A Jaundiced, Misanthropic, Narcissistic, Defensive, Dismissive, and Embittered Outlook On Life

Erik on I, Curmudgeon: “Zweig interviews personal friends and public figures who share a jaundiced, misanthropic, narcissistic, defensive, dismissive, and embittered outlook on life. Unlike some of his subjects, Zweig never takes the easy cop-out of claiming that curmudgeons are simple truth-tellers who are isolated by the conformism that unites others. He disects the self-deceptions and the self-serving fictions served up by the curmudgeonly.”

Joe Clark writing in May of this year: “I am here to tell you right now that almost every part of my life was up there on the screen and I was thrilled out of my mind for the first half-hour. I can back up everything they say; look in particular for Toby Young’s recounting what happens when he walks across a crowded room. Then the repeated truths, the self-recognition, and the sheer length caused me to get a bit blasé, itself a curmudgeonly reaction.”

Joe Clark again, writing in December 2004: “a second viewing of most of I, Curmudgeon reinforced my reservations from the first viewing. In fact, slouching in the armchair at my esteemed colleague’s pad, the longer I watched the show the more morose and self-denigrating I became. (The movie is its own party mix; you can talk right over it.) The initial half-hour still is a triumph of identification (“I’m like that!”); the rest of it is a symptom of Zweig’s unerring fatal instinct toward the downward spiral. He picks at scabs and revels in misanthropy. If I may resort to neologism (Calvin: “Verbing weirds English!”), he tends to loserize.”

Joe reports feeling down after viewing the movie, and I felt down the first few hours afterwards as well. But having slept that off, I realized that the movie was showing me a version of my future. That version is not pleasant: I don't want to be in the 3rd act of my life reflecting on how crappy the 2nd act (now) was. In order to do that, I've been seeking out beauty, and talking walks outside, accepting invitations to socialize, and trying to feel better about myself, both physically and mentally. It's always a challenge in the winter, but talking long walks (as opposed to riding a stationary bike) and getting a job that I enjoy have helped a lot. A lot of the necessary pieces of a puzzle are starting to fit together, and rather than complain about my situation—see this weblog circa 2003 for a lot of projection of complaints about my life onto matters of a societal nature—this weblog for the year 2004 has highlighted a lot of writing and movies and whatever else that may appear to some as saccharine but really is a mark of my changing tastes and attitude towards life.

There are people who complain about this famous pop singer's multiple failed marriages and that politician's grasp of the English language, but these people need to let go. I'm finally able to recognize that these people revel in pointing out how horrible life is, and sometimes they're right, but they only care about that one side. The history of complaining about the decline of humanity is a field fertile enough for a second-year level course at a state college. Some people benefit from being a curmudgeon, like in terms of attention or money or fame, but thankfully these people are relatively few. They claim to know the truth, and that the truth is awful. If they really knew how much hard work and how tiring it is being a curmudgeon and take a break from it once in a while, they'd stop forever. I'm in the process of quitting myself, and as a relatively old habit, it's been a challenge to catch myself in the mode, but I'm finding it remarkably easy to think to myself, "you know what, this doesn't actually affect me, I just think it does" and "this is crap, but it doesn't matter because I know where to find the good stuff".