“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” ― Oscar Wilde

Has any quote been more appropriate for now than this one by Oscar Wilde? Say what you may about him, Wilde sought to transpose the beauty he saw in art into daily life.

Wilde believed that the artist should hold forth higher ideals, and that pleasure and beauty would replace utilitarian ethics. His pursuit of such led him into situations that would see him incarcerated for “gross indecency” and “homosexual” behavior. Thankfully, laws such as those that imprisoned him have been overturned in most places. But prisons don’t need to have walls to remove people from society. There are other ways of separating those “undesirables” from the larger group. And unfortunately, we’ve become quite adept at doing so.

It is the quote at the top of this post that resonates the most with me today. We find ourselves in a terrible place – one where we’re isolating ourselves from a world that has become dangerously contagious; one that has become horribly divided; one that is economically insecure; and finally, one that ignores or worse, pits brother against brother.

This is a world we have created, perhaps not intentionally, but through neglect and inconsideration of others. We have looked out for ourselves to the detriment of others in an Ayn Rand wet dream, focusing on the individual over each other. Indeed, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”

Wilde had it right. This is our world and we have made it a hell, but we can also change that. Do we have the fortitude and the intention to do that? It would mean some seismic shifts from the top to the bottom of this country. No one will be left unaffected by it; some will be pleased and others will be furious. Change isn’t easy.

Again, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” What are we going to do about it?


The devil you know vs…

At what point in a person’s life does self-awareness seep in? Or perhaps the question should be, does everyone achieve self-awareness? The fates aren’t that egalitarian. Arguably, they appear to be sheltering-at-home lately, wherever that may be, and not doling out that quality broadly. I would posit that at no time in our recent history has there been a greater lack of self-awareness than now. Yes, the fates are either staying at home or are enjoying no small amount of Schadenfreude over the current state of affairs.

Nowhere is that lack of self-awareness more apparent than in government. Not just at the national level, but state and local as well. There are those carelessly handing down edicts whose ramifications will be felt for generations. There has been too much division in this country for too long, the latest line of demarcation being old vs. young. Who gets to live and, well, you know the argument.

In the ’60’s, one of the rallying cries was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Has that come to pass? Were I still in that demographic, I could very well be carrying that placard. It seems that too many of those in power shouldn’t be trusted with those decisions affecting our lives and not surprisingly, they are over 30. Maybe we should have paid more attention to that slogan.

Some are just simply over their heads, flailing about (see Peter principle below) with maybe some cognizance of their limitations. Others believe their own PR and are enamored with their self-importance (see Dunning-Kruger below) and believe in an unrivaled omnipotence. Both are dangerous, one more than the other.

So you decide, the devil you know or… Who wants to make that decision?

Info dump: To keep all things equal, the source for the information below is Wikipedia (for better or worse).

The Peter principle is a concept in management developed by Laurence J. Peter, which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence”: an employee is promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. (Wikipedia)

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence. (Wikipedia)   #bmeisterman.com

What is love?

In 1993, the Trinidadian-German Eurodance artist Haddaway released the club song What is Love? And what does that have to do with Jacob Will? A lot it seems. To him, love eventually led to hurt and he was afraid of that. That was just one of his issues.

On his quest to commit eleven little deaths, he saw first hand what love really looked like – and it wasn’t at all what he knew. But he did know it was genuine and right.

A set of unmatched bags…

When people talk about someone having baggage, they’re usually referring to those issues that need to be dealt with. It’s not unusual, when drilling down into them, to discover they’re all related. Some of that is true for the middle-aged protagonist of A Coward’s Guide to Living, one Jacob Will.

But in his case, it’s a grand set of unmatched luggage, different sizes, colors, and of no good to anyone, including Jacob, and more of it than he might care to admit. In fact, that is the problem – acknowledging that which he’s been uselessly carrying around his entire life.

In his case, the lost and found is and isn’t the answer. He’s got to find out what his issues are before he can finally lose them, and that’s easier said than done. It’ll take at least eleven little deaths for him to overcome the crap holding him back.  And how he does it, well, let’s just say it will take him places he’s never dreamed of.

True life.

In order to move forward, A Coward’s Guide to Living protagonist Jacob Will had to get past “Stop.” That’s probably true for many of us. I know it is/was/(still!) for me. We all have our issues, hangups, and internal roadblocks that prevent us from getting anywhere. And that’s what A Coward’s Guide to Living is all about.

It’s been said too many times, ‘write what you know’ and this is some of what I know or at least suspect. While this book is fiction, some of it is ‘torn from the front page’ (overly dramatic, yes?) of my life. Consequently, in those cases, I do know of what I’ve written. Some of the issues written in this book are universal, while others are personal. A number of incidents portrayed here are real and for the most part, unembellished. Except for the alarm clock.

Other situations are fiction with a hint of truth/reality in them. Hopefully, the whole book rings true. For the past few months, I’ve been teasing about the story here. Now, as I move forward with the blog part of this website, I will write more about what brought A Coward’s Guide to Living into being. I hope you enjoy it.