For some unholy reason, this blog has gone viral over the past few days. A thousand people have reposted it on my Facebook feed. Usually this stuff brushes past me and saunters off into the abyss where new agey advice goes to die. But this time, I clicked, I read, and I became indescribably pissed off.
Here’s the form of the article: It’s a list of 30 things the authors assume you are doing to damage your life, things that only they have the insight to warn you of, accompanied by an image allegedly supporting each lesson. Most of it consists of obvious nuggets of wisdom you should have figured out by the time you left college. They are mostly givens for an adult life. I only take issue with a few of them. Most of my problems are with the shoddy web design/image choices. Here are some highlights.
#1. Stop spending time with the wrong people
Pretty simple idea. Hopefully, you nailed this one the first time your junior high buddy spit milk on your Sloppy Joe and set it on fire. The sentiment is valuable. I have a problem with the image.
Is this frog supposed to represent a shitty friend? A bad romantic relationship? Look at that guy? What did he ever do besides not bathe like a human? Sure, he’s covered in mud, but he’s amphibious. That’s more than you can claim, Big-Handed-Self-Help-Jerk-Ready-To-Toss-A-Forlorn-Frog-Aside-Guy. How about a rule encouraging people to not judge animals because they’re dirty?
#4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner.
Again, a worthy argument. Here’s the picture.
Whoever took this picture isn’t putting anything on the back burner except possibly pruning the grapevines adorning his opulent Mediterranean estate. Don’t worry. This guy took your advice long ago.
#5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not.
This kid is probably…No, this kid is definitely blind. If he’s trying to convince Mr. Rogers that he’s not blind, he’s doing a pretty crappy job what with the unfocused eyes and all the face-touching. But moreover, this is a poor metaphor for the article’s audience. They’re probably encouraging you to abstain from telling the hot babe at the bar that you’re a film producer. They really intend for you to not rent a Porsche for your class reunion. But blind people will generally hit a higher wall than you trying to convince others that they are not blind, usually when it comes to meeting TV hosts or crossing the street. The next time you meet a blind person, ask him how many times he’s tried to convince others that he can see. Then note the dexterity with which he can clock you in the face.
#6. Stop trying to hold onto the past.
Image by Max Rossi/Reuters
This is an image of the Costa Concordia disaster in which 32 people lost their lives and 5 crew members were found guilty of manslaughter by way of negligence. I guarantee - No one involved in this event is trying to hold onto the past. Everybody would be pretty darned happy to forget the whole thing, including the dummy captain who turned off the navigation system and ordered the boat into rocky waters so he could wave ‘Hi’ to his family. Nobody is enjoying themselves except for the cynical retirees sunbathing by the watery grave of strangers. Is this supposed to make me chuckle and say, “Hey, we all make mistakes”? People died here, man!
#10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness.
Image by Andy Hutchinson
Stop looking to others for happiness. Now enjoy this picture of a gorgeous island you don’t live on.
#11. Stop being idle.
Everyone should read Bertrand Russell’s classic essay "In Praise of Idleness". The point he makes is that the adage of sweaty work being the only path to a virtuous life is a scam handed down by a caste of landowners reaping profit off the toil of others. He posits that in an equal society, we could spread out the work, still make profit, and take some time off to enjoy our friggin’ lives before we die. Before you start shouting, “Communist!”, don’t worry. He makes a good point of noting how the USSR mucked it up and pretty much became the same as their predecessors.
The larger point is that idleness is the seed of all creativity. Don’t get me wrong. It comes in different forms. Putzing around on Facebook and watching Jersey Shore are forms of idleness that make you feel as if you’re being active even though you’re not. Hours pass and all you’ve done was yuk at a bunch of LOLCats. But it’s no accident that the great thinkers of the world have gotten their best ideas in the shower. Why? Because all they’re doing is worshing the ol’ nuts. They are distracted by nothing. It is the most common and most pure form of meditation. Advice like “Stop being idle” is, frankly, a symptom of a go-get-‘em mentality dead set on financial success and bereft of any inquiry towards wisdom. I advise a balance of work and play. Make some money. Then take some time to make a card house or stare at the wall. You might strike upon an idea to build robotic dragons or you might not. But at least you’ll have enjoyed a few minutes of your life and quit worrying about striking it rich.
Now, here’s the picture.
Image at betterphoto.com
Is that girl…Is she jumping into a sea of bones?!
#15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else.
Here’s the picture.
Image by claudio campa
Alright, don’t worry about competing with everyone else. But shit, try to keep up! Don’t dangle off the side of a mountain solo just so you can tell your hippie friends how independent you are.
#18. Stop holding grudges.
Look at this guy. He couldn’t hold a grudge if it was slathered in bacon. He is a blissful beast mystified by the miracle of snow. Again, unlike this blog’s readership, it’s not that he’s overcome holding a grudge. He can’t hold a grudge. He is a simple, thumbless dummy as unaware of the troubles of the world as he is of the leaf on his head.
#22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments.
Image by Mike Killian
Yep, stop overlooking the beauty of small moments…like the Asgardian ring of fire shooting through the sky!! In which country do we regard this as a “small moment”, and when can I move there? Are the lakes made purely out of cocktails?
#23. Stop trying to make things perfect.
W…T…living…F, self-help blog! Did you think that rat was taking a cozy nap and cuddling up to his favorite human? That rat is dead, and that child just had her first brush with mortality. I, for one, actually think that rats can be cute and make great pets…in the right circumstances! But I’m going to lay down money that this picture was not taken in an OSHA-approved world. I’m betting that hydrogen peroxide won’t be found for miles and miles.You just showed me a picture of a little girl of the Third World devastated by the loss of the only friend she ever knew, a dead rat currently leaking rabies all over her. I get that we don’t have to make things perfect, self-help blog. But do we have to make them this awful?
#29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen.
THIS IS AN ENTIRE LIST OF THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO HAPPEN! Not to play semantics, but I haven’t read one thing you want me to actually do, self-help blog. You’ve given me 28 arduous Whole Foods-culture commandments of shit you don’t want me to do, shit you assume I’m already doing. And now you’re going to encourage me to get active? Active at what? I can’t find the link for 30 Things You Should Be Doing to Yourself. Here’s the picture.
Image by Sarolta Bán
You know what I really don’t want to happen? I don’t want a little girl to get eaten by a bear. That is clearly the next image in this series. Here’s a pro-tip for all you new parents out there. The next time the cinematographer from The Ring offers to shoot pictures of your little one petting a forest-dwelling carnivore that survives solely on the bodies of smaller beings, politely decline.
You can read the rest of the thing if you’re into that stuff. Better yet, I’ve got my own list:
30 Things to Stop Doing Altogether
#1 - #30. Stop wasting your time reading new agey tripe on the internet. Close your laptop. Put down your phone. Walk outside. Go hear a band and don’t take pictures. Stare at the sky. Read a book. Read another book. Eat a donut. Eat a salad. Lie on the floor. Boink your significant other. Find someone to boink. Go to a museum. Go to an island. But for the love of Crom, stop taking the advise of any yahoo who knows HTML tags, including me, and go experience something.