The Land of Angst

*Disclaimer* This is meant to be satirical.  The following opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the writer.  You may proceed.

In the land of Angst, the people are governed by rules far different from our own. During the day, they are divided into rooms with further internal divisions based on physical appearance and personal contacts. Not obeying the buzzers results in serious punishment. This is very similar to our very own factories, except the buzzers control machines and not—although some may question their humanity—actual humans.

The transportation system is a very odd one. Completely disorganized, any rules of the road are disregarded. I shudder to think how many accidents would occur if our own road ways were run in such a way. I desired to speak with one of these people and so naturally I attempted to make eye contact and initiate a discussion. Every pair of eyes would flit over mine in an effort to avoid eye contact. The muddied floor, yellowing ceiling tiles, worn-out shoes, trash: everything and anything seemed to be more appealing to look at than my eyes. As I wondered at how I could be that repulsive, my drive to communicate with these beings grew even stronger. Finally, I grabbed one by the arm and inquired as to why no one would make eye contact with me.

“It’s like an unspoken rule. If you make eye contact, it becomes an Awkward Moment.” This seemed like a feather light excuse to me but when I made similar inquires of others I received the same response. All efforts must be put into avoiding the Awkward Moment. What that was exactly, I wasn’t sure. No one seemed capable of explaining it. It seemed to be very undesirable and extremely contagious. The best I could figure was that it was some sort of horrific disease like the small pox and that making eye contact only spread the virus of the Awkward Moment.

Another disease was upon these poor afflicted people. They were all ridden with a strong case of aloneaphobia. The effects of it were everywhere. Everyone traveled in pairs. The compulsive need to be surrounded by people is one of the indicators of aloneaphobia. I had seen it before in the very weak and insecure of the nation but never before in such a large quantity and concentration. Occasionally, you would see a person traveling down the passageways alone, yet still suffering from the disease. Their eyes skitted from wall to wall, desperately searching for a comrade, desperate to be released from the state of being alone. There must be something very powerful and deep within their thoughts that they are afraid that if they are alone they might discover who they really are. Perhaps they are some sort of monsters in disguise, and this is why they must be with others: they need to presence of others to effectively feign their own normalcy.

I wondered as to why they did not leave. There must be something that keeps them within the building that was suffocating them. As I searched for the reason, I found a sign attached with sticky tack on a cold cinder block wall. Wads of gum decorated the majority of the surface. But what I could make out underneath the layer of gum, dirt, and fingerprints was this:
Our Mission is to ensure learning while challenging all individuals to exceed their own expectations.

Exactly whose mission was this? This certainly wasn’t a reflection of the majority of students whom I had overheard cursing the place. Their expectations seemed only to be survival. Survival of the diseases that threaten to kill their identity, survival of the restraints that threaten to limit their imaginations. Anyone exceeding those minimalistic expectations was not looked upon with favor. Instead, the rare instance where an inhabitant attempted to actually learn was often ridiculed by the others. Their own inability to break beyond mere survival had warped their thinking. They couldn’t see another way other than their own. When a foreign substance is introduced in one’s body, the red blood sells and good bacteria are up in arms to defend. When the foreign idea of going beyond mediocrity arose, the carrier of that idea was attacked in the same way.

I remained in the Land of Angst for as long as I could bear. But slowly, I could feel more own senses beginning to deaden, the first hints of apathy begin to creep into my soul. So I fled that place and bid farewell to the inhabitants of the land, with my sincerest hopes that one day they too will break free.

Confidently Incompetent

“You know, the really great thing is that at least he is confident in his beliefs,” my friend whispered to me as we sat at a motivational seminar listening to a 23 year old in an oversized suit waste five hours of our day talking to excess. With effects quite as damaging as if he was simply drinking to excess. Instead, his main intention seemed to be using the catch phrase “we are who we want to be” as many possible times within a single sentence. I counted seven times as his all time high.

While I quickly forgot his inspirational fluff, my friend’s words stuck with me. Was it possible that confidence made up for lack of competence? If as long as you are sure of yourself, is it a good idea to make yourself look like an idiot—albeit a confident one? For your dignity’s sake, I would say no.

I am confident that the military of the United States army will protect me. I am confident that this chair is structurally sound and will support me. I am confident that my God is all-knowing and that His sovereignty can be seen almost everywhere I look. This type of confidence is warranted and quite possibly a sign of sanity. A man who is so unconfident of his life and the world he lives in would be walking around trembling for fear the ceiling was about to fall down or that his life was about to collapse. That man would be seen as mentally unstable. Yet there is another type of mental instability that goes largely unchecked. It was this type of instability the motivational speaker suffered from.

Hubris is an ancient Greek word that means false overconfidence. While being simply overconfident will lead to one being thought of as pretentious and presumptuous, false overconfidence has much worse consequences. What of the man who is unshakably sure that he will have what he needs when he needs simply as a result of that need? He wholeheartedly believes that necessity is the mother of invention. This hubristic fellow will find that his exceptional confidence won’t save him when he jumps off a cliff, sure that his need to be able to fly will allow him to sprout wings.

You may say that I am being ridiculous, that that would never happen. Tell me the difference between that scenario and this one: a man is so confident that he can change his circumstances by simply imagining they were different. He spends his entire life pretending to live in a world that isn’t real, forsaking real relationships and real experiences in the meanwhile. The only thing that separates him from our cliff-jumping friend is that his is a slow and gradual death rather than a fatal plummet. Both were blinded by their overconfidence. I’m afraid that is the fate of our well-intentioned and hubris-afflicted motivational speaker.

If a man claims to be a bird, we would think him deranged. The sincerity of his belief would not change the fact that he was incorrect in his thinking. No matter how genuine a person is, their confidence in their insanity will not make him the least bit saner. Confidence is invaluable; it inspires armies and sets uneasy minds at rest. It is only when we are overly sure of things that are utterly false that we run the risk of jumping wing-less off of a cliff.