Sunday, November 10, 2002

Excuses, excuses...

Yes, for many years I have come up with many excuses...I think a good excuse is a brilliant thing. It's true I don't use them all but I like to have them in reserve.

Major excuse question: Should one's excuse be elaborate and improbably or simple and likely? After all, the world is a strange place...Most excuses will not defy natural or logical laws and thus are likely to happen.
And yet...The extreme rarely does happen. Thus, it may make more sense to keep one's excuse simple.

Luckily, I am married. I usually try out excuses on my husband first. He has a preference for the simple excuse. He often chides my flights of fancy.

Here's an example: So should you just 'have the flu' or should you rather go with this story: 'I was getting out of my car and I didn't notice the seat belt hanging down. It tangled around my leg and I tripped and fell face first onto the ground. I threw my back out! This is so weird! I've never thrown my back out...'

Husband didn't like that excuse and it remains in reserve for emergencies.

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #1: Try out excuse on neutral audience.

Of course, excuses have many genres: Illness, mechanical failure, tragedies (DON'T use these. Bad karma.), travel difficulties--such as weather.

But the important thing to remember about excuses is that: The event must lie outside your control. E.g., if you live in a city with reliable public transportation your car breaking down will not be a good excuse (whereas a car accident will be one) if used more than once. Because if your car breaks down regularly, you should stop using your car.

Responsiblity is a tricky issue. On the one hand, a determinist (or social determinist) might say we are truly responsible for nothing. Others might say we aren't responsible for our character. But remember EVEN IF YOU AGREE WITH THESE VIEWS that we all live within the facade of personal responsibility--and thus you must 'play along.' Even if you cannot help yourself...and believe your life is utterly out of your control. Pretend it isn't. Pretend like you are trying very hard to control it.

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #2: Avoid complaining except as a way to create plausibility for your excuses. Complaining will make you seem like a 'sad sack'...People will begin to question whether you are truly a responsible person. It is very important to cause people to believe that you are responsible in order to be as irresponsible as possible.

My personal view is that I am responsible for everything--global warming, the ozone layer, the rice in oil prices. Thus, I take responsibility for any minor illnesses I may contract since I should have been taking better care of myself. At the same time, I realize most people's view is more moderate and thus I fashion my excuses and use them in light of the commonly-held view that many things are outside of our control.

Now for a rule that is obvious for the veteran excuse maker but may not strike the novice:

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #3: DO NOT RE-USE THE SAME EXCUSE TWICE WITHIN THE SAME 2 YEAR PERIOD...Even illness has a statute of limitations. You can be ill once or twice a year tops and still maintain your image as a responsible person who is likely to succeed in your career. Of course, the problem is that you probably truly become ill once or twice a year. Thus, you should realize that excuse-making's success means that you must take particularly good care of your health.

But this brings me to a crucial aspect of excuse-making: Back-story and character building. You should think of yourself as creating a character for whom the excuses will be probable. E.g., a person who really works hard but works so hard she struggles with a slightly compromised immune system. (Thus, creating space for your future illnesses). Or someone who can't afford a good car but truly truly wants desperately to come to work.


Never forget this: Getting out of work IS work. You are not lazy if you want to get out of work. It isn't laziness that compels you--it is freedom from the tyranny of others. Your reason to get out of work is to actualize and realize your own personal freedom--the thing that makes you human...The most valuable aspect of your own character..

Final point: Making excuses to self...Remember that getting out of work is a noble quest. This is your excuse to yourself (whether or not it is true is another story)...Thus, don't WATCH TELEVISION during the time you map out for yourself. The contradictions will start to become apparent. Rather, start your novel...Read Dostoevsky...paint, practice the piano...visit nature [remember to make sure if you have claimed illness...that you will never, ever be seen.]. Catching up on much-needed sleep is OK. But not optimal.

Again, excuse making is about consistency. It is a creative exercise. You want to have a consistent story to tell yourself and others. You are creating yourself--and thus must evaluate your own actions to consider what they say about who you are becoming. This is about your life...everything you do creates the life you lead and will have led...Because I think if you do ever feel guilty about making excuses try to remember: WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

You ARE dying. Just...a little bit further in the future (I hope...this won't apply to everyone as some of you are going to die relatively soon. Try to make this a time where 'anything goes'. And remember we are all coming too no matter how deluded we are about this fact.)

EXCUSE SUCCESS RULE #5: REMEMBER YOUR EXCUSES. If I have to explain this one to you, frankly...You should just forget about entering into the discipline and quest that is excuse making. You're hopeless. You can probably remember the plot line of a TV show--If you can't remember that your own life is much more crucial than what is going on on 'Buffy' forget it!...Please go elsewhere for help.

Up next: Some actual excuses I haven't used yet...You are free to borrow from this list but I take no responsibility if they do not work. Excuse making is not something you should enter into lightly. It is a craft, an art form. The backstory for your excuses...the plausibility of the excuses depend on YOU and how you have lived up to this moment. Do not just go tomorrow and use the excuses I am going to post. If you do this, you have learned nothing, I tell you, nothing! You should be planning your excuses for 2003, 2004. These should be in reserve for the future...(However, I will give you some ways to set things up now so that they become plausible in the hopes that you will be careful with them.)

Finally, the most important rule of all RULE #6: A BAD EXCUSE CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE. If you aren't careful and if you throw this power around like it is can ruin your life. In future chapters, I will post case histories in order to make this point clearer.


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