7.7.09

The Only Self-Help You’ll Ever Need


I HAVE DECIDED UPON A WAY OF LIFE, a strand of philosophy that has existed since Greek antiquity but never put into so many words on a digital word processor; it is the key to happiness, and I wanted to write it down so that I wouldn’t forget it by tomorrow noon.

We may dub this school of thought “Neo-Erasmianism”, as it follows the basic writings and ideas of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, only without all the Jesus. In fact, the existence of God is strictly optional; one may choose to believe in him only insofar as He created life and then ducked out of the picture entirely, like a runaway husband who fathers children in every state he visits.

The trick is to embrace pessimism—just because life is depressing, doesn’t mean you should be. If you hate your job, remember that everyone else agrees, hating not only your job but likely their own as well. There’s no reason to be miserable to those waiting in line five minutes to buy a two-dollar cheeseburger just because you’d rather be in your basement on mushrooms jaunting through a tortilla chip forest.

“People love being depressed collectively:
consider funerals or anyone who saw
Schindler’s List in theatres.”

This steers our discourse directly into the heart of Neo-Erasmianism: that life is unpleasant. It is dreary and depressing, filled with illness, death and pimples. Enjoy it. As my grandmother always said to me, “Zit happens.” I am to this day unsure of whether her pun was intentional or a result of her cleft palate, but judging by the amount she drank we’ll assume it was a momentary stroke of brilliance.

Always be pessimistic. An optimist is constantly disappointed; a pessimist can only be impressed. You’ll be happier, more correct and attain a false sense of superiority that will lead to greater self-esteem. You’ll thank me when you’re 40.

Don’t drink to excess, because that is escapism; rather than run away, delve into the heart of the misery, embrace it with conscious sobriety. Go to a karaoke bar and sing “Build Me Up, Buttercup” on repeat; better still, find other depressed people and wallow together. People love being depressed collectively: consider funerals or anyone who saw Schindler’s List in theatres. This path is more admirable and builds a stronger character. You’ll thank me when you’re 39.

Your sunset will vanish, and so will the girl,
along with the $50 you owe her for the night.

In the case of extreme depression, do not consider suicide. Or, better still, consider it but don’t do it. Slit one wrist, but never both. I had a friend who did that once; now his book is on Oprah’s Choice. I don’t quite know what that means, but I imagine it’s like Sophie’s Choice, only featuring independent black women. To sum up, suicide is not preferable, if only because it is more enjoyable to laugh than to be dead. Presumably.

If you ever are temporarily blessed enough to forget how much life totally blows, then enjoy it, but remember that this is temporary. Every so often, life will try to win you over by throwing you a majestic sunset with clouds painted orange, or a girl who seems like everything you’ve dreamed of. But the sunset will vanish, and so will the girl, along with the $50 you owe her for the night. You’ll be thrust back into reality, where you have to write an essay on Descartes or have dinner with your in-laws.

Most important, when regarding depression—don’t sweat it. Even if you try to be depressed for more than five hours straight, you’ll realize that it gets boring. Know that life stinks and laugh anyway. Don’t be oblivious; just be content. Be pessimistic and you’ll find yourself smiling more, knowing that just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean you should stop laughing.

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