Skip to comments.How to Ruin Your Life - (killer new study in expert sarcasm by Ben Stein; recommend!)
Posted on 07/01/2005 9:33:31 PM PDT by CHARLITE
What is one to make of Ben Stein? Actor, author, comedian, game show host, and political commentator, Stein has an impressive resume. His different incarnations in the world of entertainment are only a few of his many endeavors (it is probably worth mentioning that he is also a former White House speechwriter, lawyer, professor, and member of Townhall.com's Conservative Hall of Fame).
If your recollection of Ben Stein is of the monotoned high school teacher from The Wonder Years and Ferris Bueller's Day Off then you will not be disappointed with his guide entitled How to Ruin Your Life. The book screams sarcasm and echoes with dry wit, which is exactly what his character as a teacher on the big screen portrays, once you know his true credentials and why not to take him seriously. Yet you should be careful with How to Ruin Your Life lest you miss his valuable lessons on how to find happiness and meaning in an often nihilistic 21st century world.
Stein's book is 35 ways to (surprise!) ruin your life. Some of his recommendations are direct, such as Hang Out with the Wrong Crowd and Use Drugs and Alcohol Freely, while others prick lightly on prideful egos: Convince Yourself You're the Center of the Universe; Know that You are the Source of All Wisdom; Know that You Don't Owe Anyone a Thing. At first glance, some of his advice could be mistaken for motivational advice from a contemporary self-help guru.
It does not take long to recognize that his book is not teaching you how to think and grow rich, though.
Basically, you have no responsibility for doing anything right, and if it doesn't go smoothly, that's someone else's problem, he says. You were made to dominate life and everything that happens should revolve around you, Stein says, at one point wondering why more people don't expect the same glorified status as the Buddha, Mohammed, and Vishnu. Some of his other pearls of wisdom include, Do yourself a big favor: Don't let gratitude even enter your mind, and Don't tell the truth if you don't feel like it.
Stein is not the first to take this reverse psychology approach to teaching lessons on living well. C.S. Lewis may have written the most famous example in The Screwtape Letters, a novel consisting of a collection of letters from the demon Uncle Screwtape to his nephew on how to corrupt humans. In Screwtape, Lewis, author of Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia, is trying to teach the Christian life backwards by explaining how not to please God. Lewis, like Stein, wants people to see their own bad habits and be convinced of their need to reform.
Stein is teaching morality and character in the same fashion. Simple, profound lessons on honesty, compassion, gratitude, and love are found in his book, if you can stomach the sarcasm. Stein makes several points on how to live well very clearly, but he does this best when it comes to relationships. Other people are important, Stein says somewhat cryptically in his pages, and the way you treat those who are important to you will have a tremendous impact on the quality of your life.
Examples of this abound. Stein's law number 29 in the book is to Show Everyone Around You that You're Holier Than Thou. He explains how to reject your friends and accomplish the dual function of making your [friends] feel bad and make them feel as if they're spiritually deficient...So what if they resent you for making them feel lowly?
In Ignore Your Family, he says, Family? They're just a burden on you anyway...Sure, they're there for you whenever you need companionship and support...That's right, when the rest of the world has forgotten you, they're there. So freaking what? In Remember that No One Else Counts, he says, Now, you may have heard a silly rumor that relationships are vital and that the most important book you'll ever own is your own Rolodex...This is nonsense. He goes on to tell you why saying, You don't ever need to think about doing favors for others or being good to them so they'll remember you and be there to help you get a job or get your child into school...In fact, you can treat all the of the people you know like dirt...and they'll still want to help you at any time.
Stein offers a glimpse into how miserable life would be if you really had no inhibitions and spent all your time looking out for number one. I recommend taking every piece of Ben Stein's advicejust don't take it seriously.
Jonathan Butcher is a Research Assistant in Domestic Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Very good. I may have to pick this book up. (buy it, I mean)
35 ways to (surprise!) ruin your life.
1. Vote for a Demonrat
That should also apply to the sequel: "35 Ways to ruin Everybodies Lives -- and Turn the USA into a Hell Hole"
Wonder why Mr. Stein is so blind in his relationship with his own son, Tommy--actually, I guess it is because it is his own son.
Nevertheless, some folks have both the clear insight and the ability to impart it to those closest to them (I don't.)
"Wonder why Mr. Stein is so blind in his relationship with his own son, Tommy--actually, I guess it is because it is his own son.
Nevertheless, some folks have both the clear insight and the ability to impart it to those closest to them (I don't.)"
Do tell, I've picked up on that as well from his "American Spectator" columns. With all due respect to the sage, he's breaking all his own rules when it comes to his beamish boy (who is well on his way to becoming another Hollywood scion from hell a la Griffin O'Neal/Christian Brando).