Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Talk Thursday: Winning

We're a competitive species, homo sapiens. Probably because we needed to be, from the time we were hanging around in caves and telling stories around campfires (no, not last week at Carlsbad Caverns; I'm talking aeons ago.) He who ran the fastest and threw the spear the hardest (the alpha male) got the mammoth, fed the family and lived to die another day. He who didn't (the beta male) got the leftovers after the alpha male got himself killed. (Which might have included three or four bereaved widows. Hm, doesn't sound like such a bad deal.) But this competitive streak became ingrained in our DNA, and now to this day, we still talk about winners and losers as though spears and mammoths (and bereaved widows) are at stake.

For a book-length discussion of alpha and beta males, check out A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. For a blog post on winners and losers that you can read in five minutes, soldier on. To be called a loser, especially in the corporate world or that miniature corporate world, the first-grade playground, is to be permanently branded as one of the worst things imaginable. Losers don't get the fame, the glory, the girl, or the kickball for the next round. Winners get all that stuff, plus they are usually also taller, better-looking and have nicer hair. Everybody wants to be on the winning side, ignoring the fact that there has to be a losing side or the winning side would have no meaning whatever. Aside: In high school marching band, the flag corps instructor was telling the ladies not to put their palms up on a diagonal sweep because in flag-corps language, that meant the country had just lost a war, and the U.S. has never lost a war. As quickly as I could I said, "Uh, Vietnam, Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua." She looked at me as though I were terminally stupid and said, "Those were just police actions."

Anyway: As a Buddhist I should not care one whit if I win or lose at anything, since it has no meaning in the greater context of reality and in fact serves as a distraction from the truer need to have compassion for all, but because it's encoded in my DNA, I do, of course. It rankles me when Joan kicks my butt at Scrabble (and she practically always does; if I win it's a fluke). I'm always relieved when we reach a good settlement for a client at work, because a good settlement is the same as winning and then we aren't faced with the all-or-nothing of a courtroom battle. Every year I get perversely interested in the Oscar campaigns, not because I can stomach sitting through the world's stupidest presentation show but because on some level I'll have picked a favorite that I want to win, and I'll be glad/unhappy if he/she wins/loses. (Hallie Stanfield was robbed. I'm just sayin'.)

And then we get to Charlie Sheen, who's not bipolar but "bi-winning", and the whole blog post breaks down and takes off in another direction.

Hang around a psychiatrist's office long enough and you'll start armchair-diagnosing everyone you see. I do it and I'm not proud of that fact. And okay, Charlie may be "bi-winning" and not bipolar but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Check out a couple of my posts written under the influence of what I used to call hyperfertility and you'll get a sense of what's maybe going on in Charlie's head. (I didn't know what it was then. Nobody shoot me.) I'm not a professional with several letters after my name, and even if I were I'd hesitate to say for certain without talking to the guy at some length, but darned if a lot of the symptoms aren't right there. Even the substance abuse. No, especially the substance abuse--bipolar disorder and drugs/alcohol go hand in hand. It's called self-medicating. Bipolar also tends to run in families. (Me: Four alcoholic grandparents. Yep, four for four. What are the odds?)

Charlie, honey, you're breaking my heart. Don't sweat the whole winning/losing thing; you've made your point, abundantly, in the mass media. Now please go see somebody. Do it now, before you crash, and maybe you won't have to crash. You're so much more fun when you're stable. I'm so serious about this that I'll even follow you on Twitter to prove it.

Me and five million of my closest friends.


Cele said...

I don't really care for Charlie Sheen, but now you've raised some flags that make me consider his potential situation and it makes me want to kick his family members and him in the shins. I feel bad for those around him that he is abusive and self destructive. I feel bad for him that he nor his family members will get him help. I was really annoyed when his dad when on air and made excuses for him. Don't make excuses get him help. Of course Charlie needs to want help first. Sadly the only place he is winning is in his mind, because he's loosing on so many other fronts.

BTW - Haley Stanfield was ROBBED!

Marcia Wall said...

Thank you so much for the Charlie Sheen comment. It bothers me that people want to demonize him. I belive that psychiatric (sp?) demons have a hold on him. I am sure that I am biased being bipolar and all, but the dude is not in control of his mind, that much is clear. I want healing for him and everyone in his life. Mental illness knows no mercy.

Jen said...

Well, if Marcia's biased then I'm biased, too, but not only does Charlie have a lot of the symptoms, he has the one classic one: No matter how many people tell him he's acting very strange, he doesn't see it (can't see it, in all probability) and won't do anything about it. That's practically the rubber stamp of the Serious Psychiatric Condition. So I do worry about the guy, total stranger that he is. Because sooner or later he will crash, and that won't be any fun.

And the entire Academy had to have been on some kind of drug to miss Hallie Stanfield. There, I said it.