What a question. If only more people asked it, every day. If only I had spent more of my life asking it.
I don’t know if you listen to my podcast, Harmontown, but our friend, Siike, a multiple aneurysm survivor, once offered us some wisdom from his tragically unique position at the outer edge of certainty: “Give more than you take.” Sounds like you and I have both been spending time lately feeling like we aren’t succeeding at that. My attempts at contribution often end up feeling like siphons. And while I’m working so hard to make people like me, the people closest to me can take a flying fuck, except when they’re nourishing me. My girlfriend loves me unconditionally, and so, like a baby, I suck on what she offers me, cry when it’s taken away, giving nothing in return but occasional Walter White rants about how folks will appreciate me one day, they’re going to see what I gave, and blah blah blah.
Which obviously indicates that these contributions I think I’m making aren’t contributions at all. No more than a mosquito’s contribution of anti-coagulants into a host’s bloodstream.
I think I slip from the right kind of “giving” to the wrong kind without noticing because they’re identical in terms of behavior. One minute you’re carrying a box because you want to help your friend, the next minute, you’re carrying the same box to be a good person and a few steps later, after not getting some thank you you decided you deserved, you’re carrying a box because your asshole friend is a selfish piece of shit and you can’t wait to move out of your house just to make him lift a piano and you hope it crushes him to death. In one conversation’s time, you can end up eighty miles from the nearest patch of honesty, still insisting that you’re where you are because you’re a hero. And you could pass a polygraph test while saying it, because you’re not exactly lying, you’re just… lost.
So you and I need to know, today, how do we get back on track. How do we stop telling people our asses look fat in these jeans and get back to having accidentally hot asses in sweatpants on laundry day.
First we reset to that crucial gateway, where we just want to be good people. We drop the rest of our bullshit. Who cares if we got fired from Grey Matter, it’s back story, now. Who cares which meth is the best meth, or whether meth is bad, we just drop every thought in our head except the one that can’t be dropped, come hell or highwater, come bipolar autistic alcoholic schizophrenic self-diagnostic disorder or childhood trauma or anything we think is fundamental, because nothing is as fundamental as this: we want to be good people. Nobody can fuck up standing in one place wanting something, not even us.
Now how do we make sure we move forward without getting lost? According to Taoists, we don’t. We follow through on the “action” we took to get back here, which is inaction. We relax, like a puppet, so that our next move is more the universe’s than our own. When you let the universe do the moving, it will never use you to hurt people. When you’re hurting people, that’s your Ventriloquist God saying “hey, dummy, get my hand back up your ass, because the only thing creepier than our ordinary routine is whatever the hell you’re trying to do right now.”
I believe we’re heroes when we’re transparent and we’re villains when we’re blocking light, throwing ego-shaped shadows all around us, then fearing those shadows and clenching up, which blocks more light, feeding the darkness, making the problem seem unsolvable. I believe that if we all went transparent at once, all problems would stop, but that it’s probably impossible, and that having that as a goal would make us opaque and cast more shadows. I believe that Katy Perry is wrong, I think that having fireworks shoot out of your chest is dangerous, I think your clothing would catch on fire and you could die.
And I think your question, which is also my question, is its own answer. We can stop sucking other people’s necks and start giving more than we take if we ask ourselves how we can do it and make sure we don’t block the real, honest answer. Sometimes working hard is the hardest thing we can do, and sometimes it’s just our really easy way of trying to take stuff from everyone around us. Sometimes the hard thing is the easy thing. Sometimes we should do the dishes and sometimes we should take off our apron, tell our boss to fuck off and walk away, because we’re not a dishwasher, we’re just a writer washing someone else’s dishes.
And sometimes people get away with telling other people how the world works by starting their rules with “sometimes,” which is dumb, because how are you supposed to know which times are the some times. But this time, I can tell you when the sometimes are: they’re when you know, in your heart, which can’t be fooled, whether you’re really giving or just taking from behind. DAN HARMON COMPARES MISPLACED ALTRUISM TO FORCIBLE SODOMY. Please watch Rick and Morty on Adult Swim in December and watch Season 5 of Community in the future.