Saturday, October 3, 2009

THE I & I SELFHOOD TEST

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
~ Socrates

The previous installment of this Blog was titled #1 RULE OF SELFHOOD. In that Blog Bit, for all intents and purposes, I accused about 97% of the American people of being “Followers.” Only I did this in a pretty nice way (for me), so really, you ain’t got much to bitch about.

Since that posting, I have been flooded with hundreds and thousands and fifteenillion e-mails and comments asking me, “Stephen! But how can I tell if I’m really being true to myself or not? How do I KNOW if I’m truly being ME?” In fact, I received so many e-mails that it caused my computer to crash . . . into a bottle of bourbon, which sent me reeling. Luckily for me I had my seatbelt securing my glass and had some ice cubes within easy reach. An accident like that would have killed a lesser drunken man.

“What if I were to die tonight, not liking myself?”
~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Well, on the surface, a question such as “How do I KNOW if I’m being me?” seems as preposterous as Tigger’s chin. But when you stop and consider it a bit more seriously, the question is not so insane as it might at first seem. When we consider that a large segment of our population has spent so many years following the “In Crowd” and letting the Herd Mentality do the thinking and choosing for it, it’s not hard to understand that the Followers’ natural instinct of Selfhood can become dulled or atrophied. Think of a wild animal: if you continually feed it, over time its hunting instincts will go south on it. You know, like in the maxim “Use it or lose it”? We keep and sharpen that which we use, the rest gradually disappears. If a person has grown accustomed to allowing the commonly accepted social standards to dictate what he or she thinks, wears, drives, watches, listens to, etc., then at some point, this person may indeed have trouble determining what he or she is genuinely attracted to and repelled by. Fortunately for this person, there is THE IMAGINATION & INTROSPECTION SELFHOOD TEST.

The person who has remained true to himself all along will find the idea of a Selfhood Test to be almost funny. I mean, if I see a coat hanging on a rack, I hardly need to test myself to determine whether or not that coat is really me; I just look at the coat and think ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it.’ And that’s the end of the decision making process. But this may not be quite so easy for that person who has spent years trying to “Fit In.” His or her first thoughts might be: ‘Is anyone else wearing this coat these days?’; ‘Have I seen anything like it in Ms. Magazine?’; ‘Would Angelina Jolie put on something like this?’; ‘Is this Brad Pitt material?’; ‘What will my friends think?’; ‘Will anyone laugh at me if I wear this in public?’; ‘Will people point and say “Look!” in a good way or a bad way?’

Well, my question to YOU is, how are you going to stand up against the devil if you can't even resist the faddish temptations of "this world"? Am I talkin' to you? Yeah, I'm talkin' to you, Tattooboy. And you too, Tattoogirl.

“A mighty oak was once a little nut that stood its ground.”
~ Anonymous

But we need to have a little empathy for our Brothers and Sisters who are only now trying to break through the pattern of Following to find their own Voice; we must learn to be patient with them, to be understanding and supportive. Until the Follower regains his or her ‘Selfhood Sea Legs’, we need to accept that this person may need a kind of ‘Training Wheels’ attachment to guide them, a kind of Selfhood Test in order to reactivate the personal instincts necessary for Flying Solo.

Fortunately for Fadboy and Fadgal, The Imagination & Introspection (or, I & I) Selfhood Test is quick and easy to take. It requires just a little imagination but a lot of honest introspection. With a little practice, the test will come quicker and easier and before you know it, you’ll know You without it. Here’s how it works . . .

Anytime you find yourself questioning whether something (anything) is really “YOU” or not, you use your imagination to imagine that you are the only person in the world who will be doing this. As an example, let’s take eyebrow rings. Let’s say that you are about to get your eyebrows pierced so you can wear rings in them. Now, first we must forget that fifteenillion teenagers are already wearing eyebrow rings because they are so fashionable right now. Pretend that no one anywhere in the United States of America has ever heard of an eyebrow ring. I don’t know, try to imagine that it’s 1956 and the number one record on the charts is ‘Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)’ by Perry Como. Realize that if you go to school tomorrow with rings through your eyebrows, you are going to be the only person there with such things. Oh, people are gonna look at you alright, and they’re gonna ask you, “Midge, why do you have rings in your eyebrows?” Are you going to stand up for your “Personal Image and Self-Expression” and all that? Are you REALLY, TRULY, and HONESTLY going to get these eyebrow rings anyway and face the music day after day just because you “think” they are SO YOU?

If you answer “No” or “I’m not sure”, then eyebrow rings aren’t really you after all. If you can say with total heartfelt honesty that you WOULD have walked around with eyebrow rings in 1956 even though you were the only one in the country wearing them, even though you were TOTALLY ALONE in the Eyebrow Ring Department, then you are justified in wearing them today in 2009. But then I have one more question for you: If you are truly so brave in your “Youness” then how come you aren’t openly listening to Paris Hilton music when you know that secretly you like it? (Ha!)

But like I said before, this test requires only a little imagination but it simultaneously requires BRUTALLY HONEST INTROSPECTION. If you’re lying to yourself, you’ll know it deep inside. Don’t listen to your bravado; listen to your Still Small Voice buried beneath your bravado and your B.S. and your dirty socks and your now neglected Britney Spears CDs.

This test will work on anything, and it works from both angles up for consideration. In other words, it’s effective in determining if you are listening to Nickelback just because all the cool kids in your school do, but it’s also effective in determining whether or not you are NEGLECTING a certain facet of your personality because none of the cool kids are currently expressing a similar aspect of personality. And as I have previously stated, I consider this latter sin to be as serious as the first (“sin” means “to miss the mark”).

To illustrate this latter point, let’s take my old friend Big D whom I mentioned in #1 Rule Of Selfhood. Big D could apply The I & I Selfhood Test to see if he was refraining from expressing himself only because what he was genuinely attracted to was not currently fashionable. Big D could use his imagination to imagine that most of the men in the country were currently wearing fedoras and all the old 1940s style clothing, and then he could ask himself, “Would I too wear a fedora and 1940s style clothing under these circumstances?” That is to say, he’s attempting to determine if he would “folllow suit” if his fellowmen made it Socially Safe to do so. Well, since we know that Big D would answer “Yes” to this question (since he told me as much many years ago), then he has determined for himself that in the area of fashion, he is too afraid to be Himself. Fear of “standing out from the crowd” prevents him from expressing his True Self when it comes to clothing.

“Can you see the real me? Can you?”
~ Mr. Paulboy Prodigalman [via The ?]

The I & I Selfhood Test can help the Big Ds out there to ascertain the truth of their inner selves; unfortunately, however, it can’t help them to find the courage to overcome their fear of bucking the social trend. The courage to be Yourself, no test and no person can give to you. For that, you’ll simply need to dig deep, put on the whole armor of Selfhood and declare, “I’m here to do battle for to save My Unique Personality.”

Only that which you would think, do, wear, drive, watch, or listen to, regardless of how many other people or how few other people did the same thing, is AUTHENTICALLY YOU. Would you weally and twuly be listening to Madonna if everyone else in the world was mad about Schubert? Would you weally and twuly be watching NASCAR if the only other person in attendance was the toothless Kettle Korn vendor? Would you weally and twuly be driving that Ram 2500 4X4 Pickup Truck if every other woman in the world drove a little red Corvette? Would you weally and twuly be watching South Park if every other guy in the world was watching North Park? Would you weally and twuly drink margaritas every New Year’s Day if everyone else in the world traditionally drank urine? (Yeah, me too. It seems we may be a lot alike, you and I.) The questions you must ask yourself are:

IS THIS THE DIRECTION I WOULD GO IN EVEN IF I HAD TO GO IT ALL ALONE?

If you can unequivocally answer “Yes”, then this is The Real You.

ALTHOUGH I AM NOT CURRENTLY GOING IN THIS DIRECTION, WOULD I DO SO IF EVERYONE ELSE SUDDENLY DID, THUS MAKING IT SOCIALLY SAFE?

If you can unequivocally answer “Yes”, then due to fear, you are currently neglecting an authentic aspect of The Real You.

“You can’t have a True Friend
until you’ve found the True You.”
~ Ye Olde Philosopher

Get in the habit of posing these questions to yourself, imagining the situation and waiting for The Honest Answer, and eventually you will find your natural born instincts taking over to such a degree that you no longer need to apply The Imagination And Introspection Selfhood Test. Someday you will find that you are YOU and without having to think twice about it. The friends who have stuck with you will be “True Friends” and the new people you meet who do like you will really like YOU. And I’ll like you, too, even if I don’t like you (not that you would or should care!)

“[John] Madden is…one of those rare people who have been blessed with an absolutely clear view of themselves; he likes being popular and admired, but he doesn’t need any of that to tell him who he is.”
~ Jonathan Yardley

BOOM! There it is! We all need to be like John Madden, except in our own inimitable way. WWJD? What Would John Do?

Alright, you’re armed with all you’ll need to discover that unique person hiding underneath all your tattoos and body piercings. Now find YOURSELF and be THAT which you are. And know that we’re behind you all the way as you go to find the True You.

You’re not going dressed like THAT, are you?
Then we’re WAY behind you all the way!

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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7 comments:

mousiemarc said...

I like it.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

`
Thanks, BR'ER.
~ "Lonesome Dogg" McME

arlee bird said...

Well, Stephen, some more fine commentary that really is spot on. On the rating system that is at the end of the column (where does that come from?) I gave it a Yoo-Hoo, which is the best rating in my book right now. Although I do like some fine wine on occasion, Yoo-Hoo sounded a whole lot better to me right now so that was the better rating in my book. Just staying true to myself. Heck, if it had been breakfasttime and I was feeling in an astronaut mood I might have rated it a "Tang".

I've been promoting your blog some. Referring to your previous blog, a reader comments:

"I had a quick look at his blog and had to exit laughing because I just got two tattoos to celebrate my 60th birthday in June. My Scottish thistle and Australian wattle are very pretty but in no way can I compare to Gene Tierney (with a tiny butterfly) who Stephen has just swatted unmercifully. I've failed his test. But I will check in from time to time."
Valerie Henshaw (you might recall that name?)

I will check out your next post.
Lee

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

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rLEE-b ~
Thanks for the kind words, Brother.

You can add a "feedback" or "grading" option to the bottom of your Blog Bits by going into your "Dashboard" and clicking "Layouts." Then click "Edit" under the "Blog Posts" category. Find where it says "Post Page Options" on the window that appears, and down below you'll see where it gives you the option to add feedback. You can use Blogspot's suggested words (Cool, Interesting, etc.) or change them to suit yourself. I went with "Fine Wine, Yoo-Hoo, and Tang" because I GOTTA BE ME!

Although I've always been a big fan of Yoo-Hoo (watch for a forthcoming Blog Bit about it!), anyone who would choose Yoo-Hoo over Fine Wine should probably be banned for life from my Blog. I'll make an exception in your case, however, only because we're friends.

>>[I've been promoting your blog some.]<<

Hey, thanks. And while I do appreciate your efforts on my behalf, I'm afraid my Blogs are beyond help. I think even Jesus couldn't save 'em. :o)

I do indeed recall Valerie Henshaw. She posted some interesting comments on my old thread "The One Song Every American Likes", and she was one of a few people who attempted to defend me when Amazon.com bounced me from its website for being too politically incorrect (i.e., too truthful).

I seriously doubt Valerie will revisit this Blog, let alone become a regular reader of it, but I'm just glad to know that she was able to laugh about that posting. That shows she has some good character right there.

Thanks again, rLEE-b.

~ Stevie
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>

arlee bird said...

Yoo-Hoo Stephen,

Hey I was just in a Yoo-Hoo mood when I wrote that. I think it was because Friday night I almost crossed the line with some wine that was not so fine (it came in a box with a plastic spigot on it).
Now if your rating scale had been between something like "Fine Wine", "Boone's Farm Wine", or "Cheerwine" then the Fine would have been the pick. On the other hand, Boone's Farm holds some fond memories of my youth but it's probably something only a younger belly or a wino could stomach. I don't even know if they still make Boone's Farm. Same goes for Cheerwine-- do they still make that stuff? I seem to recall liking Cheerwine when I was a kid, but I never really drank it that much. I think maybe it was primarily only available in the South -- I recall it being in the drink machines in Tennessee. Of course on a hot summer day any sweet drink in a bottle was pretty good. Cheerwine in a can? Sacrilege! Same with Yoo-Hoo -- haven't drank it in years, but if it's not in a bottle what's the point. I mean, nothing like ice cold watered-down chocolate milk-like solution in a glass bottle.
I'll be looking forward to your thoughts on Yoo-Hoo.
Lee

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

`
Ha! GREAT comment, rLEE-b!

>>[I almost crossed the line with some wine that was not so fine (it came in a box with a plastic spigot on it)]<<

YEE-YOW!

>>[Boone's Farm holds some fond memories of my youth but it's probably something only a younger belly or a wino could stomach.]<<

Hey, man, I have those same fond Boone's Farm memories. We must have gotten loaded together in our youth but somehow forgot.

Some months ago, I happened to mention Thunderbird to someone, and then got to wondering what that would taste like to me now. So I bought a "short dog" (a small bottle of T-bird) just to laminate my curiosity and -- OH, MY GOSH! IT WAS FAR WORSE THAN I COULD HAVE POSSIBLY IMAGINED! But it made me realize that those homeless winos we see on the streets are actually the toughest people on the planet. We should make soldiers of THEM!

>>[I don't even know if they still make Boone's Farm.]<<

They do. I see it in the markets here in Phoenix. I see but I don't buy!

>>[Same goes for Cheerwine-- do they still make that stuff?]<<

You got me on that one. I've never heard of it, so I think you may be correct about it being strictly a Southern thang. Is that anything like "Near Beer"? - fake wine for the underage crowd?

>>[Cheerwine in a can? Sacrilege!]<<

My friends and I can still do two hours on the horrors of Miller beer in a can. It's a riff based on an ill-fated trip to Catalina Island, circa 1983. The less said about it (both Miller in a can and the trip to Catalina) the better.

>>[I mean, nothing like ice cold watered-down chocolate milk-like solution in a glass bottle.]<<

AH!-HA!-HA!-HA!-HA!-HA!
That's GREAT stuffs there, rLEE-b. Thanks for the laugh!
~ Stephen T. McMe

arlee bird said...

Oh man, that's some great stuff. You practically had me rolling on the floor and I'm not even drinking anything. Sometimes the truth can be so strange that it is hilarious.

Thunderbird! I shudder to recall the memory. I used to see the winos in Knoxville drinking that stuff. A friend and I got a bottle once back in 1972 or so. Don't think I'll be revisiting that one.

Cheerwine? I don't believe there was ever attempt to link it with any actual alcoholic beverage -- especially in the South. It was just a sweet cherry-like soda and I guess somebody just thought the name sounded good. According to Wikipedia: "The product was named for its color and taste; the company website states that "it made sense to name a burgundy-red, bubbly, cherry concoction—Cheerwine."
Keep fomenting the laughter.

Lee