Here’s a classic moment from the late Mr. David Foster Wallace…
Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
I worship intellect, and yes, I do always feel on the verge of being found out. Sometimes, I just admit it, to try and avoid some of the feelings of stupidity. Frequently, at the beginning of a creative project, I just tell everyone up front that I have no idea what I’m doing and that I feel woefully inadequate for the task ahead. It’s a decent strategic move in that it usually elicits sympathy as well as simpatico, a feeling of solidarity with others who feel the same. Maybe if we admit that we feel stupid, we can avoid making each other feel stupid. Also, it sets me up for some success, since after that point I may even get extra credit for coming through in some ways that folks wouldn’t expect from such a clearly underwhelming intellect. At least, that’s the way my tiny reptilian ambition sees it.
So, my question, dear reader, is simple: What do you worship?
And, going further… How is it making you feel inadequate, inferior, or inept? Is it putting you in a bad mood? How much of your energy goes to keeping yourself feeling smart, funny, powerful, competent, whatever? How are your relationships affected by your need to keep people from thinking you’re not smart, funny, powerful, competent, whatever? I bet you’ve made more than a few statements this week that were half-truths, outright lies, or worse, utter bullshit that you made up just to make someone think you’re smart, funny, powerful, competent or whatever.
I’ve done it a few times just this morning. Even as I knew I was doing it. While I was keeping one eye on feeling smart, I lost track of the “feeling competent” needs, and started defending that front. Needlessly, I’m pretty sure, but there it was. Now I’m wasting everyone’s time a being insincere to boot.
So, last words. What do you worship? And how do you really want people to think about you?