Maybe you talk to yourself in the mirror, or simply use visualization: “I’m going to walk right in there man…”
Maybe you picture the Fonz or some Leo DiCaprio character or David Caruso in “Jade” – how would they act in this situation?
It could be a job interview, a big move at a bar — life is full of situations which require interpersonal confidence.
And while I think we all know exactly what it looks like and a few of us do actually seem to outwardly achieve it, there is nobody who does not wrestle with it internally.
Even the coolest cat you know probably has to psych themselves up and even experiences doubt and nervousness from time to time.
I would like to encourage you, though I admit he lacks the flash of Fonzi, to consider Descartes in these moments.
That’s right, René Descartes — the funky philosopher who said “I think, therefore I am” and looked just like the funky 20th century philosopher Rick James–
whose hit song “Super Freak”–
was also directly inspired by Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy.
Descartes got to his conclusion after spending some time wondering whether anything really existed.
Every image you see and sound you hear, every experience you have, it’s all being related to you solely by your mind, in a totally mysterious way, via a part of your brain called “the pineal gland,” by little cells and electric signals and other stuff moving around in there.
Descartes wondered — “Damn, what if I am literally just a mind in an empty black void creating and then communicating all of this, even my own body, to myself.”
I mean, your own arm at this moment is only there because you see it and think it — just senses, and your own intellectual activity.
So would it exist if your mind stopped sensing it and thinking it?
Ultimately, Descartes managed not to panic and decided that, yes, this very train of thought came from some original source in the external world so, when that thinking is validated by The Biggest and Best and Smartest of All Possible Big Dudes or Dudettes, God, cut-to, I have actual arms and stuff.
But hold onto your existential horses — another famous philosopher named George Berkeley said “not so fast!”
He believed that everything in the universe really did exist only in perception – it’s called subjective idealism.
So wait…what about making a move at the bar?
I’m supposed to talk about Descartes and subjective idealism and sound sophisticated?
Well it might work, but in all seriousness — what if you decided to make the move, or head into your job interview, with the attitude of Berkeley?
Every single situation you come across, every person intimidatingly attractive or aloof, people professionally aggressive, every awkward conversation, every high-stakes moment — it’s all materializing completely within your psyche.
That means you can take control — Berkeley style, baby!
Look, you still have to nail the interview or the pick-up line, but there’s no longer any logic in thinking to yourself “Oh I don’t know how this is going…this person probably thinks this or that.”
The person and the entire interaction exist only because you are perceiving them!
Now I am not saying that you should walk through life as if you yourself are another Biggest of All Big Dudes or Dudettes, God, amongst a universe of your own illusions.
But all that bullshit holding you back, all those concerns and assumptions about a given situation, who has the social upper-hand, who’s better than who — those actually are illusions, created by you!
Berkeley can help you remember that.
Basically, if you can picture yourself describing hard-and-fast, right to the company top dog, channelling Leo-as-Jordan Belfort, that you are the goddamn best man for the job, but you are hesitant about actually pulling off that daydream delivery in person, well you don’t make any sense to George Berkeley.
A similar concept was explored by Erwin Schrödinger — it’s often baked into the bite-sized philosophy snack “Schrödinger’s Cat.”
As it goes, there’s a cat in a box and it was alive when it went in there. It might be alive or dead at this point, but if you open the box to find out and you see that it’s dead, then you’ve just killed it; because you just eliminated the “alive” possibility.
Back to the bar.
Sure, in your mind, you are in a hot situation.
Boy oh boy, someone is eyeing you down over there and the pressure is on.
But what if you had sat somewhere else /walked into a different place /lived in a different city!
Think of the millions of people sitting at bars at that very same moment who mean absolutely nothing to you.
This particular person, now weighing on your mind and stomach as heavily as felicide, would have been counted among those millions only minutes ago, but then you noticed them — you opened the box.
See the point?
You obviously would not have actually killed the cat just by lifting the box lid, and there isn’t actually any pressure on your big bar moment here that existed before you perceived it.
So stop holding back, amigo, and thinking the world and better-looking people, with better ideas, and more talent are happening to you.
A lot of pretty smart philosophers figured it quite the opposite — that you are the only one happening at all.
I call it “Philosophy For Barflies,” it’s going to make me a billionaire, and if you don’t like it then you can waffle the fuck right off because none of you even exist anyway.
APP Editors’ Note:
Joe Antonini is a young writer living and partying in Chicago.
You can find out more about his work, HERE.
Another version of this essay was published in Odyssey, HERE.
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