Existentialists Explore Extreme Tedium

Russian Base Jumping

The word “extreme” is overused today; like “awesome” it has been drained of its raw glory by thoughtless abuse. Being manic-depressive – or “bipolar” – I have spent most of my life in extremes, natural habitat of the mad. I chased kicks obsessively, certain I was having fun. But fun, I discovered late in life, occurs when you know who you are and enjoy who you are; you don’t find fun somewhere else, you bring it with you. What I actually chased was adrenaline.

“Until you’ve had nothing you haven’t yet had everything.” Taz Mopula

We attempt to make mundane activities sound less mundane by applying the word “extreme” to them, for example – “extreme makeover” – not to be confused with “extreme snoring” or “extreme shoe polishing”. But the dirty little secret about life in extremes is that over time they blend together and lose their scary, “cool” edge. So many of these adventures are flights away, not towards.

“There are two kinds of people, those who believe there are only two kinds of people and those who dislike oversimplification.” Taz Mopula

Mental hospitals and prisons are all basically identical, bland food, linoleum, and well-appointed recreational facilities. Teheran opium den, Rio de Janeiro brothel, raging forest fires in Alaska, battered urban wastelands of Philadelphia; after peeling off layers of veneer I realized they were all essentially the same place. Ultimately it wasn’t where I was that mattered so much as what I was doing there, and why.

“People are always finding God in prisons and mental hospitals; but try finding a gift shop.” Taz Mopula

Whether by design or, as in my case, fate, it is exhilarating to close your eyes and sail off the edge of a cliff – crash – break into a heap of ragged fragments – and do it all again once you’ve mended. The thrill is all consuming and luscious. Doing what most people spend their entire life fearing and avoiding accelerates the process of spiritual growth, but, like anything else, there are limits to what it can offer. Crashing one’s car into a wall at 100 mph twice is not twice as instructive as doing it once.

“Everything and Nothing are identical twins; completely unrelated to Enough.” Taz Mopula

The shocking revelation about spending a life exclusively in extremes is that it actually stunts growth and ultimately is, (gasp), boring. The middle lane is not only the safest, it is the most richly complex, challenging, and satisfying; it’s where the real action is.

Nursing A Grudge Will Not Make It Healthy

No Matter How Long You Nurse A Grudge

If you’ve ever gotten divorced you know that, as soon as it happens your married friends start avoiding you as if the inability to maintain a relationship is some sort of bizarre, highly contagious skin condition. The fate of those fighting serious mental health issues, including addiction, is far worse.

“Not all human sacrifice is equally noble; it depends a little on which human is being sacrificed.” Taz Mopula

The road leading out of Bedlam seems endlessly challenging but we trudge it all the same, then, at the finish line, in place of that brass band we expect there is an angry mob. It seems beastly unkind, especially after the hard work, but before you start nursing a grudge, understand a few things about who and what you’ve become and why the new you is bringing out the very worst this wretched refuse has to offer.

“People are always finding God in prisons and mental hospitals; but try finding a gift shop.” Taz Mopula

The day you went skidding off the road and right into downtown Cuckoopantsatopolis was the day you reminded every straight arrow of your acquaintance that none of us is ever truly safe. Sanity itself, that sine qua non for the bourgeois, mediocre, pointless life ostensibly guaranteed by the Constitution, is as vulnerable as a Fabergé egg. Nobody wants to be reminded of that, and yet you do.

“Ever noticed that people who claim to be crazy never are; and people who actually are crazy always claim to be sane?” Taz Mopula

“But wait,” you say, in that adorably naïve tone of voice you apply to questions that illustrate your innocence, “do I not also teach, i.e. show, that by facing down these unholy perils one can evolve spiritually and grow stronger, actually emerging as a better, more morally grounded person in the process?”

“Those who can’t do, teach; those who can’t teach, teach anyway.” Taz Mopula

Yes, yes you do, Sparky, and this is precisely why that mob is roughly as happy to see you as they were to see Frankenstein.

“Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day. Teach that man to fish and you have given him a way to hide a drinking problem.” Taz Mopula

They say in the rooms that a pickle can never return to its previous incarnation as a cucumber. While you may be a reformed devil transformed into an angel, one thing is certain, you will never again be just another Bozo on the bus in the eyes of outsiders; the tired, the poor, the slow, the dim. Fellow insiders know better, they know that all of us are merely Bozos on the bus, but that is another story.

In the final analysis it’s important to remember that uniqueness is about the only thing we all have in common. Taz Mopula

Your very existence says to these apple pie bakers and flag wavers, “My experience is larger than yours, I know terrible truths you dare not admit. Though horribly handicapped I have emerged morally grounded, fearless, strong, and (most upsetting of all) happy.” Trust me, they will never forgive you for that.

“For the sake of convenience be your own best friend; it’s always easy to get in touch with you.” Taz Mopula

You have become a teacher, a leader, whether you care to admit it or not. As ever, peace of mind lies in embracing the inevitable, my advice is – learn how to lead by example, make your life a poem, a prayer.

“No matter how long you nurse a grudge it will never become healthy.” Taz Mopula

Look around you; we desperately need leaders. Today we have none, instead we have celebrities who only lead by being cautionary tales, they show us what not to do. Leave footprints.

TAZ TALKS – The Totally Awesome Retard

taz talks logo

There has been some confusion about TAZ TALKS versus TED TALKS. Actually, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference. TAZ TALKS feature intellectually challenging explorations of innovative ideas that boldly address the pivotal issues of our age, and ages to come.

TED TALKS, by contrast, are Tony Robbins infomercials for NPR listeners.

Hope that clears it up.

What follows is a transcript of Taz Talk #2 – presented by Taz Mopula at the Aspen, Colorado Airport Hilton on March 17, 2009.

Life Is Good When You’re A Totally Awesome Retard 

Hello.

Ann Landers, Pema Chödrön, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Help yourself.” True story.

TV was once exciting. Every new technology shows promise before plummeting to meet the level of its user.

Technology has democratized the tools of creativity, resulting in a tsunami even more cretinous and loathsome than anticipated.

Our ability to broadcast the wretched detritus of daily life is no argument for doing so; restraint is increasingly precious.

Humans can repair mechanical problems; but machines cannot repair human problems, only manifest them in new forms.

If technology makes our lives any more convenient, even breathing will become too much of an effort.

We think of the world as a dangerous place and realize too late that we are the most dangerous part of it.

I avoid all political discussions because the doctor told me to reduce my daily intake of anger and stupidity.

Common good must take precedence over all else: obstinate adherence to partisan ideology for its own sake is treasonous.

The problem with Democracy is that it allows absolutely everybody to participate; fortunately they don’t.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me every day and you’re ready to run for office.

The real tragedy of political correctness is that it has given lying a bad name.

You have the right to remain silent, and listen. Might be advisable to exercise it before they take that one away, too.

You can’t fool all of the people all of the time; but why would you even try when they’re so eager to do the job for you?

Never confuse fame with artistic quality, or wealth with value. Society gets what it wants, not what it needs.

For today’s artist, reality is an unsatisfactory inconvenience desperately in need of digital enhancement.

No one goes to school to become an artist; you go to school to avoid becoming an artist.

Why pay to exercise in a gym when you can enjoy an exercise in futility for free whenever you like?

Clever is a poor relation of smart, and a bitter enemy of wise. The inevitable consequence of knowledge is humility.

Whales and polar bears, yes; but you will never find intellectual sloth on the endangered list.

Should you meet someone who claims that visualizing a thing makes it so; tell them to visualize being flattened by a bus.

If you want to find your bliss, get yourself some blisters.

Exorcize your demons; don’t exercise them.

It’s not that I don’t love you, I do love you; I just don’t love you enough to lie to you.

Thank you.

DSM-5 Challenges Sanity Definition

Lost Out On A Great Job Because I Failed The Personality Test

Most of us who wrestle with mental health issues also must confront feelings of low self-esteem. When we fully appreciate that we are not quite “normal” we may come to believe that we are “less than”. But that feeling does not last forever.

For the most part we work hard to address our maladies and gradually gain mastery over illnesses that were once overpowering. At that point we acknowledge that we have an illness, but we move among “regular folks” with a newfound comfort and confidence. We may still think of ourselves as “a wee bit different”, but we no longer feel “less than”.

Then an amazing thing happens. Because we have become confident in ourselves, we begin to look around the world with curiosity, not fear. We rapidly discover that the people we once found intimidating because they were so sane, grounded and “normal” aren’t really as mentally healthy as we gave them credit for being. The “irony alarm” goes off repeatedly as we compare some of these square shooters to the people like us, (who have been smeared with the label of “whackadoomius”), and quickly conclude that we are, in fact, a lot healthier and balanced than they are!

It’s a little bit validating, but also a little disturbing, and reminds one of the old idea that perhaps “the inmates are running the asylum”. Well, the hipsters, flipsters, and finger-poppin’ daddies at the American Psychiatric Association were well aware of this as they sat down to update the legendary Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and DSM-5 will boast some brand new diagnoses demonstrating a new willingness to view commonly accepted behavior through a pathological lens. Below are just a few new entries that show, “Normal is the new whacked”.

Bloated Toad Syndrome: Generally considered a reflection of unhealthy societal values like wretched excess and conspicuous consumption, Bloated Toad Syndrome is among the most controversial new diagnoses in DSM-5. Symptoms include: McMansions, outsized SUVs like the Bentley Behemoth, and flat screen TVs that double as load-bearing walls.

Truth Decay: APA officials estimate that one in four Americans suffers from this debilitating moral degeneration. At first restricted to a handful of “at risk” groups, (i.e., lawyers, politicians, used-car salesmen, advertising executives, and FBI agents), Truth Decay has spread nationwide and has even had a corrupting effect on television news!

Debtor’s Prism: Once as exotic as Munchausen by Proxy, Debtor’s Prism has moved to center stage in American culture. The term “prism” is used synonymously with “rose colored glasses” and refers to a type of magical thinking that causes the afflicted to purchase material possessions far beyond their means. Massively in debt, the wildly deluded sufferers buy with random abandon, completely lacking any sense of responsibility or even reality. By looking through their “debtor’s prism” they see the world they want to see, not the world that is.

Faux Real? Disorder: It has long been understood – both by the APA and the general public – that life on social networking sites consists largely of manufacturing highly inaccurate, inflated portrayals of one’s self in order to impress near and dear and strangers alike. This did not concern psychiatrists at the APA until they realized that many individuals were actually believing their own fabrications, “reading their own Press Releases” as it were. Self-deception, always a bedrock contributor to mental illness, had morphed to an entirely new level, with millions of Americans adoringly hanging on every new lie they told about themselves.

There are more. Just remember for now, not every monkey is in the zoo – some of them own the zoo.

“Sometimes it seems like the inmates are running the asylum. Then again, would a sane person want that job?” Taz Mopula

It’s Lonely At The Top

It's Lonely At Top

The students who attend Tucson University, America’s most prestigious online learning resource, are scattered throughout the country. Consequently, a traditional graduation ceremony is both logistically challenging and inappropriate.

This year’s graduation ceremony was special indeed. Because Tucson, (sometimes referred to as Virtual U), finds its entire existence in digital ether; featured guest speaker Taz Mopula delivered his remarks in a series of tweets.

They appear below.

Tucson University 2012 Commencement Tweets – Taz Mopula

Class of 2012. As you explore what is arguably the world, remember:

It’s lonely at the top. Then again, it’s lonely at the bottom too, plus, the service is really bad.

There is nothing to fear except you itself.

If I could only give you one piece of advice it would be this: Do not, under any circumstances, take my advice.

The moment you are certain that you’ve got it all worked out is precisely when you finally not do.

If you think education is expensive, try insolence.

Why raise the bridge when you can lower your expectations of the river?

Those who can’t do, teach; those who can’t teach, teach anyway.

How can you think outside of the box when the box is inside your head?

There is no shame in ignorance; then again, it’s no cause for celebration, either.

The more you learn the less you know for certain; the less you know for certain the more you learn.

Be nice to your enemies; you just might be one of them.

Your college selection is irrelevant. However, where you go to high school is crucial; because they will never let you leave.

Thank you.

TAZ TALKS

taz talks logo

TAZ TALK was founded in 1984 and has been held annually at the Airport Holiday Inn outside Aspen, Colorado ever since. The TAZ TALK Mission Statement is as follows:

We believe passionately in the power of seminars to fill seats. Our goal is to establish a clearinghouse of warmed-over twaddle carefully constructed to allow fuzzy-headed ultra-liberals unencumbered access to the self-righteous sanctimony they so desperately crave. Life Is Good!

Over the years, Taz Talks have featured some of our most profoundly inspiring paradigm-shifters, thought-leaders, game-changers, and tipping-pointers including Pema Chödrön, Zig Zigler, Tony Robbins, and Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter – better known to millions as Reverend Ike.

Here, at last, is the complete transcript of TAZ TALK #1, delivered by Taz Mopula on May 8, 1984. (Speaker commentary appears in regular type. Bolded quotes were projected for audience members to read.)

Welcome to Taz Talks. My name is Taz Mopula. I’d like to begin with a question.

Slide 1.

“If you don’t know what you want, how can you be certain that what you have right now isn’t it?” Taz Mopula

Most of us don’t even know who we are, so how on earth could we know what we want? What we think we want is what other people want us to want. So we do.

Slide 2.

“Entitlement is a fraudulent concept. We are none of us entitled to anything. Even that next breath you crave is a gift.” Taz Mopula

Inalienable rights! Hilarious! Pursuit of happiness! Stop, you’re killing me! Right to exist! Priceless! None of us is entitled to anything at all, not even death.

Slide 3.

“Expect the worst and you’re unlikely to be disappointed.” Taz Mopula

Attitude influences outcome, although it certainly doesn’t guarantee it.

Slide 4.

“Why raise the bridge when you can lower your expectations of the river?” Taz Mopula

There’s a lot of talk about creative problem solving, but it’s hard to think outside the box when the box is inside your head.

Slide 5.

“You can always have everything you want because you get to decide what you want.” Taz Mopula

I want you to be free from want. Do you see how this can never work?

Slide 6.

“It’s lonely at the top. Then again, it’s lonely at the bottom too, plus, the service is really bad.” Taz Mopula

Having sex in an elevator is wrong on so many levels.

Slide 7.

“The only thing worse than obsessing over your press clippings is believing the ones you wrote yourself.” Taz Mopula

They say that reality occurs when two or more people simultaneously subscribe to the same illusion.

Slide 8.

“Psychotics, murderers, and those who claim certain knowledge of God’s will, are to be avoided at all cost.” Taz Mopula

Beware the zealous speaker. He may be mad, selling something, or intoxicated by a misguided belief in his own imagined infallibility.

Slide 9.

“There is nothing to fear except you itself.” Taz Mopula

We think of the world as a dangerous place and realize too late that we are the most dangerous part of it.

Slide 10.

“If I could only give you one piece of advice it would be this: Do not, under any circumstances, take my advice.” Taz Mopula

Thank you.

 

Self-Actualization

Arrogance And Intellegence Yes Arrogance Wisdom No

I have learned never to confuse facts and information with knowledge, much less wisdom. In “the information age” there is an endless waterfall of data, but who is there to teach us how we can make sense of it? Mere information is almost valueless and the glut of information we have today is actually an impediment to healthy living. As ever, balance is the key – and you will never achieve balance in the absence of wisdom.

You can get education from others but wisdom, sadly, must come from within. In general, the important lessons of life arrive on the business end of a 2×4. So, for starters, don’t think there are short cuts; the best way to learn is to live. You must have the experiences yourself for them to mean anything.

I think of the process sequentially, so, for want of a better name, let’s call it the Taz Mopula Hierarchy of Self-Actualization – TMHSA – and have a look.

1. Know Yourself. – Few people attack this step and most of the ones that do, fail. It requires curiosity, relentless determination, and brutal honesty.

2. Forgive Yourself. – Only after thoroughly understanding yourself, the good and the bad, is it truly possible to forgive yourself for character flaws and harm done.

3. Love Yourself. – Do not confuse this with narcissism; it is all about unqualified acceptance, humility, and gratitude. The universe loves you, why disagree?

4. Enjoy Yourself. – You can easily spot people that have made it this far, they have absolutely no envy, they can’t think of anyone else they would rather be.

5. Allow Others To Enjoy You Enjoying Being Yourself. – This is the ultimate, it involves you allowing others to enjoy the real you, even if it means suffering their admiration.

The wisdom here is that you will enjoy life, you will have healthy priorities, and you will have purpose. In a situation like this, doing triage on the deluge of useless information clamoring for your attention will be child’s play.