The program Entertainment Tonight has this rage-inducing habit of teasing the audience with ”explosive new details” on, say, Lindsay Lohan – only to reveal in the last thirty seconds of the show that Lins blew a tire on the way to jail. To be honest, they may’ve stopped doing this years ago, right about the time I summoned the self-restraint to stop watching. I don’t care how MILF-y Mary Hart is, I cannot watch – that gimmick is as infuriating as it is anticlimactic. That said, it occurred to me as soon I as I hit “Publish” on my last post that I’ may’ve done the same thing.
I was writing about four great men – Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, and Paul Newman – and how they were my travel companions on the rocky footpath to becoming a Better Man. I suggested their success in life was the result of a balance that comes from learning and understanding many things, a balance that is curiously absent amongst many adult-age males today. Sure, they may’ve been blessed with unique gifts, but they were also mortal: they had bowel movements, they occasionally wished their spouse/mom/offspring would STOP! TALKING! and they drew on more or less the same blessings of our double helix as you and me. Nonetheless, my “cliffhanger” ending suggested I had found the key to finding the same balance in life that they did. I’ll leave it for you decide if I’m Mary Hart or not.
Leo, Ben, Teddy and Paul (aka the Better Man Fab Four) were all curious men, so much so that they were skeptical about the conventional wisdom of the time, and often questioned it. They were also humble (in their way), enough to know that they could never know everything, and personal improvement was something that, for them, could never stop. They were ambitious, in that they aspired to be better, and took steps to bring it about. But the thing that made them great, that made them strive in a way that turned them into household names? Adversity.
As part of this little improvement odyssey, I’ve taken to reading biographies of all the great men…Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Larry Flynt, etc. My hope was that by metaphyscially rifling through their pockets like a thief on a corpse I’d find patterns, habits, philosophies…anything I might blatantly steal from their rich, fulfilling lives and apply to my miserable own. For my sins, it’s been a torturous experience, but not because these men aren’t fascinating. Mostly, I’m vexed by the dubious talents of the authors writing about them - just because you have a keen interest in one man doesn’t mean you possess either the writing or analytical skills to reveal their lives.
I’d grow impatient as the author piled on the minutiae – their sister died in a horrible laundry accident, they had a sled named Rosebud, blah, blah, blah. I’d drop one biography and pick up another, only to find the same thing – they grew up down the block from the guy who invented gunpowder, or Post-it notes. I wasn’t getting to any of the good stuff, but I didn’t want to skip ahead for fear I’d miss something. In this way, I’ve been dancing between as many as 20 biographies, all of them frustrating me equally.
This past week marks the halfway point on my betterment safari, and it would seem appropriate to take stock of what I’ve done so far. Honestly, I’m dreading this – while there’s been lots of useful self-reflection, I’ve made less progress in the area of meaningful action. In my defense, my path to betterment was obstructed by that 3-month stint in the US, working on a TV show about cops busting college co-eds for making bad choices. As I recorded one poor topless girl vomiting into a dumpster, I tried to work back through the life choices that had gotten me to that unique moment, as I’m sure she was too. Any differences between us could be reduced to this – she had neither a shirt nor her dignity, whereas I, at least, had a shirt.
I digress. As one great philosopher once said “Do, or do not. There is no try”, so I will dispense with excuses. I’ve dusted off the Better MAN-ifesto, in which I laid out the steps I’d take to be better, and now we’ll see how many of them I’ve taken.
PROJECT “MY BAD”
I will retrace my steps and re-visit my mistakes (there are a few), fix what I can, and own what I can’t.
GRADE: PASS – I have no job, I’ve sold my house, I cashed in RSPs to pay bills, and my ex-girlfriend has taken every cent I have. Mistakes are just about the only things I own these days.
I will be harsh and unsentimental in my self-assessment.
GRADE: PASS – as a villian in the movie “3:10 to Yuma” said “It takes a big man to see how small he is”
I will seek counsel from people I KNOW have an opinion on how I could be better.
Maybe you remember me – I sent you a letter back in January, asking if you’d show me what it takes to be a proper asshole. You see, it had occurred to me that trying to treat others as decently as I can wasn’t necessarily getting me anywhere, so perhaps being a Better Man involved chasing naked self-interest no matter how much it hurt and/or infuriated other people…in other words, the kind of things you do. I suspect you didn’t read that letter – although your bearing occasionally reminds me of Dwight Schrute (with less guile) you can still be a polarizing public figure when you want to be. I’m sure you’re inundated with more letters/death threats than 10 prime ministers could read in all their lifetimes combined, so it might be easy to overlook mine. Mind you, a part of me likes to think you did read it and haven’t replied because….well, that’s what an asshole would do.
Regardless of whether you got back to me or not, I figured I could at least learn from your example, but you’ve maintained a barometric control on your inherent douche-ness…you laid low during the Olympics, kept both your cool and a tight lid on the whole Afghanistan detainee thing. I was starting to feel a little cheated, that I wasn’t going to see the kind of assholery I’ve come to enjoy from you…that is, until the G20 last weekend.
I have to ask...doesn't it get hot wearing that thing?
Now, we both know that many hands have been wrung over the money you spent on security…a billion dollars, almost 51 times the cost of G20 security in Pittsburgh last year, and more than all security costs for previous G8/G20s combined. With that much cheese one could be excused for thinking you created a clone army of riot police, or perhaps hired the A-Team. One has to wonder how much of it actually went to security as opposed to, say, pork barrel projects in federal ridings that could prove crucial in the next election, but I’m just talking out my ass there – although if that did happen, then good for you! Supreme dick move/quasi abuse of power! (Oh wait, wasn’t that exactly the sort of thing you hammered the Liberals for during when the sponsorship scandal? Never mind.)