Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More on the Necessary Art of Looking Stupid

I was originally going to devote only one blog to my suggested life rule, that of looking stupid occasionally, but I’ve found more to say on the subject. This post gives some practical suggestions on how one can integrate a dose of reality into the life-consuming project of impressive appearance. In other words, here are some tips on fighting misplaced pride and recovering natural humility.

The first tip is this: If you get stuff wrong, don’t try to explain it away to the person next to you. Also, don’t shake your head and mutter. Look, pal, I know I’m not perfect, and I’m quite sure no one else I know is. There was one perfect man, Jesus Christ, and he happens to be at the right hand of God right now, not answering questions in history class. You do not look or live like Him, so don’t pretend you’re perfect. Lay hold of your humanness. You’re a person, so you make mistakes. Admit it! Sure, we all get a little red-faced, and that’s okay. It’d be great if we didn’t, but we can’t change that overnight. However, we can work on our moment-by-moment responses to our own errors. To all professional basketball players, some of the greatest pretenders one can find: if you miss a shot, don’t scream at the ref. He didn’t miss the shot, and you likely didn’t get fouled, or he would have called it. Students, if a professor marks you down on a paper, don’t bridle at the suggestion you are an imperfect writer. You are an imperfect writer. And no, he’s not a really hard professor, it’s just that you aren’t that good of a writer yet. Save the energy you would expend explaining away your low grade and channel it into actually improving your prose and argumentation of thought.

Can you see from the above paragraph how much effort we give toward making ourselves look good—or rather, preventing the inevitable, that of looking stupid? So much, so much is wasted in this vain pursuit.

Look at politics. You know, I am pretty much an out-and-out conservative. Across the board, down the line, from sea to shining sea, I’m conservative, and completely unapologetically so. But—and this is important—I appreciate an honest politician, conservative or not. I may not agree with them, or like their work, or support it, but I will appreciate them for their honesty. This is understandably so, but so many in the public eye fight a lifelong struggle to appear flawless in decision-making. Almost nothing does more to sour people on leaders than to see that they are not realistic about themselves. When people see you’re not real about yourself, they realize you probably aren’t trustworthy at all. After all, if you can lie to yourself, you can certainly lie to people you’ll never meet and faces you’ll never see.


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