The roast of life needs a lot more spicy individuality!
I was describing to a friend my process for cooking a corned beef roast, and she asked curiously, “Don’t you use the little packet of seasoning that comes with it?” “Sure,” I told her. “But think about it. No matter how large or small a cut of corned beef you’ve purchased, the little seasoning packet that comes with it is the same size. If you don’t add in other spices and seasonings, the finished product is going to be pretty pallid.”
That is my philosophy for most things in life: With the possible exception of a caftan, perhaps, one size fits all just doesn’t. Even when corrected to “One Size Fits Most”, the maxim still doesn’t work.
A humorous example of this is a friend who rhapsodized about a technique she’d begun practicing: a way to start her day with a feeling of accomplishment. It was so simple, she shared with several of us. She just made her bed as soon as she got up.
I could not help laughing. My actions upon rising each morning are predicated upon the demands of my insistent felines. I first change their litterboxes, rinse and refresh each of the water bowls, and give them their canned food breakfast—all to the tune of insistent yowls and meows and the “cat food!” dance winding about my feet and attempting to trip me. (As an aside, I don’t know why trying to injure or kill the hand that feeds them by sending that hand plummeting to the floor is a valuable activity, but that’s what they do, nonetheless.) While all this is happening, I’ve also put the kettle on to boil for my morning cup of tea. Occasionally, as I wait for it to boil, I put some dry dishes from the drainer into the cupboard. When I finally sit down to drink that tea, 20 to 25 minutes have passed and my bed is still very much unmade—but I know I’ve accomplished something! Quite a number of somethings.
That, I think, is often the problem with every self-help book ever written: the techniques lauded by the author(s) apply only to specific situations and/or people, and mostly to the authors themselves. I don’t recommend my “accomplishment” method to anyone, but I’m sure there are a few cat owners who will have nodded along with the paragraph above, in sympathy, if nothing else.
As I’ve pointed out previously in this blog, and probably at nauseating length, we are, each of us, heavily invested in making everyone else on the face of the planet think, and behave, exactly like us. With the exception of attempting to acquire (land, wealth, power), this is probably the basis for every war, pogrom, or purge throughout history right up to the present day, as well as simple misunderstandings between individuals worldwide. The difficulty does not lie in the act of making the suggestion (“Do this for that result”), but in our insistence upon the precept that this is the only way. When faced with a response that says, “It’s a good idea, but it wouldn’t work for my personal situation”, our reaction is rarely, “Hmm. Well, what do you think would work?” Instead, we attempt to force the square peg into the round hole, hammering out our viewpoint with unnecessary force: “Oh, but, if you will just…” “Try it, you’ll like it.” “Do it this way! I know what I’m talking about!”
That last phrase is, perhaps, key to understanding why we try to make one size fit all: we feel that our judgement is being questioned. It works! Our idea, our method, our viewpoint works… for us! Therefore, it must be the right way! It must be the best way! Snap that piece into the jigsaw puzzle, regardless of whether it fits or not.
But in a world of 7.9 billion people, there is no one right way. There is no one true faith, no best form of government, no single way to raise a child (each one of whom is any individual, anyway), nor a single perfect manner to instruct them.
Just as there is no right way to get out of bed and start one’s day, there is no particular way to live one’s life. One size will never fit all, nor even most. We are each of us a peg of a different size, shape, and color; each of us searching for the corresponding, life-size hole that we might slide into easily: our perfect fit.
Perhaps some marvelous day we’ll all stop trying to push each other into a space and place that just doesn’t match, realize that the roast of life needs a lot more spicy individuality, and enjoy the tasty result.
If you found this essay entertaining, you might also appreciate “Roses of the Soul” from December 16, 2017. Scroll down to the Archives link to locate it.