Let me just ask you outright: Are you a bit of a thug? Do you like to shoot very large animals for no real reason and then hug their massive carcasses to your body in what many feel is a rather disturbing and vaguely bestiality-friendly manner as your BFF snaps a photo of your shameless, mile-wide smirk and posts it for all the world to cringe over?
What about women? Do you like to leer at the world's youngish, able-bodied, more sexually charged females -- especially the ones who are smarter, healthier and far less sweaty than you (which, let's be honest, is nearly all of them) -- and flippantly frame the entire gender as an irresponsible harem of gold-digging, liberal sluts looking to have as much reckless, awesome, whore-like sex as they can and then have the government clean up any mistakes?
How about issues and ideas, politics and public debate? Is it your most favorite thing ever to take the most combustible, extremist stance imaginable on nearly every topic, no matter how grotesque or absurd, and then slam your way through the nuances and counterarguments with a sledgehammer made of phlegm and odium just to get attention, gathering enemies and antagonism like a spent nuclear rod gathers imminent doom and wrapping the whole thing in a glorious sheen of brazen douchebaggery?
Is this you? Very good. Let us call you Option One.
Let us assume for the sake this particular column that Option One is the first of two primary ways you can move through the world, two modes in which one can engage and dance with the energies provided, two lenses through which you can view all of life, death and human endeavor.
Let us furthermore agree that which one you choose largely defines and delineates the particular shape and tone of your life, your health, the greasiness of your skin, the warmth and vibrancy of your heart, your personal quotient of love and misery, bliss or suffering, orgasms or knives, depending.
Option One, as you probably sensed, is painfully common. Option One is everywhere in America. Option One made the news three separate times just recently, in the eternally ignoble form of Rush Limbaugh, in the various unflattering epitaphs for the late and not very great conservative hothead Andrew Breitbart, in the form of California's own Fish and Game president Dan Richards, a guy who stirred nasty controversy recently not merely by hunting and killing a mountain lion up in Idaho (one of the few states where it's legal), but by posing like an idiot for a pseudo-macho trophy photo and not giving a damn who winced at it or called for his resignation for being such a tactless jackass.
Sound familiar? Option One is how many Americans are trained to survive and go about life, to slash and crash through the world with an openly antagonistic, bitch-slapped methodology, swords drawn and fists ready, the world as a giant nail and you as God's special hammer because hey, life is hard. You gotta blast, cheat and schmooze your way through lest the other sharks bite your legs off and you drown. Right?
And what's wrong with that? Hell, as we see in endless nauseating examples from Rush to Breitbart, Rick Santorum to Fox News, you can enjoy tremendous success and make a lot of money with Option One, at the expense of useless energies like, say, grace, or deep intelligence, or love. There are fortunes to be made pummeling and bullying the world with the message that life is a dangerous cesspool and Jesus hates everything you love. Just ask Bill O'Reilly.
But it ain't just America. Option One is a global phenom, from Al Qaeda to Syria, from North Korea to tiny old Vladimir Putin right on over to the Catholic Church, pretty much anywhere the male energy has devolved to its most blunt and shameful, violent form, completely devoid of its finer qualities of stability and spaciousness, generosity and deep calm. Option One, sadly, still runs most of the world.
Thankfully, it's not the only choice.
Over here, Option Two.
Option Two is far more subtle, contains nuance and flexibility, class and refinement, a wide range of belief. Option Two aims for a reverence for all you encounter, no matter what the scenario, always seeking something resembling kindness, and humility, and temperance. Those who practice embodying Option Two enjoy a sort of radically different feel and flavor to the world than Option One even knows exists. But it ain't easy.
Examples of Option Two, as you might guess, are much more difficult to locate, simply because they tend not to scream, or pound the table, shoot things for the hell of it, bash women as sluts, wallow in douchebaggery. In fact, you might say it's a quality specific to Option Two that actively sees any such behavior as, you know, sort of repulsive. Which is why Option Two types are so rare in politics, or celebrity, or Wall Street.
But make no mistake: Option Two has its own terminal drawbacks. Option Two can lead you all sorts of astray, into fields of bliss-bunny wimpiness, excessive do-gooderism, a severe lack of perspective so detached and perverse that every animal is your soul-mate and every corporation is a malevolent demon, money is inherently evil and the sight of a tuna sandwich makes you weep for the fate of the dolphins.
Option Two can also lead to interminable bouts of fatalism and dread, as the world becomes far too heavy and sick, your poor constitution fraught with a million demons and stressors made of mean people and pollution and guns. At its very ugliest, Option Two can convince you of the worst lie of all. It can convince you you're a victim.
In the yoga philosophy I favor there's a finely honed notion that while all extremes are to be tactfully avoided as unhealthy and destructive, any extreme can be experienced -- and even sometimes should be experienced -- for its power and energy, all without losing center and falling off the edge of the world. OK place to visit, those extremes. You just don't want to live there.
So let us modify. Let us introduce the prospect of Option Three. Option Three is forever in flux, a dance of endless possibility, a mix of One and Two but also neither and also more. This is why it's so challenging. It can't be defined so easily. It can't really be seen straight on. Its colors shift and churn, its shadows never stuck in one place for long. It is nonlinear, slippery, brand new every day.
It is how one can be a hunter, or a Catholic, or a conservative, can still have grace and tact, reverence and humility without getting sick or having nearly everyone in the world think you're a massive, insufferable ass. It's how you can be subtle, progressive and wildly intelligent and still serve in politics, build a wonderful corporation and use piles of money as just another form of energy to be put into service.
It's how you can see birth control, mountain lions, sluts, fiery debates, yoga, sex, politics, even death itself as just so many emanations of light, so many tantalizing variations on a singular, divine theme.
Small catch: Option Three won't let you think about it for long, because that's how constriction and mental constipation arise. Option Three says, you just gotta flow with it. Can you run a whole life that way? The wise ones just smile. Don't you already know?