I find it hard not to be a misanthrope. I have been working through a series of self-realized philosophies lately. One that I’m thinking through and trying to put into effect, though I’m not sure of its veracity, is the concept of minimizing my ego. I try not to self-glorify myself in my writing (only sometimes though, in all fairness). I am not very aware of the world around me, but if I could make myself stay open to people I consider “normal,” I could be a better writer and not only someone who creates works of fiction that are just thinly veiled autobiography – perhaps if I listened more to boring conversations, I could strengthen my weak spot of writing dialogue. I should listen more. I shouldn’t assume that I know everything worth knowing.
The downside to this particular philosophy is that I am better than a lot of people. It’d be false modesty to pretend otherwise. I work harder to understand other people than many of them do. I think more. The empathy I try to force on my self is never reciprocated.
Another philosophy I try to work on but that seems too flawed to continue is the belief of secular humanism. My hero Kurt Vonnegut was a secular humanist. The Council for Secular Humanism sums up the belief like this: Humanism. “Any system of thought or action concerned with the interests or ideals of people … the intellectual and cultural movement … characterized by an emphasis on human interests rather than … religion.”
I do believe in doing good deeds without any expectation of reward. There is no heaven and not otherworldly gift for good deeds, and there is often no world reward or even acknowledgment of these gestures of help. They are done purely because it is believed that they should be done. Until recently, I classed myself as an Existentialist Secular Humanist, meaning that I don’t really believe in anything besides the cacophonous present, but that helping people, even with the knowledge of the meaningless of life, is still the proper thing to do.
My recent and hopefully temporary rejection of Secular Humanism comes largely from the disillusionment of recently being so recently bitched at by homeless people whom I felt I’ve worked hard to help. This one man I’d recently helped so much turned out to be a total dick the other day. On top of the food and money I give him, I also gave an informational card for PATH, a really wonderful and innovative homeless resource center. I guess he expected them to be magical???? There are at least thousands of homeless people in L.A. They are often treated unfairly, since their mere presence is considered illegal, especially in the recently upscale reincarnation of Downtown L.A., and this is so unfair it brings tears to my eyes even as I write this. PATH provides so many services: a court with a judge who expunges bullshit police actions such as tickets for jaywalking or loitering. A shower. A place where homeless people can receive mail. A job placement center. A list of homeless shelters. The man I was speaking with, however, just rudely bitched to me that almost all the shelters recommended were overcrowded. “They just stuff an extra bed in the corner – I don’t need that,” he said. “Well, at least they have showers,” I said. “Yeah but I don’t need that – I can take a shower at a friend’s house anytime I want. The only homeless shelter that has openings is in North Hollywood – what am I going to do there?”
He was so belligerent and rude, for the time being I don’t give a fuck about anyone besides friends and my immediate family. It would be false to consider myself a secular humanist at this point in my life.