Mike’s BBQ

Food for Thought

Since the 90s, I’ve been to my friend Mike’s house countless times for BBQ. Visiting there reminds me of how acutely self-conscious I was in my 20s. I was both desperate for and traumatized by social occasions. After leaving Japan at 16, the logic in my head told me that I should leave Japan behind entirely if I’m going to live here. Whatever I knew about Japan, like its history, language, culture, values, arts, etc., was not to be part of who I am. I was to act like I was born here, which meant that I had the social and cultural mastery of toddlers. In so many social situations, I felt embarrassed and humiliated because an idiot was not the self-image I had in Japan. Why would I torture myself in this way? Because I didn’t know how to accept myself as a human being. It rationally made sense to do what I did.

Most people like to think of themselves as a rational person who values reason above feeling. Someone who easily yields to emotions is perceived as uncivilized. “Cooler heads prevail” is the prevailing value. However, “most people” also know where to draw the line. That is, they know they are ultimately irrational, and they allow themselves to be. This is not a conscious decision they make; they do it naturally.

It’s brutal and dehumanizing to have allegiance to reason. Reason is the language of universality. Its purpose is to establish the universal standards for how to conduct ourselves in our society so that not everything is left to subjective differences, and so that we can agree on things and move on in life. But if you try to live up to these standards for yourself, you will have to continually erase yourself out of existence. Nobody would stand up for your irrational needs, desires, and dreams, if you don’t. No weakness would be allowed, but suppressing it only makes you weaker and more resentful of others. Over time, your self-esteem would be demolished behind the robotic facade.

Charles Bukowski said, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” Those “doubts” arise because our nature will keep contradicting our reason.