Straw Man On A Stick
.....from "The Deeper I Go, The Deeper It Gets" (essay #19, "The Way To Do Is To Be")
A collection of 25 transformative essays on the psychology and philosophy of personal excellence on guitar and everything else!
It must be clearly recognized that it is entirely possible, and likely, for humans to not be who and what they are. In fact, from my observations throughout my life, I can only conclude that most people are busily engaged in being something other than who and what they are. Most people are unknown to themselves, and most people are unknown to others because they will not allow their real selves to be seen, by others or by themselves.
The only way to become aware of this is to practice a ruthless and relentless honesty with oneself, to become aware of the mask you are always wearing. When we do this, we become aware of the mask everyone else is wearing. I realized at a young age that in relating to other people, I was rarely relating to the real person. Rather, it was as if the real person I was talking to was hiding behind a rock, and holding a long stick, at the end of which was dangling a straw person that looked like them. The purpose of this straw person was to go out to the world and inter-act with it, while the real person stayed hidden and watched.
The real person, hiding behind the rock, assesses what is going on out there, and is mainly looking to see if its needs will be satisfied, or if those needs are somehow threatened. The greatest need is usually the need to remain “safe”, protected (that is why the straw man was created in the first place), and so, the real person is trying to figure out if the person the straw man is talking to poses a threat in any way.
The real person looks to see first of all if the image they wish to present is being accepted or not. If I like to go around feeling like I am a great guitarist, and want others to regard me as such, and defer to me as such, and generally grant me the great honor naturally due to a person of my ability and achievement, I won’t like it so much if someone treats me like I am just one of the crowd, a common slob!
If, upon meeting someone, I then send my straw man out to inter-act with this new person, and my straw man reports back to me that “this person does not seem willing to adulate you properly, and in fact, seems to like to be adulated themselves”, then my real self behind the rock will probably not have much use for that person. I may not even be aware of all that, but just come away with the feeling “hmm, I don’t like that person, something about them bothers me”.
Our real selves, behind the rock, holding the straw man on the stick, is where our real emotions are as well. It is sometimes referred to as our “heart of hearts”, the place deep within our selves that we are rarely in touch with, in fact, it usually takes some kind of life crises to make us dig that deep. We numb it over as we progress through life, because life is simply too painful to always be in touch with that place. However, the fullness and greatness of this condition we call life only comes to those willing to pay that price. The life of any great person, man or woman, will always disclose someone who lived outwardly what was in their “heart of hearts”.
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