SNAP OUT OF IT Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
“Make no friendship with an angry man;
and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”
Proverbs 22:24, King James Bible
Let’s start with one of the most toxic types of people that Proverbs points to.
Here’s a truth that I will come back to over and over and over again throughout this series of posts. (I’ll explain in detail later.)
You don’t get what you want in life.
You get what you picture.
And the last thing you need around you, the last thing you need to put your attention on, is angry people. At home, at school, on television, or especially on social media.
Your first task—
get angry people out of your life.
Doesn’t matter if they are your “friends,” your school chums, your family, or your teachers. Angry people poison you. Their anger becomes your anger.
Their pictures become your pictures.
And you don’t want to become an angry person. Why? Because good and inspiring people don’t like to hang out with angry people.
You want to release all anger in you, and the fact is, a whole lot of your anger is implanted by angry people.
Honestly, who likes to hang out with angry people? Other angry people. (Well, perhaps Anger Management consultants and therapists. But only because they like seeing people let go of anger.)
I know what some of you are thinking. What if my parents are angry people? How do I get away from them?
Get a job and move out.
That’s what I did.
Okay, you can’t move out yet. You’re too young, or there’s something else restricting your life.
Or you have an angry teacher, but it’s a class you have to take.
Or you have other angry people in your life that you just can’t avoid. Like at work. And you aren’t ready to change jobs.
What else can you do?
Here’s a little exercise you can try. It takes a little imagination, but you will be surprised how well it works. Just try it a few times.
When you are around angry people, imagine surrounding yourself with a transparent, one-way mirror bubble, a shield of warm, relaxing, protective, golden light.
Imagine that the anger coming from your parents or teacher, or anyone else, gets reflected back to them by your shield-mirror of light.
You heard that it takes two to tango? Well—
Angry people love it when you get angry,
or resist their anger.
That creates a connection that feeds their anger. But you need two to connect.
This imagination exercise prevents them from connecting with you. Because you refuse to connect with them.
I know it sounds a bit out there. But what do you have to lose? Try it, and if it works, you have a great tool to use the rest of your life!
Also, don’t be surprised when an angry person who has their anger reflected back to them gets even more angry and stalks away.
Bad, Angry Teachers
There are teachers who teach you
WHAT to think—bad.
And there are teachers who teach you
HOW to think—good.
Bad teachers don’t talk about:
— understanding both sides of an issue
— the tools of critical thinking
— logical fallacies (if you get to college, or even graduate from college, and don’t know what logical fallacies are, it’s okay to feel like you’ve been royally screwed).
And, bad teachers revel in revealing their political opinions. Ugh!
My favorite teacher in political science taught us civics, had us think through various issues of checks and balances, the role of each branch of government, and the thinking of the founders.
He dressed in a nice conservative suit and was obviously a Republican.
He brought in a guest speaker who wore casual clothes and had us thinking about various Supreme Court decisions.
He was obviously a Democrat.
Not until the final day of class did our teacher tell us he was a registered Democrat and his friend, the guest speaker, was a Republican. Among other things, the clothing played into our assumptions. What a great lesson and teacher!
Bad teachers say that one side of an issue is the only side. The other side is evil.
And they have no problem calling people who disagree with them racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, hateful, and evil. They are angry teachers.
They humiliate students who disagree with them. And they encourage you to humiliate others as well. They try to make students into their puppets.
Is this the kind of life you want? Being someone’s puppet?
Bad, angry teachers want you to bully
people with whom they disagree.
Bad teachers won’t have you read the original sources of anything, allowing you to acquire the skill to evaluate them directly. They will have you read secondary sources, interpreters of the original.
Hey, you don’t need to read James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers. (Besides, it’s haaarrrd to read that old, stuffy language. And you don’t need to develop those mental muscles.)
No. Instead, read this “expert,” who can tell you how bad those writers are so that you don’t have to bother reading them. You shouldn’t have to be exposed to what they say. You need only believe what we say they say.
Trust us. We know better than you.
Want some more ways to spot bad teachers?
— Bad teachers don’t require you to exercise your mind with more and more complex sentences and challenging writers.
(Why read all those complex sentences, paragraphs, and ideas that require you to grow mental muscles? It’s like lifting weights that builds muscles. But why work so hard? Just listen to our slogans. If it fits on a hand-held sign, it’s more than enough.)
— Bad teachers think reading is overrated, especially people like the ancient Greeks and Romans, or Shakespeare, or, well, you name it.
(Instead, read this simplified rewrite of Shakespeare, so you won’t have to learn anything new. Keep your life and your mind simple. Besides, Shakespeare represents all that’s bad in hierarchical societies.)
— Bad teachers don’t have you study both sides of an argument.
(Trust us to tell you what is right. Don’t develop the ability to decide for yourself. Depend on us. Or we will call you names.)
— Bad teachers get all emotional and hype up your emotions.
(Don’t think. Thinking is bad. Feeling is the new thinking. What you feel is more important than what you think. Never mind that the main difference between a child and an adult is that children are always expressing their feelings while adults learn to restrain their emotions and respond to thinking and learning from experience.)
— Bad teachers make you feel like a victim of society.
(Hey, the world is full of racism, sexism, and bigots that are institutionalized. It’s not your fault. You’re just the victim of it. There’s nothing you can do for yourself. You need to immerse yourself in a group of shouting, emotional, feeling people who are all about bringing social justice to the world. Never mind that you don’t have any knowledge of history, that your brain is still biologically growing into full capability into your later twenties.)
— Bad teachers want to keep you like a child, who is dependent, rather than help build you into an adult, who is independent.
(Don’t worry. Even though non-thinking, emotional children are easier to manipulate than independent, thinking adults, we know the truth. Trust us. No need for you to independently verify what we say. Because if you do, and if you disagree, you’re immoral and evil.)
It doesn’t matter what happens to you.
What matters is how you respond.
So what do I mean by a good teacher who teaches you how to think rather than what to think? Let me tell you a story about one of my best university professors.
His name was David Bell. He taught English. I had started out as a computer programmer, but once I had published articles in computer magazines, and even got an article on a friend’s truck in Fourwheeler magazine, I thought I should try out a career as a writer.
So I transferred to a four-year university and aimed to get a degree in English. Professor Bell taught me that, even though I was published, and even though I eventually earned a B.A. in English, I still didn’t know how to read or write effectively.
I learned this in one of his four, great, graduate seminars as I worked toward a Master’s degree (yeah, I was still working at that damn 7-Eleven store):
Austen and Brontë
Richardson and Fielding
The Age of Johnson
It was in the Jane Austen and three Brontë sisters’ seminar that I learned I didn’t know how to read.
Jane Austen wrote several novels in the early 19th century England. You may have heard about them: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion among others.
Charlotte Brontë wrote Jane Eyre, Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights, and Anne Brontë wrote—well, nothing you might ever have heard of.
Professor Bell set up his seminars in a way I’d never experienced. He told us to avoid reading secondary sources. Not just Cliff Notes, but any commentary at all on the authors or their books. He wanted us to grapple with the texts directly without any recourse to anyone else’s opinion.
Each session had a list of discussion questions. Professor Bell did not lecture. He listened to the students in the seminar discuss the questions. He did not participate in the discussions, unless we got off on an obviously wrong tangent.
He just listened.
Anyway, we read Pride and Prejudice. One of the discussion questions was Does Mr. Darcy’s character change over the course of the novel?
(Elizabeth Bennet is the smart heroine who turns out not to be as smart as she thought, and Mr. Darcy was the wealthy unmarried man whom, at first, she despised and then later came to love.)
I remember making some comment that caused the other students to immediately blast me. One said, “Show me in the text where what you said is true!”
And I couldn’t. Because I didn’t know what I was talking about. Because I had not read the book closely enough to actually know what Jane Austen was writing. In fact, it became clear that Austen was such a clear, precise writer, that anyone like me, who read her loosely or skimmingly, risked not understanding her at all.
I was an ineffective reader.
With a degree in English and published writings.
But here’s the crux of this story. One graduate student, a woman whose family was from India, provided a brilliant, well-reasoned argument that Darcy’s character had changed. That the good-natured man in the latter half of the novel was not the same as the man near the beginning of the novel who said, while looking at nice gentry folks dancing a minuet and refusing to dance, “Any savage can dance.”
Professor Bell started to ask her questions, a rare event, having her give more details about her argument. At the end of this little Q&A session, he had a peculiar look, and said to the graduate students, “My Ph.D. dissertation was on this question, and I had argued that Darcy’s character did not change. I have just learned that I was wrong.”
Thunder and lightning.
At that moment, I loved this man. He had set up a seminar for graduates to discuss and learn from each other (I certainly learned, even though it was humiliating), and he had done everything possible to ensure that none of us came to the discussions with preconceived notions.
And he listened without
preconceived notions as well
so that he could continue learning.
I had decided that I could not call myself a writer until I received an A on a seminar paper.
I had to, because I learned that Professor Bell did not grade on a curve. He had objective standards that had nothing to do with my feelings or my effort. Wherever there was a weakness in my writing, he had clear, short comments that nailed me where I was vague or illogical, or lacking in proper support of claims I made.
He sharpened my mind and my writer’s sensibility for my target audience. Here’s how the grades went semester after semester.
Austen and Brontë—B
Richardson and Fielding—B+
(Classical Rhetoric was simply the most mind-expanding course I’d ever taken, one in which I learned how to read and understand both Plato and Aristotle. The text was Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and we were not allowed to read anyone else’s interpretation. We had to grapple with Aristotle directly. What an empowering experience!)
So I had finally received an A- on a seminar paper, and there was only one seminar left, the hardest of them all: The Age of Johnson.
It was hard because of the massive load of reading. He always taught it in the fall, and encouraged prospective students to read all 1500+ pages of James Boswell’s unabridged The Life of Samuel Johnson the summer before the seminar. And that didn’t comprise even half the reading list, which included, Samuel Johnson’s Rambler and Idler Essays, selected Lives of the Poets, his Preface to the Plays of William Shakespeare, and other writings.
And on top of that, the list included philosopher David Hume’s An Enquiry into Human Understanding, novelist Laurence Stern’s Tristram Shandy, and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France.
Look at any of these free online, and you’ll get a taste of how impossibly demanding they are.
Professor Bell gave us a list of topics to choose from. I choose the final one due late in the semester, on Burke’s Imagery in Reflections on the Revolution in France.
I worked out my paper in my head all semester. On the day it was due, I started writing at 6:00 am. He always limited papers to six pages, which meant not a word could be wasted I finished it by 3:00 pm and turned it in.
I got an A. And the right to call myself a writer.
It says a lot about a teacher who could drive a student to work that hard over years to get good at a skill. Even in something as challenging as 18th century British literature and philosophy. Ugh!
Okay, enough of this depressing crapola. It’s HUMOR TIME!
I almost had a psychic girlfriend. But she broke up with me before we met.
I’ve written several children’s books… Not on purpose.
I went to a place to eat. It said “breakfast at any time.” So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
If you laughed at those jokes, you’re doing better already. They come from Steven Wright. DuckDuckGo his name. He has hundreds of them.
(DuckDuckGo is better than Google because it doesn’t track all your personal search data to make money like Google does. By the way, in 2018 Google dropped its core motto “Don’t Be Evil” from its corporate code of conduct. Hmmm… I wonder why?)
Buy his CD/DVD “I Have a Pony.” He’ll make you laugh. And he’s cool.
To finish up this little post…
There are other kinds of toxic people you should know about. You can DuckDuckGo “Toxic People” to see lists. People who are controlling, blaming, envious, greedy, judgmental, vain, who lack honesty and integrity.
But if you can get the angry people out of your life,
and find good teachers, you will be WAY ahead of the game.
And you may be able to avoid the Devil of thoughtlessness.
More to come…
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