Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You Are What You Do

I’m sure that you never believed that you are what you eat. Your nutritional profile might contribute to your good or bad health; it might extend your life or kill you before Christmas. Still, you are not a mere biochemical mass.

You might think that you are what you are, but that sounds a little too close to what God told Moses: I am that I am.

Until you get to be God you can forget about being who you are.

If you have taken too many warm baths in the therapy culture you might think that you are what you feel.

You might think of yourself as a bundle of warm fuzzy feelings, with a few angry and envious feelings thrown in for taste.

Then you might define yourself as a nice guy, a good guy, a caring and compassionate individual. You have high self-esteem. You feel good feelings for the downtrodden among us, and you occasionally contribute to the right causes.

You do not just feel the right feelings; you think the right thoughts. You hold the correct opinions about … whatever.

But, as Dr. Phil would say: how’s that working out for you?

Writing on his website, author David Wong raises these issues for his twentysomething male readership.

More than a few of Wong’s readers are not doing very well. They are not very productive and are not contributing very much to the common weal.

The result: girls do not want to get too involved with them. They know they’re nice guys; how come girls are not flocking to them?

Wong tries to help them out. Spicing his column with enough profanities to gain him entrance into any all-boys club, he exclaims that you aren’t what you eat; you aren’t what you feel; you aren’t even what you are.

In truth, you are what you do. You are what you contribute. 

If you are thinking that you want to be loved for who you are, Wong bears sad tidings: no one every loves you for who you are.

If you want people to love you, go out and make something of yourself. Do something productive that has redeeming social value.

He may or may not know it, but Wong is taking a page from Aristotle. You are not a writer, he says, because you have the heart of a writer, the soul of a writer and every intention to write. You are a writer when you write and when your writing contributes something to someone.

It isn’t all in your mind. It’s in your job. It’s in what you do.

Wong does not necessarily mean remunerated employment. Being a mother is a job; it contributes something essential to society.

When you go to that Christmas party and you meet someone new one of the first questions will be: What do you do?

Certain thinkers, who shall go unnamed, bemoan the superficiality of asking people what they do. It’s what they are inside; it’s the state of their soul; it’s their heart.

Wong is saying that no one much cares about what you have inside if you have nothing to show for it.

The world doesn’t care about how nice a guy you are. The world doesn’t even care about how hard you work. The world, Wong insists, following David Mamer, cares about whether you can close the deal.

Obviously, you are not going to close the deal if you do not put in the time and effort. But, the world will not reward you for having done your best when you don’t close the deal.

Wang’s principle sounds cruel. It is not what anyone wants to hear. Therefore, it probably contains more truth than we would like to admit.

Wong knows that some people are going to be unhappy to learn that they are slackers and that they will never get the girl.

He knows their game and he calls them out on it. Since they do not do very much themselves, they resent those who do. They do not write plays or novels but are happy to criticize those who do.

Thinking that they are utterly non-judgmental, they lie back on their parents’ couch, watch the world go by, and find fault with everything everyone else is doing. They went to college and learned critical theory and deconstruction. Now they are putting it to good use.

Feeling insulted by people like Wong, they will fight back by attacking and maligning the messenger. Then they will assert the purity of their soul. They will insist that they have not been corrupted by any compromise with the system.  


Anonymous said...

I laughed a lot reading the article!
It is blatantly true, and I have heard my share of both men and women complaining about "being so nice" but being dumped.
I remember a few times in my own dating world, men saying that to me as I was breaking up with them. "I can't believe you are breaking up with me, I guess it's true... Nice guys DO finish last..."
I had to remind them that there was more to "finding the right one" than "is he nice?"

Mat said...

- fig tree parable comes to mind
- parable of the talents comes to mind
- book of john comes to mind
- Proverbs 22:29
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.

Finally, Jesus comes to mind as people that can understand the cracked article can surely understand they can't do enough to get into heaven.

Sam L. said...

David Mamer--David Mamet, the playwright, maybe?

"They went to college and learned critical theory and deconstruction. Now they are putting it to good use."
I'd call it a bad use.

" Then they will assert the purity of their soul. They will insist that they have not been corrupted by any compromise with the system."
They've been compromised BY the system. And don't know it. Or won't admit it.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

We infer merit through expression and not intention. Where the latter is a hint, the former is confirmation.

I believe God judges with the same standard. It is divine!

However, where God is omniscient, we have strictly limited awareness, which is why we process life through risk management.

So, it's not just "content of character" which is relevant, but outcome of action. Still, we can appreciate or respect, if not actually reward, good intentions prosecuted in good faith.