DON'T EAT THE BIG WHITE MINT
The greatest philosophical statement never uttered by a philosopher.
This post is about a more philosphocial side of communication that I have also written about in my book, Trinity.
I love quoting from classic movies, but my favourite quote of all time is from a true cinematic masterpiece. Road House. The wonderful late 80’s film starring Patrick Swayze, who plays a legendary bar-bouncer. At some point Swayze’s character, Dalton calls his buddy Wade, played by Sam Elliot to ask him how things are at his end, and to find out where Wade is currently working. Wade (Sam Elliot) sums up the description of the bar in which he is also a bouncer with the perfect line:
“This place has a sign over the urinal that says: Don’t eat the big white mint!”
The bar and the surrounding society, perfectly summed up by one little metaphor. The reason I love that line so much – it keeps popping up in my mind every now and then, even in the most inappropriate of situations, and then puts a smile on my face – is the duality and scope in such a seemingly trivial little sentence. If Jesus had decided on his long awaited second coming now, it is definitely a line he would have included in a new sermon on the mount (Which ever mount that would be, with the original one, well, a little crowded these days.)
On the surface, it’s a description. There are people in Wade’s bar/town, so stupid, they will mistake that white thing lying in the urinal for a treat, when in fact it’s there to relieve the stench of piss. But, at the same time, it’s the most profound of philosophical statements. Things are not always what they seem. You can look at an object time and time again, having convinced yourself whole-heartedly of the nature of the object (Søren Kierkegaard would have loved this one!), only to be confused when your judgement is clouded, or the spur of a moment, a sudden rush of perspective, can change your perception of the object entirely. Of greater consequence, alcohol can have the same numbing effect on your mind and your ability to think and reason, as people who are ideologically obsessed. People can become so convinced of the truthfulness in their belief that no argument can provide perspective to them, and their only objective is to convince the rest of the world of the truthfulness of their belief. You can get so caught up in your own belief, if you’re never exposed to other opinions or to open conversation; if you’re never slightly offended and occasionally have your beliefs gently notched around, then your beliefs are no longer beliefs, because if you only believed then that belief could be changed. But your belief has become an ideological obsession that you treat as a fact. Likewise, but opposite, that shadow of yours (read Carl Jung!); that unconscious world of darkness within us can persuade us of the unmistakable awfulness and ugliness of ourselves. We can convince ourselves that we are worthless, useless, disposable beings with nothing of value to contribute to either ourselves or anyone around us. No one is better at deceiving us than ourselves. This to where, when you think you’re eating a delicious white mint, what you’re actually eating is a piss-soaked ball of bleached chemicals.
The only way to avoid ideological obsession, which is where political correctness among other topics are heading, is to train and expose yourself to open conversation on a regular basis. And the more skilled the speakers on either side of the conversation are, the more valuable the conversation will be to both parties.
The only way to avoid the all too understandable self-loathing of your entire being – and understandable, as humankind really is a horrendous beast, capable of the most despicable acts of free will – is to notch ourselves into the conversation every now and then. Expose ourselves to other people’s opinions and the likely terrifying truth that most people don’t loathe us as much as we loathe ourselves, or at least should loathe, because we really are awful. (Schopenhauer has not died in vain.)
It’s not so strange then, with this understandable contempt for ourselves that we take to social media for the wrong reasons, and that we communicate for the wrong reasons. And we do, as the above statistics have shown. Most of what is posted by most people on social media is not with an honest wish to connect and share with friends and loved ones for social reasons. Most posts are motivated by a need to be praised for their attempts to appear as admirable people.
This is a question that arises in me often these days. The latest craze on the digital platforms seems to be all these people who launch podcasts and vlogs to promote all kinds of wonderful well- wishes for humanity. Self-development. Self-growth. Coaching in finding your inner beauty and strength. Healing. Mindfulness. Love. So many wonderful people with so many wonderful intentions on other people’s behalf. So many posts from these do-gooders. So many pictures of them every day on their Instas and what have you, inviting you to let them help you, heal you, guide you, support you, love you and of course like their pictures and write nice comments about their good, Samaritan endeavours. It’s not charity, of course, because they do want to charge you money for their help, so they can make a living out for their compassionate nature. I don’t claim that their well-wishes are not admirable for the most part. I merely stumble constantly over the ginormous boulder of a question: How much of that quest to help other people in the full blazing spotlight of social media is an honest and pure wish to make other people develop for the better, and how much of it is them having a need for attention and validation, trying to patch together a sense of self-worth they have struggled to maintain earlier on in their lives, doing so by being able to save others? Are they communicating for the right reasons and in the right way?
Jesus said (supposedly):
“So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others.”
- Matthew 6:2
The German philosopher, Immanual Kant was even more staunch about the matter. He was a fascinating case of OCD long before it was a trend, with daily routines you could set your clock by. Another really good story. He formulated what is known as the Categorical Imperative:
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will (wish) that it should become a universal law.” – Immanuel Kant.
In other words: You should behave in such a fashion that all your actions have a moral integrity, where you could turn every action you make into law, making that behaviour legal and acceptable by all others to act the same way at all times. That’s a high barre to set on the fallible nature of humankind.
Concerning morals, he stated that nothing you do for someone else can be regarded as morally good, if anyone else knows about it. In that case, outsiders must assume that you’re doing good for selfish reasons, by letting other people know about it, and then it’s not only morally bad but corrupt. That’s harsh, right? I mean, who can live up to that?
There’s too much look at my face and tell me I am good, and too little content. Too little concern for character. Too little appreciation of character. If you want to be a speaker, you may want to check that mirror again. You may also want to check what the majority of the comments under your posts are about. How are you being judged and, more importantly, WHAT is being judged?
It’s a good 50 years ago that Dr Martin Luther King Jr. stated the paramount necessity involved concerning our chance to move forward as a collective human race. I have a dream that one day my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Nevertheless, judging by the colour of our skin is exactly what’s happening in our society today. We’re no longer concerned with listening, and hearing what people have to say, but focus on who’s saying it, how and why. This is the reason so many private people and corporate businesses alike struggle to get seen and heard in the online jungle of communication, because content is no longer valued. We prioritise appearance and ideology. We’re judging each other based on the colour of the skin, while we are unwilling to hear what another person has to say; what the content of their character really is. That is the state of the world, and there’s something rotten about it.
To reach someone with your speaking skills is a monumental task these days. The first is easy. Get skilled as a speaker. You don’t have to be a superstar. Just get better. But then comes first a super uncomfortable quest followed by a near impossible quest. The uncomfortable part being you making sure that the content you put out, for all to respond to, is in fact a big white mint and not a piss- soaked ball of bleached chemicals. The near impossible quest: You must then get people to listen. You must make them care about what you say. If you fail to make them listen, then they’re still judging you by the colour of your skin and not by the content of your character, and if the colour of someone’s skin is more important to us than their character, then we have sadly got nowhere in the last 50 years.
Communicate. Both with yourself and others. Face to face with others. Have conversations, ask questions, be curious, listen, engage, and do not be afraid to be honest.
Thanks for reading. Have a lovely day.