I am one of those naturally lazy but socially disciplined people who has to follow the Maoist principle of ‘every journey begins with a single step’….and then keep on taking the steps. Once I stop taking the steps, I figure, that’s it. The End. Throughout life, others tell folks like me, “You drive yourself too hard – take a rest”. But this I see as bad advice for we who know how a rest might turn out. My rest nightmare involves getting up, eating something junky, and then sipping gently at four bottles of wine – while watching the grass grow to eight feet in height – before retiring back to bed. I last did that when I was a student (replace wine with grass) but the memory sits in my psyche as a nightmare lesson about how a life without self-control leads quickly to disaster.
My Dad – who was just like me – used to call this “Staying on top of things”. He was a man of steely willpower, Pop: for years he washed and waxed his Honda Civic every week, and then forgot he owned a car. Whenever I cross our pebbled terrace making for the steps to the pool, I stop to pull up a few weeds. If I stop doing this, it seems to me, they will strangle us within weeks: I will become their slave, serving up hourly doses of MiracleGro and asking, “Will there be anything else, m’Lord?” But my instinct is to sod the weeds and instead meditate naked on the lawn.
For some people, bowels must either be regular or abnormally sporadic: go when even the mildest suggestion of evacuation suggests itself, or you’ll be bunged up for decades – an energyless person dragging round the world’s most inflated bottom. From perfectly tuned excretion to fairground attraction in one fell swoop. Others still harbour the same fears about housework and diet: zap every speck of dust you see 24/7 and never let a roast potato pass your lips – or a year later you will be Mrs Fatisher, frozen in cobwebs and covered in dust, your only consolation being the mice that come daily to nibble at that last frozen pizza – the one which started your descent into inanimate blobbiness.
The more sane among you will recognise all this as the telltale belief system of an extreme personality. Everything must have a name these days, and extreme personality (EP) is the one that our armies of excuse-makers and thinky-dinks have attached to me. The problem with their analysis, however, is that it’s underpinned by the assumption EP bad, fluffy good.
Those on the other side of the life-line see and do things in an entirely different way. Relativism, manana, turning on and dropping out, laissez faire, whatever, behaviour is a spectrum, I’m OK if you’re OK, loosen up,chill out, yehbutseefingizzlike, one more biscuit, guilt is bad, arsing about is good……the whole approach is, let’s face it, infinitely more attractive.
Unfortunately, in Fluffyworld things can go very badly wrong for society – whereas in the EP Universe, the pain tends to be personal and private. In Fluffyworld, there are (in no particular order of demerit) obesity, riots, feral kids, deficits, ClubMed debtors, the Secret Family Courts, looting, Seven Kids by Seven Fathers, Olympics tickets anarchy, chlamydia, wind power, nettle wine, Human Rights, Islamist bombers, Tony Blair, multiculturalism, lethargy, and a Franco-German hegemony in the EU. In EPville, there are depressive interludes, obsessive compulsive disorder, and suicide; none of which, to my knowledge, have ever started a war, exploded into a social problem, or got the Daily Mail into a bit of a state.
Ever since the dawn of Person, natural selection has been sticking a judicious mixture of Fluffies and EPs into the womb of Woman across the planet – the aim being to produce a healthy range from policeman to artist. The flaw in this idea is the assumption that no policeman would ever want to ban an artist. And no artist would ever presume to pronounce on the role of the police. The gaping hole in evolution’s logic, in fact, is that it never foresaw how the human brain would develop two hemispheres….and that human social intercourse would further confuse the constant battle between these terribly tenacious twins.
Good v Bad, Light v Dark, God v Devil, Weeds v Meditation, Weed v Getting things done, Buddhism v Plumbing. These are the dilemmas of being human. Chaotic inbetweenness is the result, but this is far preferable to the victory of one over the other. I’ve been a chaotic inbetween all my life, and trust me – it’s a lot more fun than being Ben Bernanke.