The rest of the preface of The Importance of Living is, more or less, an apology from the author for not being a proper philosopher.
I am not original. The ideas expressed here have been thought and expressed by many thinkers of the East and West over and over again…
And so I would also like to offer some apologies to start out.
I’d like to apologize Ford Motor Company for giggling every time I see a truck with the words “Super Duty” on it.
I’d like to apologize to anyone named Mary for consistently screaming their name in their face with my best (read as: worst) Jimmy Stewart impression, and then offering to lasso the moon for them.
As a man I’d like to apologize to every woman I’ve ever made feel uncomfortable. It’s taken about 40 years to get to the point where I understand, to some extent, how degrading an offhand sexual comment or even a lingering glance in the wrong direction can be. Obviously I’ll never know firsthand the experience of walking alone at night and feeling like a target, or feeling like every man I see is a potential attacker, but I think I can at least respect that.
I know also, having taught in massage schools for the past six years, and having become very protective of my female students, how even what you think is a silly joke about boners can feed into the mentality that it’s perfectly okay for boys to be boys. It’s very much not okay. It’s not just “locker room talk.” And if I’ve ever made anyone feel uncomfortable in the past, I apologize.
That being said, I’ve gotten to the point where I am also hyper-aware of this, and if I end up walking behind a woman on the sidewalk, and I want to walk faster, and there’s nobody around, I literally don’t know what to do. I scuff my feet and sniffle loudly so they don’t think I’m sneaking up on them. I try to walk where they can see me behind them, meaning if they’re walking on the right side of the sidewalk I’ll walk on the left, so they don’t have to turn their head as far to keep an eye on me. Sometimes I even cross the street, even if I have to cross back a block later.
I’d also like to apologize to anyone named Elaine for pretending there’s a pane of glass in front of me while screaming their name, and also anyone named Shirley for asking them if they’ve ever seen Airplane, and no matter the answer, claiming that I am serious.
I’d also like to apologize to whoever I stole this relaxation technique from. I heard about it in a podcast for massage many years ago, and I don’t remember who was being interviewed, but I’ve been using it, and teaching it, ever since.
It’s quite simple. You’ll want to find a place where you can be alone for a few minutes. Sit up straight and open your eyes as wide as possible. Begin breathing deeply, and then slowly rotate your head from side to side over and over again.
This is why you have to do it alone.
The eyes wide open part is actually quite crucial. While doing that you’re feeding as much information to your brain as possible, and your brain is realizing there’s no actual physical danger (lion, murderer, college kid with a clipboard, etc) nearby. Since your fight-or-flight response is hardwired into your system to help you escape or fight a physical threat, in the absence of that your sympathetic nervous system shuts itself down. The deep breathing also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, your rest-and-digest functions, so you’re attacking your emotional stress on two fronts.
And finally, I apologize for not having a better way to end this entry.