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Do you ever feel like you’re being held captive by societal norms?  (You know, all the nonsense you’ve absorbed over the course of your life from well-meaning parents, teachers and authority types.) It’s as if you were Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver, tethered by ropes. Except yours are internal and prevent you from unleashing the full power of your imagination on the universe.

So what’s a simple way to unglue yourself  and experience blue skies again?

At SuperOptimist headquarters, when the walls start closing in, we turn to artists of the Dada period for inspiration.  Emerging from the ashes of World War I, Dadaists saw society’s view of “normality” as irrational and created art that completely challenged traditional views of class, religion, politics, technology and morals.

Their reactions to society’s hollow constraints are just as valid in 2021 as they were a century ago, when Tristan Tzara published a short poem on how to free yourself from rigid thought with an act of anti-authoritarian aplomb.

Découpé (or cut-up) is performed by taking any piece of linear writing — say, a newspaper article, a page from a book, or the instruction sheet for plugging in a wifi router — and remodeling it in a spontaneous and uncontrolled way. By doing so, you will bypass the inner critic who demands that things be neat, ordered, and understandable.  Here are Tzara’s instructions, slightly modified.

Take some scissors.

Cut out each of the words that makes up the piece of writing.

Put the words in a bag, a hat, or shoebox.

Shake gently.

Remove one word at a time from the bag.

Copy the words in the order in which they left the bag.

According to Tzara, the poem that you construct will resemble you.

While a newspaper article is a perfectly good material for your initial foray (after all, they’re basically publishings the same stories now that they were in Tzara’s time), we prefer taking an expensive book that society has deemed important and valuable, and cutting up a page to prove that even “great art” should not be held in such high regard. This is a good step to freeing yourself completely from the social construct, and letting your superego know who’s boss!

As you contemplate your next act of non-compliance, enjoy this short film that brings Dada into the present, and see if that doesn’t shake you loose from whatever’s holding you back. Better to embrace nonsense like this than the nonsense we call “success.”

 

Thanksgiving comes but once a year, and with it the blessed gravy boat.

But why should this beacon of gastronomic goodness be relegated to brief appearances at holidays? Why not make the gravy boat a staple of every meal?

Consider the expression “it’s all gravy.” Meaning “an abundance of good things in a given circumstance,” it’s a key pillar in the practice of SuperOptimism. We take it to mean embracing each and every circumstance as a fortunate occurrence — no matter how screwed up, off-putting, or painful — since the mere fact of being alive (as opposed to the reverse) is a miracle in itself!

None of us are promised another day, much less another government holiday, long weekend, or winter break.  So why not celebrate the good fortune of being conscious and functioning today with a deep and abiding gratitude. And gravy!

You have our permission to pull that gravy boat back out of deep storage, place it in the center of your dining table, and fill it to the brim with the following recipe. And if you’re thinking we want you to soak up a high fat, high chemical concoction until your heart stops on a dime, take note: the following contains no gluten, grains, corn starch, flour, or filler of any kind. We invite you to pour generously at every meal. Breakfast included.*

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 quart organic low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 cloves peeled garlic
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, unsalted butter, or coconut oil

Start by dumping the broth, onions, garlic, and thyme into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil on high.  Then lower the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the onions and garlic are really soft. At this point, taste for seasonings and added salt, pepper, and coconut aminos.

Then pour everything into a blender, add 2 tablespoons of ghee, and blitz everything until it is uniform.  Voila!

*But lay off the biscuits. Those things are like edible hand grenades for your body. Reach for some pineapple instead.

Sleep science is all the rage, along with bespoke mattress companies, open-cell, poly-foam pillow design, and the promise that melatonin will lure you gently into that good night, minus the hallucination and hangover of pharmaceuticals.  Yet your subconscious couldn’t care less about the new sleep sound machine you’ve configured to “relaxing rainforest.”

Once you start snoozing and the heavy REMs arrive, the dreams come forth in bunches.  Naturally, you’d prefer to be uncovering a treasure chest filled with gold doubloons, seducing the fairest of them all, and waving from an open convertible as the ticker tape alights on your shoulders along the Canyon of Heroes.

But think about it: waking up from pleasant dreams into the cold light of reality is much more difficult than bolting upright after experiencing a twisted nightmare. As you wipe the sweat from your temples and realize you haven’t actually lost a limb to a tiger shark, or been fondled by your father, you can be grateful that the day ahead won’t involve a flock of purple vultures feasting on your intestines.

So celebrate all dreams, especially the god-awful ones.  They can serve to give you a new lease on life.  After all, you’re not standing naked in front of your classmates from grade school minus the speech you were supposed to memorize.*

*This can actually happen if you don’t remember to dress properly in the morning. Please make sure you belt your trousers securely.

Bonus suggestion:  Don’t try to repress undesired thoughts before bedtime. They’re more likely to find their way into your dreams that night.  This according to a study at Goethe University, Frankfurt. 

Illustration: Dream interpretation of birth.