Solitude, Friendship, and how NOT to be an 'Excellent Sheep'
So I am BIG on listening to podcasts on iTunes. I don't think I've listened to the radio for about 20 years, save for 89.5 KBAQ Classical Music. I get a LOT of insight from leading authorities in their field, titans of industry if you will. One such podcast that I feel does a FANTASTIC job of reaching out and interviewing those titans is The Art of Manliness podcast.
Creator/Host Brett McKay focuses on all things related to bringing forward the "classic skills and manners for the modern man". It's a really fantastic podcast (that doesn't just benefit men). In this particular episode McKay interviews William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. They discuss the beauty of solitude and how it offers an environment for self-discovery and learning, friendship and how as we get older it becomes more difficult to make true friends, and of course they talk about how not to be an "excellent sheep". These are the types of people that can jump through hoops of an organization to obtain a position of ranked leadership without actually having any leadership skills. ANYONE reading this post in the fire service knows exactly what I'm talking about and a certain person has probably already come to mind.
In the interview, Deresiewicz talks about Jane Austin's novels. He wrote a book called, "A Jane Austin Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter". In it he talks about how Jane Austin, an author most men write off as "Chick Lit", can really teach men a lot about the elements of relationships (good and bad) that can help us foster positive and healthy ones. One of the things I connected with the most is when he speaks of Austin's novel Pride & Prejudice and how there is a theme of challenging what you think you know versus what is actually true. In the book, the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, is very smart and very sharp and due to that, over-estimates her own perceptions. She feels like she can really read people perfectly. Because of this, Elizabeth makes a lot of mistakes that ultimately cause her a lot of pain. This brings up an interesting idea that I subscribe to that is challenged by modern society. The idea that our feelings are "always valid" is one that I challenge and it tends to make people (in my experience, particularly women) upset at me because they assume that I don't CARE about someone's feelings. In a society where "safe spaces" are an actual thing, people think that feelings trump the truth, and that perception is reality. I argue that if your reality isn't the truth of things, then your skewed perception doesn't entitle you to feelings that are ultimately invalid. Basically, you're wrong. If we misjudge the situation, our feelings about it are wrong as a cause and effect byproduct. This has helped me greatly when it comes to relationships and has enabled me to manage anger, resentment, hurt feelings, etc.
Give the podcast a listen, please post your thoughts below, and recommend any podcasts that you may listen to that you really like.