Sunday, February 26, 2006

Essays From the Slush Pile

Here's another piece you won't find in the Atlantic Monthly. Laugh and learn, everybody.


The Best of Both Worlds:
An Argument for Hypocrisy

Once upon a time, as I chomped down on a gooey maple bar in the lunchroom, a coworker shuffled in for a snack. My mouth happily collapsed around the pastry, I glanced up, noticing that the center of her face seemed to cave and pucker, like a drawstring in her head were pulled tight. So she says “You know how bad that stuff is for you, don’t you?”

Well, of course I knew how bad it was. I had told her the very same thing a not a week before. Oh yeah, I went on and on about the evils of dairy, caffeine and sugar. I threw out words like ‘mucous’ and ‘heart attack’ and there was even mention of intestinal parasites. Now, caught with the goods—or rather the bads, I cowered in my tall mint mocha, unable to respond. Red faced, and red handed, I felt guilty and hypocritical. But it got me thinking. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite. So What? Why is that so horrible? I’m not a bad person, I just hold two opposing views simultaneously. From that juncture of logic, I set out to prove that hypocrisy wasn’t so much a character flaw, as it was a wrongfully maligned coping mechanism, essential—yes I did say essential, to one’s mental health.

Nobody wants to be thought of hypocritical. We do our best to pick a stance and stay with it, striving for consistency in everything we do and say, but occasionally we fall short. Sometimes, unwittingly, other times deliberately, we interrupt that steady-as-she-goes, uniformity of principle, walking-the-talk-integrity. If we’re caught, the ensuing self-reproach infects the psyche, allowing guilt to fester there, unnecessarily.

Mr. Webster believes a hypocrite to be a charlatan or fraud; one who practices deception. When I told my coworker the skull and crossbones facts about sugar, caffeine, etc., I wasn’t in any way trying to deceive her. I believed then and do now that those and a host of other additives are toxic ka ka. I had eliminated these very poisons from my diet for a whole year and felt terrific. Then Halloween came around. I stocked up on fun-size everything like the end of the world was coming. Realizing at one point that I had eaten nothing but sugar and caffeine for an entire week, I thought that because sugar is burned for fuel and caffeine is a stimulant, as long as I consume them, I can’t die. I would have continued in this fashion, but my teeth started to hurt.

My point being that one can believe and practice two opposing ideas. Characterizing my actions as hypocritical was incorrect. A more fitting word would be paradoxical, which Webster defines as inconsistent behavior; contradictory, ironic. So call the behavior what it is, folks: Paradoxical. I rather like the sound of that. I’ve gone from social pariah to ironic in one brilliant word.

Some may insist that paradoxicallity is a personality detriment. I’d call it an ability, a gift.* Life has much to experience, so many things to like and dislike. So many roses to smell and desserts to savor. There are concepts and edicts galore to hold or refute, to scoff or defend, to ignore or to canonize. Because we don’t have a lot of time to do it all in, paradoxicalists have evolved with the capacity to see not just one side of an issue, but all sides, and adherence to a number of views is normal—commendable even. We are capable of being multi-factioned due to our extraordinary broad vision and wide open emotional capacity. Unfortunately because of a misnomer, we’ve been persecuted for this exceptional trait. Why pick just one side of an issue and have a flimsy 50/50 chance of being right? You know what that is folks? It’s gambling. And where I come from, gambling is a vice.

Many of us exhibit ‘hypocrisy’ to some extent. Let me help you down off your high horse with a demonstration. Not all pedestrians are drivers, but all drivers are pedestrians on occasion. How many times have you—the driver, been waiting to make a turn, while a pedestrian dawdles across the road with the leisure of molasses? “Hurry up you bloody so and so!” Shouting seems to make them walk even slower. You’re thinking “If only there were a thirty second time limit, no—make that twenty seconds, that would permit me to make the turn, lawfully rendering the slowpoke into a speed bump if necessary after they’d timed out.” Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

OK. You’ve parked your car and need to cross the street. The blue “WALK” sign bids you step into the road. You’re about halfway across when some jerk almost takes you out in the middle of a sloppy left turn. He is so close, you could see which radio station he’s tuned to. “Where did you learn to drive? You f****n JERK! Oh yeah, you’re in such a BIG Hurry! What a self-important big shot you are!”

See what I mean? Not five minutes ago, you were ready to write your congressman about the “fifteen-second rule.” Now it seems that you’ve exceeded your 45 seconds in the crosswalk. This is an instance where you have to have it both ways, otherwise you’d combust under the pressure of lopsided reasoning.

Hypocrites! Paradoxicalists! Come out of your closets and be proud of who you are! Because, you can have your cake and eat it too, even if you say that you don’t like cake to begin with.

* It is my hope that I can use my paradoxicallity for the good of all. In the event I cannot locate all, I shall use it for my own benefit.


Anonymous Betty said...

oh my god what an article!! You finally got me off the hypocritical path.Wonderful!! Love it!! My viewpoints just expanded twentyfold.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Thanks Betty! The great thing is, you can love this post AND hate it, and have a perfectly sound position either way!

10:00 PM  
Blogger Cranky Bastard said...

This one is a gift in the grand tradition of Cindy. When you set fire to a subject, Cindy, you dispense with the matches and go right for the blowtorch!

4:27 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Thanks Brad!
It's nice to read your voice again, by the way.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Queen of the Inane said...

Sweet shit, Cindy! Hypocrites(Paradoxicallists)(sp) everywhere shall name you their Queen!

All Hail Queen Cindy.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Thank you Hannah!

9:50 PM  

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