Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Epistle to the Curmudgeon

[A friend of mine wrote this and I think it is incredibly insightful and well done. I reprint here with his permission.]

By William Smith

I, Marah, which in the English tongue is Bitterness, an apostle of Misery, to the disenfranchised, depressed, and generally ill-tempered, wish to write briefly to all those who follow me in all my ways and long to be like me in every respect. If you would be pleasing to our common lord, there are certain virtues that must be present and abound. One or two of these virtues is enough to accomplish much in the way of the miserable life. But you will be better served if you learn to incorporate all six of these into your life, adding one to another. There are, of course, many other virtues that could be mentioned, but these six should be sufficient to start you down the irredeemable path of Misery.

First, and primary to all other virtues, you must be discontent. Contentment, as one Christian Puritan wrote long ago, is a rare jewel. Discontentment, however, is like gravel: it’s everywhere. If you long to live a miserable life, never be satisfied with anything or anybody. Always be thinking about what you don’t have instead of what God has graciously given you. In other words, be ungrateful. Never see the good in anything anyone else does but always focus on how he or she fell short. Always ... and I mean always ... grumble and complain about everything. This increases and heightens the experience of discontentment, causing you to dip down to the lowest levels of this deep pit. The ecstasies of misery can only be realized if you verbalize them. Discontentment is sure to take you a long way to your goal of being miserable. If you are lucky and hang around some other people, you might even obtain some recruits. Misery does love company ... at least for a little while. Discontentment will make sure that your miserable cohorts will not measure up eventually and you will have to ditch them.

Along with your discontentment you must also be unforgiving. People offend and sin against one another. It is the way things are. Conscientious people know that sin and offenses cannot be justified by those who commit them, but they cannot be avoided either if you live in relationship with anyone but yourself. If you want to live a miserable life, never forgive. O, don’t say “I won’t forgive you.” By all means say the words, “I forgive you.” But whatever you do, hold on to that list of offenses so that the next time the other person slips up, you can drag all of that out again and use it to bludgeon the person to death. Let the other person’s offenses and sins control your life. Dwell on them day and night. Do let them go. Stay under their power believing that you deserve to be treated better and you will not rest until this other person doesn’t just ask for forgiveness, but crawls over broken glass to beg your clemency and then does everything that you demand of him until his debt is paid in your eyes (which can be never if you want to remain miserable). Unforgiveness is a MUST if you want to live a miserable life.

As you continue to cultivate misery in your life, you must also become proficient in blaming everyone else. Bad things have happened to you. People have sinned against you, sometimes in some evil ways. If you want to live a miserable life, let that define your existence for the rest of your days. If you don’t fulfill your responsibilities, it is because of that incident or those incidents. Instead of looking to the way God defines you (Misery forbid!), take the word of man spoken to you through their words or actions toward you. Whatever you do, you must NOT believe God. Also, when something goes wrong in your life because something you failed to do, look for someone else upon whom to lay the guilt. “He wasn’t there for me.” “They didn’t provide this for me.” Certainly other people have some responsibilities, but they need to know that they really have ALL the responsibilities for my life. Others are supposed to fulfill their responsibilities AND my responsibilities. When they don’t do both of these, well, I will blame them and excuse my inaction. Of course, no one can ever meet these high demands. They are impossible for any human. That is the beauty of it. That means I can always be miserable because this can NEVER be done. You will reach your goal of complete and utter misery if you always find someone to blame.

Increasing your misery must also include taking everything in the worst possible light. People say and do things that can be perceived in a number of different ways depending on the context. If you want to live a miserable life, you must always take everything in the worst possible light. Even compliments given to you must be understood as some type of leverage the person is trying to gain over you. He is being sarcastic or simply being “nice” to put on a good Christian face, but he really doesn’t mean it. The actions of others must be understood as being against you. (This whole epistle is probably about you! If you believe this, you are surely on the right track.) If something said is unclear, it is muddled for a purpose. This person is being deceitful. In order to be miserable, you must believe that everyone is against you. The very way they live their lives is an indictment of the way you live, relate to your spouse, rear your children, and eat ice cream. It doesn’t matter what they do, it is all against you because you think that everybody thinks like you; namely that YOU are the center of the universe and everyone is consumed with you like you are consumed with you. The fact that what they say and do might be harmless or even WORSE, trying to be kind, cannot be abided; not if you want to live in misery.

Another virtue of misery that must be developed is the ability to nit-pick everything everyone else does. Of course, no one can do everything right. Everyone understands this. But if you really want to be miserable, you must understand that no one can do ANYTHING right. Oh, they might get some stuff right, but there are always mistakes and even sins that pollute the whole action. In order to be miserable, you must nit-pick everything someone else does. If you do this in your own mind, then you get to enjoy the misery yourself. But if you actually give your “evaluation” to the other person, you can suck the life right out of him. And, if you do this to everyone around you, you can actually make everyone around you miserable (at least when they don’t run when they see you coming. You may only have one shot at this, so make it good.) Keep long lists of all the stuff people do wrong and mull over it day and night. Insist that people can only relate to you on your terms, which are quite meticulous and, on top of that, hidden from the other person. If he is ever actually informed about your likes and dislikes and tries to relate to you that way, some of your excuses for not liking him will be taken away. You must always demand exacting standards with little or no grace, and the other person must figure you out. If you act this way you will be sure to be miserable because you will have no friends. No one will want to be around you long, except those people who are just like you. And again, they won’t stay around for very long. This is a living hell, and in hell there are no friendships.

Finally, my miserable brothers, hang around people who do all of the above and try to “rescue” them when they don’t want to be rescued. You want to rescue the person who practices all of the above. You think, “No one really wants to live in misery.” How naive! Yet, like a good trooper, you are going into the battle and rescue the other soldier. But what you find is that this other soldier likes the mine field he is in and doesn’t want to come out. Nevertheless, you are going to try to drag him out. So, you hang around him trying to encourage him to come out of his misery. But misery is his joy. Misery is his life. Misery is his destiny. To come out of this miserable state would mean that he would have to take some personal responsibility and be forgiving and gracious to others. To do that would require something of him that he is not willing to give. It would mean that he would have to work and be busy about what he is supposed to be doing and wouldn’t have time to dwell on all of the mistakes of others, setting himself up as a false god. He likes this place of being an implacable, unmerciful god. Misery is his life. After a while his misery, like a virus, infects you. Your life isn’t as good as you deserve. Everybody else does mess up all the time and is probably out to get you. Just keep trying to rescue those who have no desire to be rescued and you too will find yourself in a miserable state as well.

So, make your depression and misery sure. Add to your discontentment, unforgiveness; to your unforgiveness, blame; to blame, suspicion; to suspicion, nit-picking; and to nit-picking, seeking to rescue the stubbornly miserable. If you do these things and such the like, you will pave the way for greater misery and depression. You will destroy your marriage, ruin friendships, disrupt and divide churches, and never realize joy. You will show yourself a true disciple of me, Marah, and our lord, Misery.

No comments: