SPIRITUAL SOAP: Die a Little Death or Live Forever Sick
A humble suggestion
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
There’s an illness in our culture with only a single symptom: a lost voice.
Knowing that your every word will be scrutinized by people whose purpose depends on finding (or inventing) your flaws will make your voice crack–and that’s the point. The threat of backlash adds a little armor to your every word. Tension leeches into your everyday existence, like the kind you feel before the eye doctor does that annoying air puff in your eye—you know it’s coming, you know you’ll survive it, and yet you can’t help but feel apprehension.
I’m concocting a very FDA-unapproved home remedy for avoiding this sickness that leaves you silent. Too weak a defense eventually fails, but push too hard and you end up a puppet that moves in reverse to what you oppose.
I won’t be the prey that hisses and scowls to warn offenders, nursing nothing but the meek desire to be left unbothered. I am that who moves at the pace of my choosing—observing and acting in my time.
A battle is what you write home about, not where you build your home. The natural response to a threat is the eager anger that marks our proto-metaverse; it’s the state we find ourselves in after every new headline or notification. Hyper-connection is a stupider sword of Damocles, with its subtle feeling that somewhere, someone is about to find your ugliest flaw; that somewhere, someone is about to shift your world in a darker direction.
Searching for snakes in your cave was more dangerous than searching your notifications, but the refresh rate on the former offered true moments of peace.
It’s the fear of pain that gives it power. If I didn’t fear suffering, I wouldn’t have avoided writing this essay for months. A threat is the possibility of pain, not the certainty; it’s the possibility of being accused of the day’s latest -ism that subdues you, not the certainty. There’s peace in definite destruction. When the option to escape is gone and fear is useless, the threat no longer controls you.
There’s your existential cheat code.
I’ve lived most of my life avoiding some potential pain: criticism, rejection, embarrassment, failure. My words were careful, my voice timid and tepid, naively sacrificing honesty in hopes of avoiding the unavoidable. If I just phrased it right, just avoided the wrong words, just made my intentions clear I could avoid the uncountable faceless voices hating me in unison. I’ve imagined my persona’s execution for 100 different reasons in 100 different ways. Life under the threat of constant criticism can make you resilient, but sometimes you just get bored of waiting for your day as a digital effigy.
The sane person survives an insane environment by doing the opposite of their instincts. You avoid the sugar you crave because your body was designed for a world before sugar was ubiquitous; why go silent to avoid offending in a world of ubiquitous outrage? If the threat of my persona’s execution is the modern weapon that controls me, sanity is turning the weapon on myself.
For those who are just sane enough to lose their minds, I propose a mass suicide of the public self. Kill the hostage that a hyper-critical culture threatens you with.
Don’t wait for your scars and sins to be exposed—offer them up eagerly. Live with such violent vulnerability that the moral weapons of today have no target left to hit.
I walk naked before the modern-day church of politically correct priests, stripped of all egotistical shields and ideological veils. Instead of having the guilt over my inevitable failures exploited, I will own my guilt. I’ll confess my ignorance and list all the important books I haven’t read. I’ll show you my crooked teeth, my bad habits, and admit the fear that I’ll never be who I think I could. Stand beside me, hateful stranger, and we’ll sort through my deeply human mess together.
Where is freedom found in a culture enslaved by the fear of its own imperfection? Every person harbors the secret of their inadequacy.
Nothing hidden can be free, so sacrifice your secret. Offer the opposite of what a culture obsessed with perfection seeks—be openly, unflinchingly flawed.
In the age of information, we need fewer answers. Instead of the constant chatter of advice and bits of wisdom, we need admissions of imperfection.
Be ignorant. Be ugly. Be offensive, even, if it’s what’s needed to live as the humbly flawed human you are. Innoculate yourself against a sick culture instead of seeking absolution from power-hungry strangers. When our flaws have never been more visible, abiding by a perfectionistic culture is madness wrapped in masochism.
The sane person today is brutally open with their flaws because they seek neither perfection nor pardons. If the critics want a crucifixion, be the first to hoist yourself onto the cross.
Transcendence won’t be found by avoiding every error and providing every extorted apology, but by embracing exactly what our culture fears most: human imperfection. You’re free the moment you trade the delusion of perfection for the courage to be human.
Thanks for reading.
To live in line with my call for violent vulnerability, I’ll be publishing short essays weekly to share my search for up in an upside-down culture. These essays will get increasingly personal and will sometimes come with videos and photos.
It’s an experiment you’re invited to take part in by becoming a paid subscriber. This first essay in my experimental series is free, but subsequent editions will cost you an LA coffee-priced subscription. If that's not for you, remaining a free subscriber will get you the bi-weekly Weird&Güd series plus previews of the weekly essays.
Either way, I’m glad you’re here.