The Universal Asshole

Sunday, 2. August 2009

I think it’s time for this theme to emerge into the daylight because during the six years of my online “community” life I have so often been accused of having a hard, heartless, sarcastic or even brutal tone – which is absolutely not my intention, nor my character. The Real Steve Holmes is kindly, generous, amusing, amiable, thoughtful, intuitive, supportive in a crisis and always the first to recognise and celebrate the talents of others, often before they get there themselves. This it not a boast, just a fact. Every month several people travel for hours just to have lunch with me because I am not strong enough to meet them half way and usually they go away full of possibility. That’s how I really am.

So where does this apparently confusing and supposedly brutal tone come from? Why do so many people find me aggressive?

Historically, the turning point of my life, in 1981, was my participation in Werner Erhard’s EST training, which was a very challenging 4 day and 4 evening event in which people were not allowed to leave the room except for designated breaks and the eventual catharsis was essentially produced by breaking down the facade of the participant. Some people would hate that but I adored it. I felt I’d come home to the truth at last and I watched in spellbound amazement as one “Asshole” after another gave up the struggle and turned back into a human being. It was exactly like a mass exorcism and I still believe in that method today, no matter what a shyster Erhard himself was. He was a natural, primitive and profound philosopher and he understood the underlying ontology of emotions and behaviours as no one else has ever done, Shakespeare included. Because Erhard set out to “make a difference”, not just to observe and dangle pretty truth that would further enhance the egos of his audience. He went for their egos like a Terminator, and in most cases it worked. (Life does this to you anyway, but very slowly; Erhard saves you many years.)

So to me, what appears to be brutality means nothing at all. If someone else has the best truth in the room I will acknowledge that, no matter how they speak to me, even if they find me exasperating, even if they talk down to me, even if they are sarcastic. Providing I know they aren’t merely trying to triumph over me…

But almost everyone is trying to dominate, covertly or blatantly: all those nice people out there, all those jokers with all their social grease, all those clever businessmen, all those nice ladies with smotherly advice, the superfit, the superstrong, the tasteful and informed, the chess players who argue well and the Little Professors who know their stuff, the logicians, the creatives, the sad people who challenge you not to be able to help them – almost everyone you ever meet is trying to gain advantage over the situation and has no concept whatsoever that the space of soul was meant to be shared.

This infuriates me, ongoingly. And, since I have survived two killer cancers against millions to one odds, lived through the tortured death of a wife, succumbed to heart disease from the ensuing stress and got absolutely nothing left to lose as the world throws away what little interest it had in real ideas… I tell you honestly: I don’t care what you “think” or feel about my tone. I can’t do anything about your feelings – they belong to you.

Those who know me, love me. And those who don’t need to learn something. End of rant. I imagine you feel something similar but express it more pleasantly and covertly. But if you still don’t even know what a cruel, vicious and grandiose Asshole resides underneath your surface then you desperately need to learn because you haven’t reached step one of the awareness you are here to develop and your life has passed in a perfumed dream. Suffer. Rage. Grieve. You must do these before you find joy. You must break down to build up. There is no other way.

Watch your own tone, will you, and leave mine alone.

5 Responses to “The Universal Asshole”

  1. Michael Heaney Says:

    I wonder how this blog fit in with your tag line –
    You advocate the teacher & the method..
    If it worked for YOU, then of course that is a matter of record, but I am not so sure about the “You must break down to build up” methodology.

    Surely that is the brutalising method used by the military everywhere to mould their recruits into their predetermined model of what a well trained , well functioning soldier should be.

    Trees and Flowers bloom natually – the display Bonsai and exhibition blooms that are trained and restricted according to some external rules and codes may be magnificent specimens but for me they do not hold the same appeal as the well worn, perhaps tumbledown and definitely imperfect examples that we see growing wild.
    Its the same with people
    In this life everyone will roll along and encounter events and people that have lasting effects on their self image and their persona. The justfied encouragement they receive helps them to grow – but brutal pruning and psychological power trips can leave people damaged and scarred for a lifetime. (There is no other way?)

    encountering the ones that still manage to bloom, however damaged they have been and however they have had to reform and re-balance themselves and their nature to allow for the hard knocks is often an enriching and uplifting experience.

    Isn’t your own personal history and your self aware analysis of your true character an example of this. The credit should be yours, personally rather than be assigned to the guru or the method..

    Blanket attribution of the status “Asshole” to eveyone smells too much like the “original sin ” guilt trip that some christian sects like to lay on their subjects.
    If we are compelled to be instantly judgemental when we meet people then as a starting point I prefer the “Not Proven” option rather than the summary “Guilty” verdict.


  2. Steven Holmes Says:

    I’m sure you’re right, Michael. I can be very judgemental. But I feel that the way so many good people “grow wild and twisted” on their own is tragic and lonely. I haven’t seen anything consistently approaching natural, innocent or healthy in the heart of humanity, only brief moments in certain people. It is of no help in the greater calculation of the evolution of decency that individual rights are placed above the common good, as they are in our culture. People do need to know that they don’t know what Assholes they are and cleansing by truth remains the only way forward. The military do not do this, though they do engineer a superficial esprit de corps that for many people is better than anything they got anywhere else. Imagine the beautiful mood when free people, recently released from their egos, come together to celebrate. That is life itself. It doesn’t need any particular guru but there is only one method. Everything else is romantic and ultimately tragic solipsism.

  3. Vincent Says:

    Like Michael, I immediately thought of gurus and military discipline. Today I watched a DVD of Beau Geste, in which Sergeant-Major Lejaune of the French Foreign Legion administers discipline designed to knock egos on the head.

    But legionnaires signed on for five years and the penalties were severe if you deserted or even responded insolently to a superior. In the ashram, the guru may treat you like dirt but you believe he will show you the door to enlightenment, so you take it. In other words, those who put up with being called assholes have a pretty powerful motivation to put up with it.

    I’ve heard people speak negatively about Werner Erhard. In fact I thought I had heard this from you. It seems he had no difficulty in attracting those who would benefit from his methods, but I cannot see why this topic is introduced here on this site. The conditions are not right for this kind of bullying (whatever wonderful ego-ridding effects it may have had for Erhard). I make an effort to respond to your post, in order to offer the feedback; but really this kind of thing doesn’t interest me at all.

    I would go further and say that it is almost an essence of what is wrong with the world. Al Qaeeda have in mind the same kind of cleansing effect on the filth of America and its allies, when they plan their atrocities. George W Bush had in mind the same kind of cleansing by truth (truthful violence) when he tried to eliminate the axis of evil.

    But do as you will, be a prophet, gain converts, bully them into egolessness if that is your mission. I have faith that the world is resilient enough to survive your onslaughts.

  4. RealSteveHolmes Says:

    Maybe you’ll come to understand my mission one day, old friend. I do hope so, because I profoundly appreciate my dialogues with you. How two people can be so different but remain in the same room for so long is perhaps a miracle we should celebrate from time to time.

    Werner Erhard was and still is a terrible man: egotistical, demanding, an energy vampire, cunning, manipulative, well-groomed to the point of unpleasantness, hierarchical, greedy and very status conscious in an almost fascist way. That doesn’t stop him being the greatest natural, untutored ecologist of the human condition that ever lived any more than our quirks would render us without value. But to compare him with religious fanatics whose mission is to drown the human soul in lies is simply misleading because the soul of Erhard, the part that is not a go-getting American grade 1 Asshole, is extremely pure in it’s dedication to truth, so much so that he has often tripped over and torpedoed his own best interests to pursue it. In his later talks, for example, he completely sabotages the idea of the possibility of any easy human happiness or even any choice in the matter – and not a single person in the audience understands him as his own meaning slips away from his controlling mind even as he speaks, repeating himself in a desperate drama that can only have one outcome, a victory for truth over hope. To hear this is very beautiful and the courage involved is spectacular.

    But, like cancer and wealth, success, poverty, grief, love and ecstasy – you can have no working understanding of the thing unless you have personally experienced it. You can’t second guess anything that matters with mere intellect and to compare, confuse and contrast something with other apparently similar things is a bankrupt method of exploration.

  5. Vincent Says:

    Very well, then. Whereof I cannot speak, thereof I must be silent.

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