than not, when I go to write something on Twitter or Facebook or even this blog or a story I’m writing, I end up reaching a point where I think, “I have absolutely nothing to say.”

I’m fairly well read, and I’ve read enough to know that I don’t have much to offer the world in terms of philosophy or psychology. I mean, I read and think a lot and many ideas occur to me that make me think, wow, that’s new, but really, it’s only new to me.

There’s always someone who has already done it and done it better.

Sadly, I feel there’s nothing that I can contribute to society that isn’t already in existence in a better, more popular form.

That’s why I don’t like gurus. Eckhart Tolle, of The Power Of Now fame, is exactly why I don’t like gurus.

Mindfulness, presence – these aren’t new concepts. They’re important concepts, concepts that are absolutely critical to the achievement of happiness and peace in this world.

But they aren’t new. Lao Tzu, Buddha, Marcus Aurelius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, these are just a few of the names who have written on the subject, dating back thousands of years.

You wouldn’t know that reading Tolle. Reading Tolle, you’d think he discovered the concept all on his own, that he discovered it quite randomly in a “transformation” (which sounds like the same kind of bullshit transformation I used to try and convince myself I’d transcended, but which reeked of the ignorance of the things in my life that I actually needed to change), and then was able to reinforce it by finding hidden meanings in the writings of Buddha, Jesus and Lao Tzu.

What gets me most is the way he takes an important concept and then buries it in obfuscation, trying to hide its simplicity in a pile of other bullshit he’s clearly made up, in an effort, presumably, based on how he tries to repeatedly imbue himself with the same standing as Jesus and Buddha, as some kind of messiah.

Add in some mansplaining, a weird potential fetishism for periods, and some very questionable sections that could easily be read in the kind of nonsensical word salad you’d hear from Donald Trump, and you’ve got someone intentionally complicating something uncomplicated in order to set themselves up as an authority.

A guru.

There’s us versus them, end of the world statements and even some strong hints at everlasting life and heaven. All very cult leader, couched in the kind of dismissive, divisive, attacking language more reminiscent of authoritarians than people promoting presence and mindfulness.

And people eat this shit up.

Me, I like my teachers more down to earth. They need to show humility and ask questions, and convey ideas in ways that are intended simply to present the idea – not the persona behind the idea.

And that’s what I’m looking for.

I don’t need to be a guru. I’m not an extrovert. I can speak publicly, but I don’t like to if I don’t have to. I’d much rather a small gathering, a handful of friends, over a big stage any day.

Beware those who spend as much time promoting themselves as they do their ideas.

To me, a real guru is merely a vessel for an evolving set of ideas or idea. A friend to give you gentle advice or to lose yourself with in one of those rambling, fireside philosophy jams.

It’s not a man on a stage preaching. It’s a friend on a folding chair shooting the shit at a very high level.

All these ideas have been around for a very long time. There are wonderful teachers to be had – Jon Kabat Zinn, Alan Watts, the Tao Te Ching, Benjamin Oliver. They all do a good job explaining, without the excess.

And maybe it’s not a matter of having something new to say. They keep saying there’s only so many stories. Maybe the trick is not in what you say, but how you say it and to whom. Not everyone’s going to get you.

Maybe I’m reading Tolle wrong. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe it’s exactly what I think it is, but he was early in the stages of growth into presence and overreaching, his ego embellishing or fabricating ideas with excess he wasn’t yet aware of. Maybe now he’s all he claims to be.

But then again, maybe not. I can’t imagine fame and money does much to curb the kind of narcissism imbued in The Power Of Now.

I think I’ll skip A New Earth, and save myself the disappointment of finding out whether I’m right.

M.T.

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