The look of the world’s a lie, a face made up
O’er graves and fiery depths; and nothing’s true
But what is horrible. If man could see
The perils and diseases that he elbows,
Each day he walks a mile; which catch at him,
Which fall behind and graze him as he passes;
Then would he know that Life’s a single pilgrim,
Fighting unarmed amongst a thousand soldiers.
— from Death’s Jest-Book (Act I, Act II) by Thomas Lovell Beddoes (June 30, 1803-January 26, 1849)
The look of the world’s a lie, a face made up
Action! Nothing Happens Until Something Moves by Robert Ringer
Like most people, I became acquainted with Robert Ringer through his first best-selling book, Winning Through Intimidation, published in the thick of the filthy Me Decade of the 1970s. In one way that book was a big disappointment: It did not live up to its title. It was reallly about not being intimidated. Which also made it a better book.
Several books later, Robert Ringer is back with something I think many people need to read.
Over the past decade, I have beccome increasingly and consciously aware of a remarkable tool that is not only at my disposal, but is available to every member of the human species. It isn’t that I was not previously familiar with this tool; on the contrary, I have employed it quite effectively throughout my adult life. What has changed is my heightened awareness of its preeminent role in steering the course of events.
The tool I am referring to is action.
Ringer then elaborates on various types and combinations of action:
People Taxes and Action
Freedom and Action
Adversity and Action
Each of these are illustrated with real-life examples from Ringer’s many entrepreneurial (and daily life!) adventures. Some of these examples do not show Ringer in the best light — which is very comforting! If someone as well-known and sucessful as Ringer can still make mistakes, we should be less hard on ourselves as we inevitably make our own. (Perhaps Ringer, if not in a book then on his website, can do All The Mistakes I’ve Made, so we can all learn more about what to avoid!)
Two particular points in the book I liked were the section on Dignity (as in Keeping One’s) and the chapter on a brilliant concept he calls “people taxes.” Within the chapter on people taxes, the section “Never Confuse Good Intentions with Bad Consequences” is singularly wise.
Ninety-nine percent of this book is very practical, down-to-earth advice. Ringer devotes one percent to the inexplicable, surprising, and confounding weirdness that suffuses life. Unlike the subjects of SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, by Steve Salerno — which I am still reading — Ringer delivers meat, not bait. Act: Get this book.
As well as searching for a place that will inspire him, he also wants some other things:
All I wanted was to be anonymous. I wanted to be able to go places and do things without being hassled by stupid people and unoriginal and uncreative people[.] [pg. 7]
[…] I was thinking of going someplace that was nice and autumn-like, and wide open. I wanted to find a place where the people were all friendly and all very smart, and where I could be anonymous and exempt from social rules. […] [pg 11]
What makes the book a wonderful work and gives it meat and depth are Raskin’s spot-on observations of the creatures he has to share oxygen with — such as this young woman who accosts him while he’s at college, which leads to a wider observation about modern people in general:
I was looking at her like she was completely out of her mind. She used the words whatever and like as if they were going out of style, just like every other schmuck I meet these days. This is the pathetic way people talk today. It also amused me very much how she said he [her current boyfriend] was “cute.” You will never know how much I hate it when people say ridiculous dribble like that. Why is everyone cute these days? I don’t think anyone realizes what the hell they’re saying anymore — or how stupid they sound when they say it. You really have to wonder what the hell is wrong with some of these people. And I’m sure this guy was such a nice guy, too. Whenever a girl says that, you can bet your ass that he’s really some piece of excrement who has a hard time even affording his drug habit. Usually, these girls end up getting beaten to death by these “nice guys.” I don’t have any pity for them either, to be honest with you. If you’re too stupid and insecure to to get rid of some lowlife, then you aren’t worth two cents, in my opinion. [pg. 20]
And the guests at a Hampton Inn he stayed at during his travels:
The room was full of very old people who had teenagers with them. Most of them looked to be up the creek in bad health — even the teenagers. They all had really bad haircuts and really bad teeth. To be completely forthcoming with you, everyone in that joint looked like a product of incest to me. I’m sure they weren’t, but they sure as hell did a good imitation. And you know the most insane thing was that they were all looking at me like I was an escaped mental patient who had a hook for a hand. I wasn’t being paranoid either. Every single product of incest in that room was looking at me like he wanted to kill me. […] [pg. 72]
And there are his astute observations of places, such as Elmhurst (Illinois):
[…] I realize that I’ve told you about some pretty strange places up to this point, but Elmhurst was in a class by itself. As soon as I got to the city limits I knew that I was far away from my element. What a Nazi-looking town. Seriously, this town was so clean and so pompous-looking, it was unbelievable. There were all of these huge white houses all over the place, and school buses with stop signs on them, and ice cream trucks on every other street. What a lunatic place. It looked like one of those towns in the after-school special movies, the ones that always have some real kooky story about some elementary school teacher who decides to have her husband whacked because he doesn’t screw her the right way or let her drive the convertible. And if you think I’m exaggerating about this place, just listen to what the welcome sign said: “Welcome to Elmhurst, A Proud Community.” I mean, what the hell kind of a place do you think you’re in if you see a sign like that? You’re in hell, that’s where you are. Man did I stick out in that joint. If you know anyone who’s been to Elmhurst, you should ask them about it. Go ahead, see if they agree with me. See if they think I’m exaggerating. Knowing people these days, they’ll probably tell you what a beautiful little town it is. And maybe they’re right — maybe it’s beautiful to look at, but to a guy like me who grew up playing tennis on housing project tennis courts, that place was about as comfortable as undersized Underoos. [pg. 97]
Reality smacks his face while apartment hunting:
[…] Unfortunately, I only found one place with a kitchen window to my liking […] [a]nd this place actually had a sign outside with a price tag. This is what it said: “Apartments for rent: 1 bedroom, $1600/month, 2 bedroom, $1900/month.” What in the hell kind of prices are those? Is that justified, I ask you? That sign made me so sick to my stomach that I felt like hurling right there — right on the sign. There was no way under the sun I could find any two-bit job that would pay me that kind of money. And I still had to pay car insurance and all those other idiotic bills we’re responsible for in this stupid world. I stood there and stared at that sign for a good ten minutes. I kept thinking that maybe I was misreading it or misunderstanding it. Sixteen hundred bucks for a one bedroom — what the hell is wrong with these people? What the hell kind of a corrupt society are we living in? To charge that much for a stinking dump is highway robbery, as far as I’m concerned. And those people who set the prices ought to have their tongues chopped off and fed to vultures. I hate those no good, greedy sons of bitches. [pgs. 130-131]
The road trip is, ultimately, fruitless. Raskin knew from the start, in his bones, that what he was looking for could only be found within himself. But it took getting away to start that trip.
Raskin’s book is a great debut that would make any writer jealous.
[Excerpts Copyright © 2003 M. Dylan Raskin. Excerpts used without explicit permission under the Fair Use provisions of Copyright law. CopyNazis can go fuck themselves.]
Oh oh oh.
How I long to see you bastards in suits in your future venue: Begging for change in front of your cardboard-box homes!
And even that is really too good for you!
Joss Whedon, where are you?
Update: More details here.
Nokia: Please Unshackle Me! has generated mad traffic here.
Doesn’t anyone tell the truth about products any more?
More details about the new device have been uncovered.
Oh look! A miniSD slot.
And that kind of constant bullshit from my drooling, imbecilic, impotent-dick-waving inferiors is why Comments aren’t allowed in this blog.
I’d also just love to know how much of this traffic originates in Finland!
Paperboy 9/27/2006 10:17 AM
our CD player doesn’t believe us when we tell it how awesome your band is, please help us convince it soon! i guarantee that we’d buy your CD the day we see one available.