What inspires you? What’s the most inspirational thing anyone’s ever said to you? These are questions that get tossed around a lot, particularly if you’re in a creative field. The notion here is that at the heart of any great creative undertaking, there’s a spark of inspiration from which the entire many-splendored flower of creative genius blossoms. Technically, this is true, if only because nothing happens in a complete vacuum, but I was recently asked in an interview “what’s the most inspirational thing anyone’s ever said to you?” and as I was pondering the answer, I realized that shit like that doesn’t inspire me. In fact, if I really analyze my opinions on the matter, it turns out that ‘inspirational quotes’ by and large, kind of revolt and annoy me. To get slightly meta for a second, I guess it’s that very revulsion that’s inspired this here blog entry, which renders this entire exercise invalid, but let’s just put a pin in that idea for now and focus on the big picture of inspirational quotes, and the bigger, more insidious manifestation of the inspirational quote: the easy-answers-self-help-get-your-shit-together books that solve all of life’s problems with all the quippy, no-nonsense ease of a sassy gay friend doling out relationship advice. I think all that shit sucks. There. I said it. I don’t believe in inspiration, inspirational quotes or self-help books. It’s all garbage, and here’s why:
Every year universities hire celebrities to speak at their commencement ceremonies in the hopes that these beacons of megasuccess will be able to impart some inspirational wisdom to the young people who are about to be foisted upon the world to sink or swim, armed with nothing more than their university education and whatever advice Ashton Kutcher (or whoever) doles out at the commencement. It’s fine, I guess. I don’t wanna shit on any traditions, but it IS more or less a waste of time and energy at best and at worst it’s a terrible platform for some dumb dick who lucked into a lottery-win caliber job to reinforce their own deluded notion that they understand how the world works better than everyone else (this is particularly funny because there’s almost no one less qualified to explain to young people how to make it in the world than people who get paid millions of dollars to pretend to be other people, write laws about other people, or play shitty pop songs). The speeches are meant to inspire, but they are all, to the last, identical and predictable and serve only the interests of Upworthy and the ego of the person speaking. You want an example? Okay, fine.
Jim Carrey recently gave a speech that’s all over facebook where he talks about how his dad was a funny guy who, crippled by fear, never went into comedy (who goes into comedy? How can you raise a family on comedy?) and instead became an insurance agent. When he was fired unceremoniously years later, young Jim learned an important lesson: You can fail at the things you don’t like doing, so you may as well go for what you love. Okay, Jim Carrey, fine. Great story. Good message for the new adults out there: go for it! Take a chance on the living! Take a chance on the love, goddamn it! People are posting this bullshit on their various social media channels with captions like “in one minute Jim Carrey will change your life!!!!!” as though this isn’t the most by-the-numbers, bullshit pabulum bit of advice ever given. Look, I’m no big city celebrity, and I’m no self help guru, but all of this shit, ALL of it, EVERY LAST BIT is the same. Let me save you some time and money and lay it down for you. Ready? Here are the secrets to a happy life (as enumerated by every smug asshole since the beginning of time):
-Don’t give up
-fuck the haters
-when life gets tough, you gotta get tougher
-you think that not having problems signifies that you’ve got it together, but you’re WRONG, jack! Everyone has problems! Having it together is figuring out how to best deal with the problems that come your way.
-Love. Let yourself love freely.
-Also, let yourself be loved. You are a snowflake wrapped in a fractal and there’s only one you!
-Treat yourself well
-but don’t load up on dingdongs, fatass. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind!
-Do some situps
-get out there into the nature. Suckle the teat of our green mother, the earth
-be inquisitive! The universe is HUGE! There’s always something to learn!
-Network. The puck moves faster than the man and you’ve got contacts who can help you get where you need to go. Don’t have any? Make some!
-Be nice to everyone. You never know what some dildo is gonna wind up making of themselves.
-be assertive. If you’re not for you, then who is? You need to be your own champion
-be humble. You’re part of a global village, and it’s important to learn from people around you
-your dreams are just absolutely the most important things there are! Never let them go!
-Let go of your dreams and figure out what you’re great at! You may just surprise yourself!
-Make time for a little “you” time. Listen to the most important person in your life now and then (yes, you ARE important!)
-Surround yourself with smart people! If you’re the smartest person in your group, you need a new group!
-Your job is not as important as your family/soul/life
-Don’t sweat the small stuff, bro.
-Don’t sweat the big stuff you can’t control
-don’t punch people in the dick for no reason
-don’t pick your nose and eat it
-vegetables are your friends
-put on some goddamn pants you caveperson
-do some fucking. Fucking is good for the heart and soul and it’ll make you healthy, happy and you’ll live longer
-brush your teeth. As go the teeth, so goes the dog.
-keep a journal
-make a list
-follow your dreams
-follow your dreams
-follow your dreams
UUUUUUUUUUGH. Are you inspired yet? I just saved you a goddamn lifetime of reading dumb books and clicking on inspirational links. That’s really about 90% of it, innit? Don’t be a dumbass, be nice, keep it together, follow your dreams etc. The thing is, it’s all bullshit. The reason a lot of us don’t ‘go for what we love,’ Jim Carrey, is because we’ve been effectively phased out of the running by the time we get TO college, much less out of it. I mean, it’s noble to stand there and tell everyone to just fuck it all and go for it, but is it really good advice? Is it? You presumably have spent some time in Hollywood, a city so chock full of talentless delusional weirdos, all so hellbent on following their dreams that they’ve created an entire subsect of mental illness that people are allowed to laugh at. Should I still follow my dream of being in the NBA despite the fact that I’m 5’11”and almost 40? It’s a sweet notion on the surface, but it’s so insidiously horrible in practice. Should that dumb dick that comes into my bar and punishes me mercilessly follow his dream of being a standup? He sucks bad at it. Should he quit his job and go for it? Is that good advice? Jim! I’m talking to you, you snaggletoothed rubberfaced egotistical nutsack of human droppings!
Truly, there are people who are driven, who are gonna do what they’re gonna do, and all the adversity in the world isn’t gonna stop ‘em. Also, there are people who see life as is and try to navigate the storm that’s happening to them. THEN, there are dumbasses, and this third segment makes up the vast majority of people. This majority base is the only place where the above dumb, soulless potpourri flavored outlet mall of soul advice is gonna get any traction. If you’re not smart enough to realize what you need to do to get what you want…if you’re sitting there on facebook and all of a sudden, Jim Carrey going “You can fail at the things you don’t like doing, so you may as well go for what you love” makes you jump up and go “shit! I’ve never thought about it that way before! I’m gonna go out RIGHT NOW and become a [whatever your stupid dream is], lemme give you some REAL advice: it ain’t happening. Sorry. Getting fellated by an egomaniac pet detective via facebook isn’t the germ of inspiration that starts careers, it’s a way to make assholes who sit around on facebook doing nothing feel okay about themselves in a “huh…maybe I COULD have been a standup comedian” kind of way. That’s it. You think I’m wrong? Then YOU are part of the third group I mentioned above. Sorry. It’s true.
In conclusion, I graduated from Northwestern, which, at the time was the #6 school in the nation. I mention this not as evidence of my intelligence (which is obviously vast), but because you’d think that an institution with credentials like that could get some pretty sweet guest speakers, right? You know who spoke at my commencement? Me either. I don’t remember. Because even then, I knew this entire bill of goods was fucking nonsense. You want a speech? Here’s my commencement address. Congratulations, y’all:
“Hey kids, some of you have it figured out already. Good on ya. Some of you don’t. You may luck into some shit here in a little bit, if so, congrats! If not, don’t worry. Nobody knows what the fuck is going on. Most people die without ever figuring it out, honestly. Be nice to each other because kindness is the only real currency that these souls inside all of us can really use. Beyond that, quit stressing about what you’re missing and what you need to do. You already know if you’re fucking up. If you’re drinking too much, drink less. If you’re crying every night, address why you can’t stop doing it even if it scares you. If your lover makes you hate yourself, leave. If you feel bad that you haven’t talked to your dad in a decade, call him. If you’re too stupid, learn. You know what’s wrong with you. I’ve never met you, so any advice I give you is, by definition stupid and a waste of time, and probably an insult to your intelligence. If you’ve never read The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass or seen Revenge Of The Nerds, you may want to check those out. I thought they were both great. That’s all. Oh, and always be respectful to the people you fuck. If you like em enough to mix your bodies together, you can be a fucking decent human being when you see em from across the room. Yes, this means for the rest of your life. Okay, get out there and try not to die.