“I have vanquished your Inner Skeptic!” by My Inner Skeptic

Posted: October 6, 2010 in Early sobriety
Tags: , , , ,

So, I got up this morning earlier than I’d meant to (the perils of having a snoring partner), and trotted upstairs to make coffee, light a candle, and give meditating the college try it deserves.

Then I committed murder.

I think it’s healthy to begin each day with a few cups of coffee, a few serene moments of attentiveness to one’s spiritual needs, and a fresh kill.  To the right you can see a cousin of the corpse that I flattened with a stack of PTA newsletters at 6 a.m.  … Nasty, shaggy little entomological experiment gone wrong….  I don’t care what Buddha would have done.  To borrow some phrasing from DH Lawrence:  I admit a soul in every creature, but not in my kitchen!

Nonetheless, crushing an exoskeleton (no matter how justifiable I may have considered the act) wasn’t exactly putting me in the mood for communing with the gentler spirits of my psyche.  Plus, I had a headache.  And I sort of sighed, as I looked at the pages I was to study, the candle I was to light, the journal in which I was to squirrel away the fat nuts of my meditative foraging.  And then she came along… My Inner Skeptic.  She pointed out that I had already gotten off on the wrong foot, that my head hurt, and that, if I were honest with myself, I didn’t want to do this crap in the first place.

True, said I.

And, while we’re at it, said M.I.S., do you really want to become one of those people?

What do you mean?  I asked, feigning ignorance.  I knew where she was going with this.

(Rolling her eyes now) Oh, PLEASE.  You know… happy clappy AA-fascists.  They have a kind of permenant grin and a sort of glazed expression that only comes from re-reading self-help books they’ve cherished since 1987.


You’re serious.  You’re intentionally emptying this big brain of ours to become the juke-box receptical for trite slogans that have all the subtlety of Tea Party poster board?  Let go and let god?  Easy does it?  It works if you work it?

Inner Skeptic made some good points.  I stared at the unlit candle.  Pretty silly, wasn’t it?  I felt a sharp pin-prick of embarrassment deflating my earlier enthusiasm.  Not only did I feel silly; I felt like a sham.  Here I am, whacking defenseless centipedes with glee and cheerfully “meditating” my way toward enlightenment the next minute.  It wasn’t just the centipede, of course.  The bald-face, heaven’s-honest truth is that Inner Skeptic was right:  I’m NOT that kind of person.  My left eyebrow (and this has been confirmed by an optometrist) is permanently cocked upward; I say almost nothing without an edge of irony drifting into my voice; and I have a real allergy the “joiner” mentality.

But that’s not all.

The real truth is that, knowing that, knowing these things about myself, I feel doomed to failure.  I can’t meditate without giggling about some wacky thought that drifts in now and then.  I can’t even read recovery literature without wanting to take out my red pen and correct the grammar.  My horror for cliches makes even the Serenity Prayer hard to listen to on occasion.

That’s right, affirms Inner Skeptic.  If it takes being one of them to be sober, you’re S.O.L., girlie.  We’re NEVER going to be like that.

Her logic was impeccable, really.  All the facts were laid out.  How can I expect to maintain sobriety when I’m so unlikely to embody the type of person who seems to be able to stay sober?  I know, she seems like the villain here.  But Inner Skeptic has served me well and long.  I trust her.  She knows her stuff.  She’s strong–nearly indestructible.  Which got me thinking…

So… Inner Skeptic?

Now what?

And I said:  Oh, nothing.  I was just thinking that… you know how you’re all-powerful and capable of debunking just about anything that seems even remotely irrational or ridiclous?

Yes? she yawned, sharpening a sword desultorily.

Well,  I was just thinking that the kind of people that you’re talking about–with the cliche slogans and the “I’m going to drag you to a pot-luck!” look about them–they’re sort of an easy target.  Don’t you think?

This got her attention.

I reminded her that she is the most effective, devastating tool in my mental arsenal.  Her job is to question everything, to help me make rational decisions.  Skepticism at its finest leads us to truth.  But to what truth had she led me this morning?

Hmm… she put down the sword.  I don’t know.  I can’t tell you what the truth is, I can only help you find it.  That’s what I do!

Well, said I.  I think you can!  I have something I want you to use that sword on!

Picking it up again, looking around avidly for her opponent, she whooped an undignified battlecry.  (I hate it when she does that)  I said, I want you to fight yourself.

What?!  Do I look like I have dissociative personality disorder to you?  Hmm?

I wanted to say “sometimes,” but I keep these things to myself.  I told her I was serious.  The only worthy opponent I could see around was skepticism itself.  Besides, if skepticism isn’t leading me to the truth, then perhaps skepticism is the problem.  If what is left after all the querying and probing and eyerolling is only skepticism without a truth concluding the argument, then skepticism itself should be interrogated.

That’s right, I said.  The ultimate test of a skeptic would be to see if she can be skeptical of her skepticism.  No?

Inner Skeptic agreed that this was some pretty clumsy deconstruction we were engaged in, but also agreed to do it anyway, because she loves a good fight.

So, today, I’ve been letting Inner Skeptic fight with herself.  In the meantime, I meditated.

  1. Hayley says:

    I love the idea of your inner skeptic battling with herself! Great piece, I really enjoyed reading it, thank you.

  2. wbabiak says:

    I add my thanks. I needed this.

  3. Brian says:

    Nicely done! I had the exact same sort of experience with Byron Katie/Adyashanti/Tolle et al recently. If everything is the will of God, who’s to say being pissed off and irritable and railing against the day isn’t the will of God right now? My wife was right, your blog rocks! Good inquiry!

    • soberfornow says:

      Well, as I say to students not infrequently, “If you say it aloud, there are probably ten people next to you thinking the same thing, and another half dozen who have already written it down and published it.” We’re not alone!

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