Divine Perversity and the Death of Masks

Being on a unicycle juggling

“Divine Perversity” is when the universe asks us to teach that which we most have to learn.  You may not have heard the term before (since I made it up), but chances are you’re familiar with the experience.

Take us parents, for instance––at least for the first 100 years or so.  “What does it mean to be a healthy person?” our kids ask in a million different ways––growing in complexity as the years zip by, no matter how old they get.  It would be one thing if all we had to do in response was parrot helpful cliches.  But no, those pesky children want more.  It’s our example that matters, hold the platitudes.  As you know, there are stretches when our kids don’t listen to a word we say; they just watch us like Evil Eye Fleagle.  Some have been known to actually report back to us in encyclopedian detail the ways in which we have been unkind, hypocritical, narrow-minded, wrong, worthy of arrest by the Fashion Police and (worst of all sins for an adolescent) embarrassing.

And heck, it’s not like we spend our days eating chocolate-fried truck tire and watching porn.  We’re doing our best; we’re willing; we’re full of good intentions; we’re working our ass off.

Part of the problem, wouldn’t you know, is us.  There’s something we’re reluctant to admit: that, like most humans, maybe all, we’re just making it up.  (Please, raise your hand if you know the purpose of life and how the universe works.)  We’re scrambling to figure out what it means to be a healthy person ourself.  Unfortunately, we’ve bought in to the ancient myth that, as a so-called adult, we’re supposed to know what’s going on––or at least act like we do.  It’s this belief that causes beaucoup misery.

The top guy of a company with several thousand employees once asked me what he could do to create strong, positive morale in his organization.

Instantly I spoke the answer that arose in my heart, “Video your life.”

He looked at me as if I had just suggested something vaguely obscene.

“Really,” I said.  “Isn’t your number one job as leader to be a role model of what it means to be a healthy colleague?  What better way to do that than give the people in your organization a chance to experience you wrestling the octopus of living up to your own ideals.”

“Yeah-but, it’s often so messy,” he said.  “You know, figuring out the right course of action.”

“Precisely,” says  I, “and that’s what a healthy leader teaches by example.”

“How would we begin?” he said.

“Step one, grow your willingness to give up your mask of Mr. I’ve Got My Shit Together.”

“Boy,” he said, with refreshing honesty, “That sounds a bit frightening.  Like losing a friend almost.”

“Yep, a friend,” I said.  “But never really you.  And to serve those around you––a friend in need of a good funeral, a fond farewell.”

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