Finally saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” and enjoyed it quite a bit. It really reinforces my sense that society’s rejection of our basic being (Freddy Mercury’s gayness in this sense) eats at the soul, tears a human being to pieces. In the conceit of the screenwriters, made him crave the anonymous adoration of the crowd as replacement for truly intimate connection with a single human being.
There is a point where the crowd is actually “talking back” to the band by stamping their feet, clapping, and chanting. And Freddy is rhapsodic indeed, overwhelmed by the adoration of thousands of lovers. Seeking to fill the place in his heart that no human being, no thunderous herd of human beings, can ever fill.
The man he eventually bonded with tells him at one point, in effect, “call me when you like yourself.” When, in other words, you accept who you really are. WHAT you really are. Which can be horribly difficult unless you get positive feed-back from the image makers, beginning with your parents, and going outward from there to society. Don’t have it from society or parents? You have to find a way to like yourself, love yourself.
A fear arises in many. If they have done “bad” things (or been accused of them by people you trust or rely upon), even to enable survival, it can be in conflict with deeply inculcated values and beliefs. And if those bad things, damaging and hurtful things, or even inadequate and unsuccessful things cut against those values in core ways, the ability to simply love yourself can be deeply damaged.
This can lead to a sense of a corrupted soul, or a belief that human beings are, at core evil. This is so unfortunate, and what is often the saddest thing is that some of the kindest, most passionately loving people who have the sense that we are, at core, corrupt and evil. Major religions have promoted this concept.
When you point out that all human behaviors are on a continuum with animal behaviors, they can’t hear you. We are worse than animals, they seem to say, because we are not better. The conceptual knot reflects values conflicts up the wazoo, as well as a tendency to be overly impressed by intelligence. We are all just precisely smart enough to tie ourselves into knots, to devise strategies to overwhelm our own resources.
Intelligence is problem-solving. WISDOM on the other hand, is knowing which problems to solve. Big difference.
I realized how powerful and necessary just loving ourselves is when my daughter Nicki was about five or six. I stood her in front of a mirror and asked her to say “I like myself.” She felt shy, had a hard time even looking at her reflection. “I like myself!” I repeated. And after several tries she finally stuttered out “I like myself.”
And looked away, as if she was bad even for saying such a thing. I had her repeat it again, and again, and…something happened. A smile broke through on her face, and she started giggling. “I like myself!” she said, laughing and joyful.
Daddy had had to give her permission, just to see her own beauty. If you cannot unironically look at yourself in the mirror and say, with feeling, “I like myself! I love myself!” you have to wonder: who taught you that you were unlovable?
No, you don’t have to be miserable to create or perform. Fear and pain are only half the motivation equation. The other half is love and pleasure.
I lost a friendship with a famous writer because he could not abide the notion that we can be joyous and loving and still be creative and safe. He simply wouldn’t believe that creativity came from anything other than pain, or that, at his core, he was a good man. Every example of a creative person not consumed with pain or twisted emotions he just ignored. It was sad, as he attacked and attacked until one day, I gave him the slightest little tap in return…and he couldn’t handle it and ended our friendship.
Everything you have ever done, EVER, was an attempt to escape pain and approach joy. Everything ANYONE has ever done is nothing more than this, no matter how twisted their reasoning (or lack of it) might be. And ultimately, everything they have ever done, YOU have ever done, is an attempt to approach the divine, or that sense of peace we had in the womb.
That’s it. That simple. That doesn’t excuse the terrible things human beings do to themselves and others in the name of seeking relief. But if you can see how this operates, and has always operated in your own life, you will understand humanity without guilt, blame, or shame.
We’re just little bits of protoplasm, but along the path of life we take on so many identities from the people and society around us. We aren’t just “us”. We are a child, a sibling, a student, a boyfriend, student, a teacher, a worker, a boss, a spouse, a screwup, a champion, a parent, a grandparent…all of these labels, with different missions and meanings and values and beliefs tied to each.
What was that line Robert Heinlein said about society’s endless rules and laws existing so that no matter WHAT you do, you are breaking a law? That “they” can always nail you?
Well…the same thing is true of the way our egos compose themselves of thousands of overlapping roles, beliefs, memories, and value hierarchies. If you start with the belief that you are corrupt, evil, wrong? You will ALWAYS find evidence to back it up. And…you are pretty much screwed. Will spend your life fleeing fear without ever accepting yourself and your flaws enough to really embrace joy.
You’ll tear yourself apart. Enter bad relationships. Destroy your own dreams. Damage your body. Never see that at every moment of your life, you’ve done the best you could with the resources you have.
And you are a prime target to be manipulated by society, relationships, your own demons.
Sigh. How can you tell what someone’s internal demons say? Listen to the way they talk about other people, the way they treat them. Do they constantly tear others down? It is safest to assume that, deep inside, they are doing the same to themselves, however much their egos mask that with bravado.
You have to have love and understanding within you to extend it to others in a genuine sense. Watch them under stress: when they are tired, or intoxicated, or frightened. That is when you will see what they are when not monitoring themselves. That is when you can catch a glimpse of the demon…or the angel within.
Or just the frightened, hungry, anxious little monkey in their hindbrains. It means no harm. It just want to stop hurting, and start feeling joy.
Starting with love and joy, finding a way to give yourself permission to feel that divine connection daily means to START your day with the emotions most people think they have to work to achieve. No. You can give yourself those emotions, any time you want, by changing what you focus on, moving your body as if you were happy and energetic, and monitoring your self-talk.
Looking in the mirror, smiling, and saying “I like myself!” is a simple, simple version of this. If you do it, and hear the demons hissing and coiling, or voices telling you that your efforts are absurd, IF YOU FEEL ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE SIMPLE JOY YOU WOULD FEEL HOLDING YOUR MOST BELOVED CHILD…
You have identified the work that needs to be done. And then it is up to you to find the tools and allies to help you. You can run from fear forever, but the truth is that it will always be there: you bring it with you.
Or, you can focus on what you love, until your heart is so full that you run TOWARD it, with a full heart, a sense of joy and purpose and unfolding.
The most beautiful thing about this is that when you do this, you have optimized your chance of meeting another such person, and bonding with love and shared values and purpose.
If you treasure yourself, your heart, your mind, your body and sexuality, then you can look at a prince or a princess, and confidently say that if you put all of YOURSELF on the table, you are equal to whatever weight they put there. Everything for everything. If you don’t treasure yourself…what is the value of the gift you give your lover, your friends, your family? How can you see their light, their strength and beauty without shrinking away in shame?
How often have you seen people hammer down the confidence, sabotage the plans, derail the progress of people around them, for fear they can’t keep up? How often accept toxic relationships because they don’t BELIEVE they deserve better?
We can be happy and productive. Loving and self-protective. Happy alone, or together. We can make the world better just by how we move through it.
But it all starts with love.
We make the choice every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. By what we focus on. How we move. What we say.
What is your choice today?