Should I Drink the Kool-Aid?
I have a problem.
It’s something that started small, but has taken over my life.
I have trouble believing what I’m told.
Some people seem to be very good at it, and I truly envy them. To be able to sink into something with complete abandon sounds achingly fulfilling.
And yet, I am a doubter.
Tell me that something works, and I automatically begin the process of disbelieving. Music has the power to change lives? Not for everyone. Exercising will make you feel happier? Maybe, maybe not. Cutting out sugar will help you sleep? Prove it.
I know that I use this mentality to make myself feel superior. I told myself long ago that people who believe anything are like sheep. They blindly go where the shepherd leads them, be it to a greener pasture or off of a cliff. And I, knowing better, smugly stand to the side and watch them make their way down the road.
For example, I have been to concerts where the guitarist will take a terrible three-note solo, but in the process falls to his knees and drips sweat all over his guitar with passion. His body language tells the crowd that he is Rockin’ Out, and the entire venue goes crazy. I remain silent, shake my head in disgust, and pride myself on recognizing what a shitty player he is.
Recently, I went to a yoga class where the young instructor informed us with a dreamy smile that yoga builds a sense of community.
I watched the students around me nod in agreement, and I wanted to say, “We walk into class silently, ignore each other, practice without looking around, and leave immediately afterwards to go home. We do not connect, build, or communicate. This is not community. We could make one, but it isn’t one yet.”
At some point, someone told this lovely lady that doing yoga automatically makes community, and she believes it without doubt. I do not.
I will never be someone that can nod in agreement, or take up a cheer, because someone told me to. For years, I have told myself that it’s because I’m too smart to drink the Kool-Aid, and because of this, I am winning at life.
But the truth is, it’s making me unhappy.
I’ve come to realize that there is another side to not drinking the Kool-Aid.
Doubt creates a barrier between you and believers. You are not experiencing what they are experiencing.
You are on the outside, looking in.
Are you superior? Perhaps, in your mind you are. But at the end of the day, you’re also missing out on a lot of emotions that others have the pleasure of feeling.
For instance, I can’t remember the last time that I left a movie theater and actually enjoyed the movie. I’m too busy deciding which parts were good or bad.
Also, it’s very difficult for me to find any joy in prayer or meditation anymore. I find myself distracted by questions of their effectiveness.
Do not even get me started on modern art museums.
Thus, I find myself asking, is it better to hold back and question, or to abandon oneself completely?
Does drinking the Kool-Aid make life more meaningful?
My thoughts turn towards many of my musician friends, who believe that songwriting is the most powerful thing in the world. After attending music school, I developed the opinion that most singer-songwriters write soppy lyrics and can’t handle their own emotions.
But they wake up every morning full of passion to write. And I wake up wondering how to fill the void.
I recently spent some time in Washington DC, and was taken aback by the number of lawyers that couldn’t talk about anything but their resumes. Pompous, one-dimensional narcissists, I thought to myself.
And yet, their lives are full of exciting challenges. I struggle to find a sense of identity.
Which is why I’ve come to believe that I have a problem. Perhaps, while I am standing to the side feeling superior and laughing at the sheep, they are experiencing the roughness of the road, the freshness of the air, and the sense of adventure that comes with walking down the path.
Of course, I will never be able to blindly commit to something without educating myself in it first. There are those that guzzle some scary Kool-Aids, without ever questioning if they’re drinking rat poison. We all probably know at least one of those people.
But maybe I’m so scared of not being superior, I won’t even let myself test the liquid and see if it tastes good.
Is it possible that instead of allowing my gut reaction to be doubt, I can come to an agreement with myself to let go of fear?
Could I teach myself to look for the positive parts of new experiences before I begin my search for the negative ones?
Perhaps, the next time the Kool-Aid comes around, I should open my mouth and try a sip.