Yet another non-fanfiction related entry for you today, O valued readers. This time, I’ll be talking about a somewhat old, clichéd aphorism. Despite its age, I’ve found it still has a great deal of relevance to my life. The saying goes like this:
“The best revenge is living well.”
Perhaps “somewhat” old was inaccurate–this phrase goes back to the seventeenth century English poet George Herbert, from what I understand. It’s been around nearly three centuries! Even so, wisdom is wisdom, and if this quote is still floating around after all this time, I’d say its staying power speaks well of it. Allow me to explain why I like it so much.
A few years ago, when I was in my late teens/early twenties, I used to be a somewhat notorious Livejournal troll, as I’ve mentioned before. The sort of trolling I did was nothing serious; really malicious stuff like hacking or taking down communities was the province of other scoundrels far more terrible than I ever was. Still, I hung out at offensive communities, like “anti-gay” ones (even though I wasn’t actually homophobic and many of the community mods themselves were gay). My friends and I would find forums or LJ communities which annoyed us (some of which were utterly execrable and deserved to be trolled, like “pro-anorexia” communities, and others which were simply neutral, like random bisexual communities) and spam them with offensive pictures and/or random crap until we got bored and/or banned. And, of course, there were all the flamewars I got into with fans of the Gravitation anime (a gay-oriented series aimed mainly at the sort of teenage girl audience I railed against back then).
It’s easy to tell I’m no longer as angry and confrontational, and have a much more peaceful, positive, and constructive outlook on life these days. The reason I’m so laid-back has more than a bit to do with the philosophy I’ve learned, which Herbert’s famous quote is a large part of. It’s not the only reason, of course, and those others will likely be covered in future entries, but it’s a pretty big reason, I’d say.
You have to first understand why I even bothered trolling those kinds of people in the first place. Again, there was more than one reason, but mainly because the sorts of people who hung around those kinds of communities, or were fans of anime like Gravitation, were of the sort I had grown to not only dislike but despise. They tended to be of a very left-wing bent; sanctimonious and condemnatory towards those they deemed to be insufficiently “tolerant.” They were, in short, the kinds of people one would call “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs) today. I always disliked what I perceived to be sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy, so these people wound up, in my mind, as my enemies. I therefore took up trolling to ‘strike back’ against them, in my own way—an adolescent and ultimately pointless way, I conclude now.
However, as I grew older I began to realize three things:
1: The various “social justice warriors” (again, they weren’t called this back then, but they would be today) were simply not worth the level of vitriol I held against them. They may have been contemptible, but really, they were more annoying than anything else. Other than acting obnoxious and saying (IMO) stupid stuff, they couldn’t harm me in any meaningful way. There wasn’t any logical or rational reason for me to hold the deep negative feelings towards them which led to my trolling them. They certainly weren’t worth being considered my “foes” in any sense.
2: Going off of that, I concluded they weren’t even worth the *time* I was spending on trolling them. A big reason I and other people trolled was, of course, humor and our personal amusement. I might have held a deeper grudge against our targets, but it was also just entertainment for me, as it was for most of my rapscallion friends. Yet as I matured, trolling became increasingly less amusing and increasingly more of a bore. The same ‘shock’ pictures would get posted over and over again, the same tired repartees would play out, and our marks would almost invariably react in the exact same way every time, with the unerring predictability of clockwork. Most of the people I trolled were simply so uninteresting that, quite frankly, I concluded spending even a modicum of time and effort harassing them was doing them a favor. I eventually figured out that exploring other pursuits which I honestly enjoyed, like strategy games and classic sci-fi books and anime, was a much, much better use of my time, and ultimately much more fun.
3: As amusing and cathartic as trolling may have been, I eventually concluded that my “victims” got as much out of it as I did. Essentially, the act of trolling them fed into what I perceive to be their persecution complexes. Invade some pro-ana community, and after an initial inconvenience, the people defending an eating disorder would conclude that “haters” were just trying to get them down, reinforcing their bizarre convictions. Harass some bisexual/gay/other left-wing community or make posts poking fun at them, and they would end up convinced there actually was some nefarious right-wing conspiracy out to get them. This was despite the fact that most of us were neither right-wing nor religious (and one of us was actually a gay guy himself—indeed, my friendship with guys like him is a big reason I’m not actually homophobic at all, but that in itself is a story for another post). By trolling them, we were pretty much feeding their delusions of martyrdom.
This was about 5 or 6 years ago, maybe a little less (I’m around 26 at the moment). At the same time I was growing bored of trolling, I was gaining interest in other things—much more worthy things, in retrospect. I was accomplishing a whole lot as a writer of fanfiction; Wayward Son was in full swing. I encountered wonderful people at places like the Castlevania Dungeon who were more intelligent and educated than I ever expected, and I was spending too much time learning from them to while it away insulting Gravitation fangirls. I also learned the value of doing genuine good during this time period too. I came into contact with learned, passionate, capable people on a sci-fi (mecha) oriented image board I frequented, and ended up being recruited into doing some work for them for free. I found that the pleasure of helping my fellow fans (in my case, creating scripts of translations for Japanese anime unreleased in the US for display on movie files) was enriching and would almost always be repaid in kindness towards me—very much a virtuous cycle.
And when this happened, I found myself much happier and more gratified than I was when I “fought” against all of my perceived “enemies.” I found the company of my friends to be infinitely more satisfying than the scorn of my foes. And, oddly enough, I found that the happier I became, the more peaceful my life was, and the more friends I made, the more I contrasted with the losers I’d always trolled. I became convinced that I shouldn’t even think about them too much. Dwelling on foolishness is a waste of time and energy, and really, gives fools the unearned privilege of your mindspace. It is far better for you, not them, to concentrate on people, pursuits, and things you enjoy. I can understand irritation if they refuse to leave you alone, but it’s a simple matter, at least in my case, to just ban people from your blogs and separate yourselves from their presence, where you at least can have the luxury of forgetting about them, regardless of whether or not they continue some futile attempt to pursue you.
It’s a discovery I still enjoy every day. See, I’m living well at the moment. Very, very well. I’m quite content, for I continue to associate with a wide variety of interesting and accomplished people, spend my time enjoying and writing about interesting, constructive subjects, and have accomplished quite a few worthy, interesting, and even virtuous feats, in terms of fanfiction (Wayward Son has only grown bigger and better), my other interests (I’ve continued to make scripts for old mecha anime, which has really helped out our translators), and IRL (my studies in graduate school). I am, essentially, a happy, well-regarded, and respectable gentleman.
So when any of the “foes” I’ve made in my life (if I still have them) look at me, they see nothing but a refutation of their own beliefs. Not some bitter loser vindicating their opinion of their “unenlightened” opposition, not some menacing, mean-spirited troll proving their fantasies of oppression, but someone who proves every day that he can get along very happily and very well without them. Without even thinking about them very much, in fact, aside from an occasional entry like this.
I can only imagine the looks on their faces. Perhaps I’ll even crack a smile for a moment. Just a moment, before I deny them the privilege of more than a moment’s thought, and before I go back to chatting with cool people, writing about my interesting hobbies, or performing some charitable, virtuous work.
And that, my friends, is truly the best revenge.