Q&A on the Communichology™ of Pop Culture
Ricky Midway: Catchy title.
Tom Leu: Glad you like it.
So are you going to be preaching about sexual indiscretion or something now?
Nah… I don’t preach; I prefer to teach, and coach. There’s a big difference.
Some think preaching and teaching are the same, but they’re practically opposites… they can actually be contradictions of each other. Preaching is rarely teaching anything.
Exactly. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about here… this concept of paradox.
Paradox? Sounds uninteresting. Lust sounds much more intriguing.
Well it may be, but maybe not.
According to the dictionary, a paradox is something that is self-contradicting; any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature. An example of a paradox would be saying something like “I always lie,” because if that fact is true then the statement must be false. Get it?
Sure… A working title of one of your other writings is called “The Beautiful Secrets.” That’s an example of paradox or an oxymoron, yes?
Yes. That’s the idea. Why would something that is beautiful have to be a secret?
It’s a mystery.
It is. Which leads me to my thoughts about people who appear paradoxical.
People are paradoxical?
Sure; and often contradictory and oxymoronic and on and on. Although they’re not as mysterious as they’d have you believe.
Give me an example.
I have one intriguing, yet sometimes frustrating old “friend” who comes to mind.
So tell me about this old “friend” (in quotes) of yours.
She’s a person who markets herself to be so FOR things, but is really AGAINST more than she’s for.
This chick has always been a cool customer; a rock star you know? But her whole gig is presenting this thing I call an “Attitude of Against” or A-of-A. This is when someone or some group comes across more strongly “against” things that “for” anything. It’s an energy-depleting position, and the opposite proposition of everything I promote.
So she’s kind of a pessimist or a cynic?
No, I wouldn’t say that. Actually, she’s very smart and seems to know exactly what she wants and appears very driven to achieve those things. But in her quest to achieve these goals, she comes off with an antagonism and an aura of belittlement aimed at that which differs from her, and her preferences. And with her world-class sarcastic wit, and above-average intelligence, she makes it seem bigger than just preference differences. She has this uncanny ability to make things appear bigger; to really make things appear to be about what is truly right and wrong. That’s both the irritating and intriguing part.
This chick sounds complicated!
Yeah, that’s what she wants you to think. She wants you to think that she’s this very deep, complex, tortured, misunderstood, dark and brooding artist type. She sometimes comes off as the “I’m too-cool-for-you,” punk-apostle type… if you know what I mean. But she’s not really what she presents. She’s just a person. An insecure girl who’s very clever at marketing herself. A paradox…
But can’t we all be that way at times?
Oh absolutely… of course. But not everyone goes out of their way to wave this “Attitude of Against” flag by admonishing all things “mainstream” while admiring anything anti-establishment.
You sound a bit threatened by this person.
Sometimes I do feel that way truthfully. She’s a smart cookie. Taking a closer look at this, there’s really a lot going on with this.
So what’s going on?
It’s the classic rebel-with-a-cause complex. People like this thrive on attitudes of angst, anti-establishment, and arrogance. They always seem pissed off; seem against all forms of authority, and think that they’re better than everyone else. But they’re not really that pissed off. They conform to authority like the rest of us. They truly aren’t any better than anyone else. And they often suffer from high levels of low self-esteem like so many others. They are a paradox; a contradiction in and of themselves. And in a way, they actually represent all that they rail against.
Amazing how you turned that whole thing around a full 360°… so what’s the take-away here?
Literally pointing out what you don’t like can actually make you more like it, (or like it more)… figuratively speaking. Those who run around strongly preaching against those things which they despise are usually the ones most attracted to those very same things. For example, “lust kills” is most often preached by the most lustful.
You’re surely not saying that being outspoken and passionate is a bad thing?
No, definitely not. I’m saying that it’s all about the underlying content of your message. It’s about what you’re putting into the world. It’s easy to be negative and to be against things. It’s everywhere, all the time. But tell me what you’re for, not just what you’re against. Injecting positive into the world is a much more challenging and worthwhile effort in my opinion.
So “Nice Wins” as you often say. Is that right?
In the end, I believe nice does win. Be yourself. Be transparent. Be for shit. But be nice for fuck’s sake! An overbearing and overindulgent “A-of-A” is actually negativity cleverly promoted as something positive. But to the discerning eye, the surface bravado really only reveals a covert cowardice.
Beware. Be aware.
**More Conversations with Tom archives.