Posts tagged ‘life’

April 5, 2012

#40) Learning from idiots, part 5/How not to complain, part 1: Samantha Brick

I don’t hate Samantha Brick because she’s beautiful.  I don’t hate her at all; in fact, I like this latest internet phenomenon, not because I agree or sympathize with her, but because she has provided some good life lessons.

For those of you who haven’t been online in a few days, Samantha Brick is a British woman who recently published an article about how tough it is to be beautiful.  She points out that she’s never been asked to be a bridesmaid because she’s more attractive than most of her friends; she’s lost out on promotions because of other female co-workers’ jealousy, and so forth.

Needless to say, there’s been quite a backlash, to say the least.  In fact, one might say that Brick’s fate is parallel to that of Alexandra “Asians in the Library” Wallace (remember her from last spring?) in that at best, she is ridiculed; at worst she is hated.  But unlike her American counterpart, Brick’s plight has some pretty good teachable moments.  The problem wasn’t entirely the point that she made: it was how she made it.

Right or wrong, Brick ‘s essay was based around an idea: sometimes, “having it all” isn’t as great as it seems.  In the right hands, perhaps it could have been developed into a piece that made readers open their eyes instead of roll them.  Brick’s problem wasn’t that she complained.  It was that she complained without any kind of humor, without taking any kind of responsibility, or without any kind of solution or elevation.

Humor is important, and you want the laughs to be with, not at you.  Brick doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about herself; she speaks resentfully of her husband’s suggesting that she “laugh off bitchy comments from other women.”

She also has a double-standard when it comes to responsibility.  Apart from the fact that she apparently has never heard the phrase “you take the good with the bad”, she bemoans being judged “harshly on what I look like”, even as she describes her clothes in detail and seems to take enjoyment in bartenders paying her tab or strangers picking up her cab fare.

The main problem, however, is that, at the end of the day, Brick is really just complaining.  Even if she was ugly as sin, throwing herself a pity party probably wouldn’t have gotten her much sympathy.  Sorry to break it to you, Sam, but you’re not the only person in the world who has problems.  If you want to play the “my life sucks” game, there will always be someone who can beat you at it.  Complaints about life do not a story make; it’s when someone transcends bad circumstances and betters their own life and the lives of others that something has truly been accomplished.  The closest thing to a solution that Brick presents is the clock: she concludes by saying that she as she enters her 40s, she welcomes the “wrinkles and gray hairs that will help her blend into the background.”

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see about that.  I don’t wish Brick any ill will; she could be smoking hot or completely ugly, and my life would be the same.  However, I can’t help but speculate that, for whatever she may feel like she’s learned from the last few days, in the years to come Brick may experience some teachable moments of her own based on two of the world’s time-honored truths: You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and be careful what you wish for.

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April 2, 2012

#38) Learning From Idiots, Part 3

Talk about hating your job.

Hans Url, a 56-year old Austrian man, was told that the government disability benefits he was receiving would run out if he refused a job that had been found for him.  He responded by sawing off his own foot to remain on disability.

As bizarre as the story is, and as unsympathetic a character as Url may be compared to the countless people in the United States and elsewhere who are desperate for work, I’ve caught myself thinking about his plight since I first heard about it last week.  When I’ve found myself being less than thrilled about work, I think at least I don’t hate my job enough to cut my own foot off.  Come to think of it, I’ve never had a job–even working in a Greyhound bus station or teaching special education in South Los Angeles–that I’ve hated so much that I would consider doing something like that.

It’s safe to say, too, that Url is obviously not quite right in the head.  Like the killers profiled in Jonathan Kambouris’s Last Meals Project (see D-Theory #24),   Url is a human being, however inappropriate and dangerous his actions may have been.  No, he doesn’t get many sympathy votes when compared to people who suffer such devastating injuries through no fault of their own, but he obviously was in some sort of emotional pain and distress.  After all, nobody wakes up in the morning wanting to cut off their own foot, no matter how much they hate their job.  Whether he’s a dangerous psychopath or a victim of an inefficient government bureaucracy, Hans Url’s story stood out to me among all of the other news items I’ve consumed recently.

The irony is that, for all of his efforts, Url may have to go to work after all.  Like Cary Elwes’s character from the movie “Saw”, his efforts may be all in vain.

May 16, 2011

#13) Pain

This last week has seen two people that are closed to me lose loved ones.  I am fortunate in that neither loss affects me directly; one of the departed I only met once, the other never.  The deaths, both from cancer, happened peacefully in the company of loved ones.  But under no circumstances, of course, is a death easy to deal with.

It’s gotten me thinking about the issue of pain, not necessarily in the way that the kids at the local high school who listen to Morrissey do.  I’ve realized that while no one (well, almost no one) likes dealing with it, pain has some upsides.

Pain is designed to wake you up.  Bad things happen, but sometimes good can come from them.  Stanley Forman’s picture of two girls falling from a collapsing fire escape in Boston lead to building code reforms.  Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” after the death of his son, and in so doing helped millions find peace and comfort.  Deaths in car accidents have lead to safety innovations; deaths from disease have lead to people rallying together to help find cures and support each other.

On a personal level, after my divorce a few years ago, I re-evaluated what I wanted in a relationship and started thinking about the type of women whom I seemed to be attracting.  There seemed to be a pattern that I hadn’t seen earlier, and when I recognized it, I was able to change it.  The result has been a great relationship that has been all I could have asked for.

Speaking of divorce, Reese Witherspoon had this to say after hers: “If it’s not painful, maybe it wasn’t the right decision to marry to begin with.”  In other words, sometimes pain exists because of better things, such as love.  Many people fear pain; they don’t want their feelings hurt or to have to deal with the discomfort.  But whether it’s a wakeup call or a result of having taken a chance, pain is a part of life, and it doesn’t have to be entirely bad.

The last word is left to Butters, the character on TV’s “South Park.”  After his heart is broken by Lexus, the girl who works at Raisins, he says:  “Well yeah, and I’m sad, but at the same time I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt somethin’ really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I’m feelin’ is like a, beautiful sadness.”