Out at London Pride, uncharacteristically. Around 1am, as you do, find myself in an intimate discussion with a stranger. Who leaps to what he imagines is my defence:

He: "What are you into?"

I: "Women, mostly."

"Oh right."

"It's a limited view, though. I wish I was more open."

"What? There's no such thing! You got to accept yourself!"

"Sure, but - I'm only attracted to like a tenth of the population; it would be objectively better to have a larger pool, and to see all of beauty."

"Hey, hey: stop it, you don't need to justify yourself. You are you, so you do you. Don't do anyone else."

"That's a beautiful thing to say, and there's a lot of people in the world who really need to hear it. Not me, though."

"It's true for everyone! You'll only hurt yourself by not being yourself."

"No, though. Consider: monkeys like bananas and sex; humans like bananas, sex, and philosophy and sports. So the value space visible to the latter is -"

"- Look, you're not going to change by overthinking things. So skip it! I'm not questioning you!"

"I am questioning myself. And so I often change. I don't want stock acceptance. Challenging me when I am not as good as I could be is better than acceptance: you take me seriously. You give me actual help.

When I 'do' me, I justify myself to myself. In others this can be neurotic, self-sabotage. For me it is creation. If you wanted to google it, there's a word for it. Only at home when taking a pickaxe to the walls, to see if they're actually solid."


Gavin commented on 11 April 2020 :

A reading which did not occur to me at the time: this conversation could have been not actually about me.

I was at Pride, personally rejecting pride. There are people who would take this as throwing shade.

My lovely interlocutor’s protests would then be ‘belief as attire’: said not to reassure me, but instead to affirm pride in identity and the sanctity of Pride. My preferences for myself would be beside the point: on Pride day, everyone accepts themselves. It wasn’t that he was failing to apply his principle of self-acceptance on the second-order I needed; it was that I was failing to join in, to go along with the spirit of things. (On the philosophical level, it’s also possible to view pride as more important / separate from mere happiness.)

I wasn’t knocking anyone else’s pride, just noting my own lack of it. But group events have their own negative feedback mechanisms. If it were a faux pas to even opt out, then I probably wouldn’t go.

I’m pretty confident that he was in fact speaking on the object level, about me and not People, about philosophy and not ideology, from interactions we had later. But it’s interesting to note how political gently opting out of something could be.

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Tags: self-help, rationality


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