This was originally published in Elephant Journal in 2015.
Anne Lamott clarifies the underlying message of all great religions in her memoir, Traveling Mercies. That message roughly translates to: Don’t be an a**hole.
Much of Lamott’s writing is dedicated to fortifying this message and emphasizing the great pace at which we must jog in order to put this to practice in our own lives. Some of us were born sprinting this truth and the rest of us, well—the rest of us may have needed a tad more guidance from our parents—or better DNA.
If our parents could only have solidified the a**hole moves in their minds, they could have inversely aided the rest of us, their progeny, in the extreme sport of a**hole avoidance.
It’s a jungle out there. One must be armed to know better.
Here’s how to be an a**hole (and how to know better):
1. Be ungrateful.
In order to truly be an a**hole, pay no gratitude for anything you see, feel, touch, give or receive.
You guys, this is so normal. And easy. How often do you really need to notice all the gifts you have been given? The world will truly operate in full flux with you if you just ignore all the gifts and continue to expect others and the universe to support you. It will be so incredibly self-serving that you will immediately notice all expectations of sharing or offering service to others, dissipate. What a deal.
The narrow tunnel of your vision and your life will seem self-serving to those who know you and your ego and you will have a wonderful life in bed together.
2. Wield Your Power to Denigrate Others.
Using your power to reign freely through the landscape of your unchecked desires is how the fine game of capitalism was started—and why the continued violence of patriarchy is overlooked. Additionally, it may be why racial inequality persists. Doesn’t this seem like a fine club to join?
Of course this approach to an insatiable appetite of power does serve a few of us humans financially (one percent, approximately) and it begs the old literary crux from Caesar about ambition. But for most of us, this behavior guarantees you golden-ticket a**hole status.
Except no one’s highest purpose on their human path is to be ambitious. Like ever.
It just ain’t so.
But this is okay, because there are lots of distractions you can partake in to avoid feeling a little too close to your love for your own power: politics, cocaine, expensive handbags—whatever your pleasure.
Indulge on the backs of others! It is how Wall Street was founded.
3. Practice Complete Unawareness.
This should probably be number one on the list, but as a dear friend says, “Don’t should on me!”
In order to truly achieve a**hole status you can shut down all your sensory receptors and go out into the world without a single moment to listen or watch others. You can do this so easily!
Just do you and pay absolutely no attention to your impact on others or on the earth. You will find others like you, and you will know when you meet them because they will never bother asking how you are. You both will never thank those who cook for you or take care of your sh**tiest self when you are down.
The unaware-a**holes-club is full of glib, overly educated know-it-alls who are positive to make a hit at your next family gathering. You love them! They came to all your parties and drank all your booze—these are your friends.
Awareness is the great tool of the spiritually advanced. Don’t let those pesky navel-gazers get in your way. It does not mean they are prophets or clairvoyants, it just means they don’t exist with heads in their a**es, behind murky garments of religious bigotry or classism or racism. But these cloaks are so comforting! Why give them up?
4. Be incredibly Lazy and Apathetic about your Life.
There is nothing hotter, more attractive or more profound than someone who spends every waking moment outside of work or school playing video games. No wait, maybe watching sports on TV is better. No wait, maybe it’s complaining and whining about life. Nothing hotter, I tell ya.
The lazy truly have it all. They get to avoid any self-evolution, any transformation in the mind, body and spirit. Of course they attract amazing mates who either try and change them into being humans that are actively working toward their own happiness (fools) or into people just like themselves.
The apathetic get to watch others—who are the “doers” of the world—take risks and often fail, find great passion from art and movement and work toward lifelong spiritual pursuit. All from the comfortable throne of their own couches.
To win the lifelong a**hole achievement award, make sure to stay close to that throne and watch the world around you slowly leave you behind.
And if they don’t, if your world is with you on your couch—you get the golden egg prize: You found someone just like you.
Because that is how we ultimately grow—find someone exactly like ourselves.
Oh, and never get uncomfortable.
5. Treat the Body and Actions as the Real Self.
This asshole trait is particular to the species known as A-Squares: American A**holes. American a**holes are gifted in this area of understanding how the body and one’s actions are totally the truest form of one’s spiritual self.
The American media is a staunch supporter of these a**holes, so they must be on to something.
Bigger boobs, better hair, lower-body fat, fancy brand of jeans, having your own reality television show—these are the true marks of a genius spirit. The attention that A-squares receive from this brilliance alone should be the evidence that speaks for itself. In other words, we are evolved because we have s***loads of money to buy new skin and jeans.
Come on. What could be more convincing?
Any good a**hole knows that these little things are the most important indicators of your truest being.
If only we could get this into our academic curriculum so we can begin teaching even our youngest Americans how to dream themselves into truly being their bodies—the world as we know it could explode.
If our youngest citizens could only be exposed to this truth on television and in magazines, the world would truly begin to understand that American A**holes are some of the finest on this planet.