Friday, December 24, 2010

The 2010 John Edwards Award for Biggest Douche goes to...

It's the end of December, and that means it's time to discuss the results of this year's John Edwards Award for Biggest Douche.

Congratulations are in order for all participants of this year's close race, but Levi Johnston, making a valiant effort to clinch the title in the waning months of 2010, has pushed himself on to victory.

Levi Johnston first made a name for himself in the race by abandoning the girl he knocked up, Bristol Palin, after she gave birth to their child- with absolutely no regard for public opinion. This was definitely a power-play, but some questioned whether he was just another one-trick pony. Airing Palin family secrets in public along with rumors that he was shopping around a tell-all book with his time with Bristol helped his candidacy a little, but many still questioned his resolve. Could he stand up to contestants with real douche-stamina like John Mayer, or would he cave under withering public disgust?

To quiet the naysayers, Johnston decided to use his fame-by-association and pose for Playgirl magazine. This finally shook up the established front-runners. When Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from the show "Jersey Shore" was asked for his reaction, he said something retarded, of course, but he was also visibly shaken.

While some undoubtedly would have coasted on these extraordinary achievements until crunch time, Johnston has shown himself to be made of tougher stuff. In July of this year, he went out of his way to rescind a public apology for airing Palin secrets, saying the apology was a lie, and the only thing he has done that he is ashamed of.

At this point, most speculators considered him a shoe-in until an old favorite announced his candidacy. Just a month later, Mel Gibson responded by unleashing a verbal assault unheard of in in public record. Judges ruled that according to the new laws drafted in 2009, although Gibson had entered previous competitions, his past achievements could be counted again this year since he did not actually win the title.

If you thought a heavyweight like Gibson would scare Johnston, you would be wrong. Just one month later, the 20 year old Johnston decided to run for mayor in Wasilla, Alaska, the state wherein he is the single most unpopular person, as part of a reality show. (His 6 percent approval rating stands 9 points lower than John Edwards' 15.) This brought him neck-and-neck with Gibson. By November though, with months of inactivity, polling showed him to be trailing the more popular Gibson by 11 points. It seemed like Johnston was beat.

Then came December. In an astonishing turn of events, results of extensive polling secretly conducted by Johnston's staff were produced to show that Gibson actually qualified for the title of "Craziest Person Outside of a Mental Institute". According to an obscure rule in the Douchebag Handbook dating back to 1896, no person may hold two awards in the same year. As all the other contestants had already lost in the semi-finals to Gibson and Johnston, the judges were forced to acquiesce to this douchey maneuver by Johnston and hand him the award.

As Johnston was too cool to attend the awards ceremony, his manager Tank Jones (real name) accepted the award for him saying, "People questioned Jesus Christ, so I definitely don't care about these mere mortals questioning Levi Johnston." Douchey words indeed, from another big fat douchebag.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Silly Psychological Slogans #3: Overreaching Associations

Everybody knows that good advertising attempts to tap into existing emotions and associate a certain product with it. Thus the old adage, "Sex sells". That works fine with coke, cars, and the like; things that naturally appeal to you. Then it's only a matter of elevating this specific brand by associating it with another need. I'm anyways gonna drink soda, why not spend a few cents more to get the one that might make me more sexually desirable. The problem advertisers sometimes face is taking a boring product and trying to associate it with those same deeper needs.

Take Excedrin. Their tagline is: "For life's headaches". Their commercial shows people in otherwise happy families bogged down by headaches. The connection trying to be built here is that headaches are the impediment to your otherwise happy life, and Excedrin is your friend. That's overreaching. Nobody today thinks that curing headaches will cure all their problems. They need to aim a little lower.

Here's one for Gillete: A 20 second scene of kids seeing only a smooth-shaven Dad (close-up on the shiny chin) amidst a large group of people at their game/play. The tagline? "Show em how much you care, with gillette fusion proglide". If you can't even figure this association out, your not alone. The best I can come up with is that your kids are judging how much you care by how presentable you make yourself. Gillete has always had sexual commercials. Here they are trying to shamelessly branch out. In my opinion, the oedipal basis of this commercial points more to the disturbed psyche of the ad designer than the demographic Gillete is trying to attract. Or at least I'd like to hope.

Finally, Chase bank makes a notable contribution in their "Chase what matters" commercials. Here we have the same pattern over and over. A mother or father trying to help out in the family, and being able to do so by Chase taking care of the finances. Here Chase is trying to score from behind the 8-ball. Being concerned about your money makes you Scrooge in the zeitgeist. Chase is taking over the burden of your guilt to allow you to still feel good about yourself. We'll sell our soul to keep yours pure. We recognize that we've damned ourselves by chasing money, but you can save us, if only a little. We are weak and have trapped ourselves in evil. But by doing this we allow you, the good one, to chase what matters.

Burning Questions

After much research, I present some of the most difficult questions I've come across. Got any answers?

1. Why are there no bathrooms in the Clue mansion?

2. What caused so many butlers in the early 1900's to become ingenious murderers?

3. Why do the Howells have suitcases of clothes and money if they went for a three-hour tour?

4. If Gandalf can kill a huge fiery demon with magic- after which he becomes much more powerful - how come he only fights the armies of Mordor with a stick and a sword?

5. If objects can be thrown at wizards and knock them out when they can't see them fast enough to block them with a spell, why doesn't Harry Potter buy a machine gun?

And 6. Why are we here?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Painted Eyebrows Have Got To Go.

This is a public service announcement. Some people don't seem to realize, but painted sharpie eyebrows went whore years ago. And as everyone knows, once that industry has gotten a hold of something, it never goes back. If you aren't in that line of work, you need to give them up.

I think some people don't understand the dynamic at work. They like the style and think they can still pull it off. Please let me explain why you can't.

All style, be it on clothes, makeup, cars, whatever, are there to get other people's attention. If you were the only person alive, you wouldn't dress up. You'd walk around naked in the summer, or in a heavy peasant coat in the winter. Now, people try to make a statement to others with their style for a variety of reasons, but the main one is to attract people they'd like to hang around. And usually the people they're trying to attract most are ones they'd like to have sex with. Your average middle-aged middle-class married person observes the basic dress codes that keep them from being ejected from society, and that's it. When they don't, you know something's up. Either they're divorced and looking, gay and looking, need approval, or just insane.

Interestingly, men's styles usually incorporate a not-caring aspect (ruggedness, carefully messed-up hair). As men age, the style needs to become understated (expensive material with muted colors). This is also part of the message attempted to be displayed, albeit more subtly. It says to women, and to men you are in competition with, that you aren't trying too hard because you're confident in yourself. Women want that, and men fear it.

In higher classes of society, keeping up with fashion is still demanded, even as you get older. People generally keep a younger appearance versus working class society. (Before you jump on me, I wasn't the first to make this observation. See here.) That's because there's a constant competition going on, with money and power determining your place in the pecking order. The same is true with business professionals. They too need to keep up a business appearance to strike fear into rivals. Working-class people don't have too much money, and therefore usually prefer to take pride in traditional "Christian" values, like work and family. (In Western society, this is generally considered the loser's way out.)

By a similar token, gay men generally keep up their appearances longer because they aren't locked safely into marriage and a family unit. They need to keep themselves marketable. The opposite is true of old maids who've given up on the game.

Which brings us to prostitutes. As any good feminist knows, women's styles are heavily based on accentuating physical features to attract pigs men. But you always have to toe the line. You can't sell yourself out totally or you look like you're a one-night stand, not relationship material. And when all is said and done, that's really the big prize. Landing the man to support you so you can have kids. It's evolutionary. And really, most men want a family too.

Enter the whores. Hooking is a business based solely on sex appeal. Everyone knows it's just about sex. Ergo, their style represents this. Therefore once something, like clear heels or pencil eyebrows, is adopted by them, it's forever cheap and sluttish, and can only be worn by women who want to send that message. Maybe in the future sharpie eyebrows will be replaced by other styles, but until they hit their whore half-life, they're off-limits.

Harry Potter: False Messiah- Update

I just read an article by George Orwell about the "boys' weeklies" in his time which strikes an excellent parallel imho to my post on Harry Potter a week or two back. Read "Boys' Weeklies" here. Some highlights include the use of old stone schools in the boys weeklies since 1900 as a way of introducing privilege fantasy into the story. And that many boys read several 12-15,000 word fantasy stories every week, and didn't read anything but the newspaper later in life. I'll quote one paragraph from the essay, where Orwell describes the background to every story in the two most famous boys weeklies:

The mental world of the Gem and Magnet, therefore, is something like this:
The year is 1910 — or 1940, but it is all the same. You are at Greyfriars, a rosy-cheeked boy of fourteen in posh tailor-made clothes, sitting down to tea in your study on the Remove passage after an exciting game of football which was won by an odd goal in the last half-minute. There is a cosy fire in the study, and outside the wind is whistling. The ivy clusters thickly round the old grey stones. The King is on his throne and the pound is worth a pound. Over in Europe the comic foreigners are jabbering and gesticulating, but the grim grey battleships of the British Fleet are steaming up the Channel and at the outposts of Empire the monocled Englishmen are holding the niggers at bay. Lord Mauleverer has just got another fiver and we are all settling down to a tremendous tea of sausages, sardines, crumpets, potted meat, jam and doughnuts. After tea we shall sit round the study fire having a good laugh at Billy Bunter and discussing the team for next week's match against Rook-wood. Everything is safe, solid and unquestionable. Everything will be the same for ever and ever. That approximately is the atmosphere.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Proof that Blogging = Narcissism

This really hit home yesterday. But first, let me give a short recap of Narcissism as I understand it:
Pathological Narcissism is a condition where a person with low self-esteem tries to gain approval from others by showing off to them how special they are. The attention received is never enough to fix the problem because it's forced, conditional approval. There is always the understanding that if you stop producing, the approval will stop as well. (For more detail on how this develops, see #9).

I always thought that my blog was different though. I feel like I'm trying to help people navigate through the mess of their ideas about reality because of wrong childhood modeling, like I did (and still do), by offering whatever insights I've uncovered. But that all changed.

I started talking to this girl I met through another blog we both follow and for whatever reason, we became really close, really fast. I tried to be as honest as I could about my flaws, but still received validation from her. Not only didn't she reject me, but she really liked me too. Eventually she broke it off for whatever reason. The thing I realized about my blogging is this though: As our relationship grew stronger, my interest in writing this blog correspondingly waned. The acceptance that wasn't "bought", and was therefore immeasurably realer, dissolved any need for the other kind.

Well, that's over with now. So welcome back. If I send you some cheap flowers and take you to a bed-and-breakfast half an hour away, will you take me back?

(The picture is from the South Park episode "Creme Fraiche". )

Monday, December 13, 2010

Silly Psychological Slogans # 2: Sylvania

This moronic ad is running now. You know, scare tactics aren't really supposed to make sense, but this false advertising disturbs me. Sylvania headlights are like 10 bucks a package. Making a replacement daughter costs nothing!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Silly Psychological Slogans # 1

Let's start with Balducci's. This is one of those upscale not-quite-super markets that cater to well-off suburban professionals (white folks). Their tagline is "Food Lover's Market". Obviously, the layout of the store and the word "market" are directed at the Starbucks-Apple crowd. This particular demographic faces a unique challenge when shopping: How do I consume like a typical American, while simultaneously holding onto my anti-capitalist, socially-conscious views? The answer to this seemingly unsolvable riddle is pretty sweet. Mass self-delusion.

It's pretty silly to think that buying more expensive Green food is somehow less capitalist, but when everyone participates in the delusion, the guilt disappears. No, you're not keeping up class warfare by buying rich man's food to feel superior; you're saving the planet. And those expensive cheeses? They're "artisan" and "organic", which everyone knows means "struggling small-businessman". But what about those imported wines and specialty meats? Well, you're a food connoisseur (a food lover, or even "foodie"). I mean, why shouldn't you enjoy yourself a little? It's imported from Europe, which Lord knows is made up of 90% small farmer socialists. And really, you have a sophisticated palate. So you know that this particular mass-produced item that this chain-store stocks all it's shelves with is infinitely superior to what's on display at ugh, Walmart.

Good for you. There's no reason why a person such as yourself should eat bread with preservatives. That's what the proletariat eat. And they hate food.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Awesome Metal Chanukah Song

Check this out. It should be enough to bring back some pride after seeing the Maccabeats. (Shout out to HammondHead on DovBear). Yes, I succumbed to 'shout out'. What am I supposed to say?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Analyzing Great Depressed Lives: Part 3, Lewis Carroll

I guess nobody really cares about Lewis Carroll, but after watching the new Alice in Wonderland, enjoying it, and then reading the book (annotated by Martin Gardner) for the first time, I became very interested to learn about what kind of man wrote this craziness - in 1865 England.

Lewis Carroll (not his real name, but who really gives a damn?) was a very eccentric (that's respectful for weird) man. He grew up strictly Anglican Christian and actually studied to enter the priesthood, before rejecting it in favor of becoming a mathematics teacher. He had a slight stammer, which he was profoundly aware of, and thought himself unworthy for the priesthood because of what he saw as his "vile and worthless" sinful nature. As a child, he writes that he was happy, until he went to the Rugby school from ages 14-17, when he was terribly depressed. Afterward, he seems to have regained his love of life.

Carroll had a knack for abstract math, and loved mathematical puzzles. He also liked telling stories, doing magic tricks, and playing charades and was reputed to be pretty decent at mimicking voices. This probably endeared him to children, which was good because those were the sort of people he liked to hang around the most. Specifically the female sort. He was a life-long bachelor and feared little boys, but could not get enough of prepubescent girls. He played with them, wrote to them, and drew and photographed them in the nude, though he did not seem to have had any sexual contact with them. However, there is evidence of him falling in love with at least one of them (Alice Liddell, on whom the character of Alice is said to be loosely based). An odd and disturbing trait, to say the least. What to make of him?

I believe the best explanation of his life comes from 3 paragraphs near the beginning of the 2nd chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice is following the Rabbit, and out of nowhere, characteristically starts philosophizing to herself:

Alice took up the fan and gloves, and, as the hall was very hot, she kept fanning herself all the time she went on talking: 'Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, THAT'S the great puzzle!' And she began thinking over all the children she knew that were of the same age as herself, to see if she could have been changed for any of them. 'I'm sure I'm not Ada,' she said, 'for her hair goes in such long ringlets, and mine doesn't go in ringlets at all; and I'm sure I can't be Mabel, for I know all sorts of things, and she, oh! she knows such a very little! Besides, SHE'S she, and I'm I, and--oh dear, how puzzling it all is! I'll try if I know all the things I used to know....I'll try
and say "How doth the little--"' and she crossed her hands on her lap as if she were saying lessons, and began to repeat it, but her voice sounded hoarse and strange, and the words did not come the same as they used to do:--

'How doth the little crocodile
      Improve his shining tail,
     And pour the waters of the Nile
      On every golden scale!

     'How cheerfully he seems to grin,
      How neatly spread his claws,
     And welcome little fishes in
      With gently smiling jaws!' 
'I'm sure those are not the right words,' said poor Alice, and her eyes filled with tears again as she went on, 'I must be Mabel after all, and I shall have to go and live in that poky little house, and have next to no toys to play with, and oh! ever so many lessons to learn! No, I've made up my mind about it; if I'm Mabel, I'll stay down here! It'll be no use their putting their heads down and saying "Come up again, dear!" I shall only look up and say "Who am I then? Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I'll come up: if not, I'll stay down here till I'm somebody else"--but, oh dear!' cried Alice, with a sudden burst of tears, 'I do wish they WOULD put their heads down! I am so VERY tired of being all alone here!' (Bold added for emphasis)

I think it's obvious Carroll is struggling with his own identity. He doesn't want people to tell him what he should do, but he wants their attention because he is "so VERY tired of being all alone". (He could be the emo posterboy.) I think it makes sense to say that he felt threatened and isolated from adults, but comfortable with children. Not with male children though. Apparently they also threatened him. He had a life-long devotion to the religion of his fathers, but also seemingly felt stifled by it. His Alice books are filled with fantasy along with "child-empowerment" morals, but, extremely odd for a super-religious 19th century Englishman, no (intentionally) Christian ones. He is against forcing children to learn too much, and mocks children's religious poems designed to instill Christian virtues into them.*

Another strange fact: Carroll may seem to have been a lonely, depressed man, but he wasn't. Although he does admit to being lonely in his diary, he also writes about his exquisite, unique happiness. It seems to me then, that his trauma, which I submit there was, didn't occur in early childhood, and therefore wasn't so devastating. One passage he writes about his 3 bad years in the Rugby school may shed some light on this:

"I cannot say ... that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again ... I can honestly say that if I could have been ... secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear."(Wikipedia)

Based on many sources uncovered (see "DeMause, L. (2001). The evolution of childrearing" for a list), 19th century, British, all-male schools were rife with sexual abuse. Carroll's statement seems to hint to this abuse happening to him. At the very least, he suffered from some type of abuse at night during those years). It seems to fit the facts, as these (14-17) are transitioning years between childhood and adulthood and are crucial in developing the adult identity. Sexual abuse seems the most likely, given the trouble he had forming adult sexual relationships.

Although he seemed quite conservative to most people on the ouside, Lewis Carroll was actually bubbling with oddities and fantasies internally. It seems likely that he dreamed up his fantastic worlds of danger and fun to be a safe place to escape to. A place where a child (he himself) could face his unconscious fears and overcome them, and where life was full of mystery, excitement, new friends, and, odd as it may be, purpose.

PS: If you want to enjoy Alice in Wonderland with much of it's secret meanings revealed, pick up a copy of "The Annotated Alice", by Martin Gardner.

*The original "How doth" poem goes:

How doth the little busy Bee
     Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
     From every opening Flower!
How skilfully she builds her Cell!
     How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
     With the sweet Food she makes.
In Works of Labour or of Skill
     I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
     For idle Hands to do.
In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
     Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
     Some good Account at last. ["How doth the little busy bee", Isaac Watts, 1715]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Harry Potter: False Messiah

I watched Harry Potter number 7 with family today and noticed I didn't have the same fervor I had for it in High School. I had to force myself to get into that old mindset to sit through the 2 1/2 hour movie. In retrospect, that wasn't a good idea. Reality seemed so bleak afterwards. I'm still not fully back.

When the Harry Potter books first came onto the scene, parents and educational experts were stunned by their popularity. Reading had been on the decline for years, losing ground steadily to visual media. Suddenly though, kids were reading again. It was nothing short of a miracle. Theories were advanced to explain it, from the most silly to the most scientific sounding. "J.K. Rowling has created a witchcraft cult!" "Don't be ridiculous, children's brains have their visual centers much more developed than previously, Ms. Rowling's visually imaginative writing taps into that. Writers need to start to copy this style to engage kids." Well, if I had to choose one, I'd say it has more to do with the first reason than with the second.

Western society, with all it's psychological breakthroughs in parenting is just as competitive as ever. In fact, with religious observance down (and with it, it's so-called "slave values"), and increasing sources of media streaming visions of so many other people's fantastic monetary success and excess, I'd say competition is ratcheting itself up every year. However, unlike in previous generations, it is easy to gain temporary relief from this stress: Television. TV shows transport the viewer into a fantasy universe where they are free from their daily stresses. They have supporting friends and family, they have control over their lives, they can make a real difference in the world. [To a child, reliance on this escape can be very detrimental in learning to cope with the natural stresses of life. They haven't learned how to deal with more basic challenges, so they have immense difficulty coping with ones that compound those stressors with others. Add  to this that they first have to unlearn the old coping strategy and you can imagine the magnitude of the problem.]

What J.K. Rowling did was create a fantasy world fitted exactly to children. Like Dr. Seuss in his time, this world did not exist anywhere else before she thought it up. The escape was so much richer than anything in books or on TV. As Harry Potter, you are powerful, even though you're just a kid. You have supporting friends. You used to be abused and treated horribly, but now there is an entire hidden world that respects and adores you. And all because of an inborn specialness; you didn't have to earn it. All you have to do is have fun at cool classes, play a sport that you're the Best at, and have girls lining up for you. Mysterious fun things await you at every turn.

A common mistake is that books actually create a more real environment because they involve the mind more. That's incorrect. Books involve different parts of the brain than TV. They cost the mind's imaginative and rational faculties more energy to create the illusion they are going for in whatever story they are trying to portray. While that may be beneficial in that it develops those aspects of the brain, it detracts from the 'submersive' element of the story portrayed. Audio-visual media immediately transports it's viewers into it's world. To the person, it is more similar to reality than a novel because it doesn't rely on the brain to provide thoughts to stimulate the two main senses, sight and sound. Since the point is escape from the anxiety of reality and not learning, Television is usually preferred by people. However, if the book provides the fuller escape, as in the case of Harry Potter, it is preferred.

It's no matter if the books reach over 800 pages. The purpose is escape from anxiety; a more realized escape from pain is worth infinitely more than a lesser escape. And the longer the escape lasts, the better.

Make no mistake: this isn't a revolution in reading, it's a 'revolution' only in tapping into modern children's  psychology. Now that the zeitgeist has been explored, expect TV and movies to follow. What? Is my prophecy too late? Oh well. I guess you can just call me Professor Hindsight.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

This video will make your day

(According to "traditional media" it's, "all over the internet". I don't know what exactly happened. Maybe when you get over like 40,000,000 views, your spot on the Youtube server hard-drive ruptures and leaks all over the internet.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Attraction: The God Force In Nature


Obligatory God-Discussion Disclaimer: I'm not trying to convince anyone of God, I'm trying to explain my belief in the face of overwhelming public opinion, which claims a basis in science. 

Evolutionary theory posits that existence as we know it was caused by mutation. Complex organisms evolved from simple as a result of many mutations, simple organisms evolved from molecules, molecules from atoms, atoms from sub-atomic particles. But what kept everything moving towards evolution instead of staying at level one, status quo, was movement because of the natural attractions in energy. Evolutionary accidents happened only because of this movement. But what causes these fundamental interactions to exist? What created the existence and nature of energy? These questions can be answered when we assume some "other" thing was the first cause. A thinking cause with a specific will. A cause that created it's creation with an inborn attraction and then forced a separation. Why? Judaism would have us believe that it was created so that an intelligent being (the human kind), by tapping into his innate will, should overcome the Cause-imposed separation and connect itself, and the rest of creation, to itself. This intelligent being overcomes this separation by using matter in divinely mandated ways. By ways only known to the Cause, these actions unite creation i.e. matter/energy (and all other parts of creation, hidden from our perception, but connected to the physical universe).

[As far as I understand, the reason given for this whole exercise, this game, is that God wanted to do good. So, He created a being similar to Himself -similar in all ways besides for not existing off it's own power (since this is impossible by definition, as God is the only existence, and the only possible source of existence. He is the only actual reality.) To compensate for this, He allowed this creation to earn it's right to exist by helping God in this game. This would allow it to exist through it's own efforts. In God's reality, this makes it totally Godlike. (This being is actually part of God, as is all of creation, just that ultimate reality is filtered out from the creations' perception by God Himself. In the created (virtual) reality, this being sees itself as a separate entity- a whole other discussion).]   It's a complex and  phenomenally creative notion, which feels like a fitting way of explaining the complex phenomenon of creation.

Anyhow, have a happy Chanukah!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Analyzing Great Depressed Lives: Part 2

                                                       Lincoln Thinkin. Date Unknown.

To begin with, I think it's important to note that it's impossible to know the zeitgeist of the period these men, 300 years ago and on a different continent, lived in. Nor is it possible to claim knowledge of the individualized thought patterns of these brilliant, reclusive men. However, to the best of our abilities, we can try to draw parallels with cause-and-effect occurrences similar to those in our world and hope we can isolate particular motivations to construct a very basic, even skeletal, mindset.

The cause of the Kotzker's depression can be gleaned from the literature available. His father was overly critical and demanding of him. This would have, despite his intelligence, formed a low self concept, which would explain his drive for self-perfection, and complete truthfulness. I.e. since he was not allowed to practice and establish his own identity, he considered himself a fraud and was allergic to this fraud in himself - and others because of Projection. We do not know what the behavior of Nietzsche's parents were towards him so it is impossible to draw any parallels. However, it is noteworthy that he shared these traits with the Kotzker.

As it turned out, there was a lot of corruption and falsehood in "Litvish" and Chassidic Judaism in Poland at that time for the young Menachem Mendel to focus on as the general cause for his- and what he perceived as everyone else's- problem. Unfortunately, there was no place for individual dissent among religious Jewry at the time, especially from someone so young. As a young adolescent, however, he traveled to other communities to find more authentic, real Judaism. He ended up becoming a Chassid first of the "Seer of Lublin", then of his student, the "The Holy Jew", and finally of his student, R'Simcha Bunim, before starting his own Chassidus.

He chose only the sincerest, brightest young men to follow him, eschewing all physical pleasures, and focusing on authenticity, scholarship and bonding with God. He wrote no books, and in fact burned all of his personal writings. He wanted to lead by example, the most effective way in his opinion. As much as he felt he could impart of his ethos, this could be the only way. However, being in a position to instruct others as to the correct way of service to God did not make him happy. He and his students could never be perfect, though, and this inflamed his original trauma to the point of locking himself away because he couldn't take, in his words, "the stench" of falsehood in the world. In a poignant phrase uttered close to the time he locked himself away, he said, "Soon they will proclaim me to be a deity, but I am a broken and imperfect man."

Friedrich Nietzsche's situation allowed for a different turn of events. Through his schooling, he was shown an alternative to his small town, enclosed Christian-value life. He discovered respected thinkers, writers, and a whole world interested in iconoclastic thought. His Nihilistic ideas, unlike R' Menachem Mendel's rebellion against the status quo Judaism, although not followed, were respected. His Ubermensch idea was similar to R' M.M. idea for a free-thinking, rational, individual (granted the endgame of such a creature was totally different), but while his was considered the sign of a prodigious, creative mind, R' M.M.'s was dismissed by most as lunacy, and worse, heresy.

The reason for all this is that R' M.M. lived in a totally religious environment, where accepting a different interpretation for serving God meant having to change your life. Since R' M.M.'s ideas were so extremely ascetic and morally exacting, most people could not bear to seriously consider them. Nietzsche, on the other hand, published his ideas for an intellectual community; his word was not binding on anyone.  As such, his ideas were studied by anyone with an intellectual bent, his brilliance became apparent, and his ideas gained respectability. This could be why R' M.M. didn't write, while Nietzsche did. R' M.M. was operating under a divine mandate to fix things now to bring the Messiah as soon as he could. (He constantly spoke of his role in relation to the Messiah. A few even claimed he thought of himself as it.) Nietzsche, however, could allow people to take their time to accept his ideas. He'd personally work towards his goal in the meantime, but there was no rush for others. The Overhuman can be thought of as an individualized Messiah, but not a communal one. It is possible that he realized that no matter how hard he tried, this ultimate salvation was unattainable for him, and suffered a mental breakdown. In both cases, unfortunately, the underlying problem of low self-esteem was never dealt with, resulting in tragedy.

Postscript: I understand that for some, breaking this down to somewhat utilitarian motivation would seem to denigrate the greatness of these people. But how can we ignore facts we are aware of? What use is it to pretend to learn false lessons from these great exemplars of humanity- both of them champions of truth? What lessons in humanity would we then actually be learning? While we are diminishing the importance of the role that free choice plays in all life, even great ones, we are by no means erasing it entirely. I think it is better to examine the facts thoroughly, and if the hallowed images fixed in our minds are shattered, it's no cause for worry. Other, more relatable images will take their places, and different, usually more practical, life lessons can be learned from them.

One good lesson we can learn is the effect people have without even knowing or acknowledging it. Life isn't going to go perfectly, but great things can be accomplished through gradual change as long as you keep at it, day after day. Another important lesson is that no matter how honest and intelligent you are, depression cannot be overcome through analysis alone. Therapy/ies are needed to erase or ease the childhood trauma. Another lesson is that gaining external validation, through followers or fame, also doesn't alleviate the problem of low self-esteem caused by childhood trauma.