Greetings from SFMPB Headquarters! Shortly before Christmas, I presented each of you with a free, lifetime membership to the SFMPB (Society For Making People Better), a club I founded to see if anything could be done to decrease the levels of nastiness, selfishness, rudeness, brutishness, etc., among human beings. (I hope you haven't lost your membership column, but if you have, don't worry. I have plenty more ... or will have whenever we get the SFMPB Headquarters copy machine fixed. Just send me an SASE along with a note explaining that you lost your original document and I will get a replacement out as soon as possible. And were you to donate a few bucks to the SFMPB Copy Machine Fix-It Fund, it would speed the process up considerably.)
I have been working feverishly to make certain the SFMPB dream does not die. Getting this newsletter out has pulled me away from other duties—writing meaningful opinions for BW, for instance—but I believe the effort has paid off, in that I got the newsletter out. This is it! Show it to your friends. Our next step is a membership drive, and if your friends see how proud you are to be on the SFMPB Newsletter mailing list, how could they not want to join?
What better way to launch the SFMPB Newsletter than to feature in it all the new rules I have made up? You will remember I introduced Rules No.1 and No. 2 in the free membership column, but since then, I have invented five more. Yes! Five new rules! And in one month! If we keep this pace up, by the end of 2008, the SFMPB will have 60 rules. Sixty!
So without further ado, here it is, the first installment of your revised SFMPB Rule Book!
INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT: We request that SFMPB members abide by the following rules, although there is no penalty, punishment, reprimand or admonishment for not doing so. As hinted at in Rule No. 6, people do not become better people by having rules imposed on them by outside agencies, even if they faithfully abide by those rules. Their behavior may improve, true, but behaving better isn't necessarily the same as being better. Have the rules of etiquette, as an example, ever converted a rotten bastard into a pleasant person? Of course not. A rotten bastard is still a rotten bastard, even if he knows not to eat with his elbows on the table or slurp his soup.
Rule 1) No one has all the answers, no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes.
Rule 2) While it's true that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, everyone also has an unlimited capacity to improve.
Rule 3) Improving yourself always takes work. The more you wish to improve, the harder you must work to achieve that improvement.
Rule 4) Some areas of self-improvement are more worthy of pursuit than others (example: Working hard to become a better golfer does not carry the same weight in the SFMPB as working hard to become more educated, less lazy, more forgiving and/or less hateful).
Rule 5) Some areas of self-improvement, in fact, may be counterproductive to the effort to become a better person. (example: Working hard to get richer, gain more power, develop bigger biceps and tighter abs, or get elected to office could actually be impeding your progress on the road to becoming a better person.)
Rule 6) Authentic self-improvement can only come from within, from a combination of A) a sincere desire to improve, B) the aforementioned hard work, and C) the acknowledgment that whatever results may come from the combination of A and B is actually an improvement. (example: If your most earnest desire is to be happy and you pursue that goal with a great deal of hard, hard work, only to find that you have become more generous, less intolerant, more erudite and/or less angry—but not happier to any noticeable degree—you must accept the change as an improvement, even if it's not the specific improvement you were after in the first place. Now see, doesn't that make you feel happier?)
Rule 7) If other people tell you they have seen a UFO, do not laugh at them. This rule also applies to those who claim to have seen a sasquatch, though it does not apply to those who claim to have seen a leprechaun. (Rule 7—"the Kucinich Rule," as I call it—may require further explanation. It doesn't exactly follow the stream of logic established in rules 1 through 6, does it? But it is particularly peeving to me to see honorable, intelligent people ridiculed and dismissed only because they had the bravery to admit to encountering something beyond the range of normal experience. If the SFMPB accomplishes nothing else, let us hope it instills in humanity a deeper respect for the inherent honesty of others. We SFMPB-ers believe that it is more satisfying to go through life trusting in the goodness of people—even if we are proven wrong—than to go through life believing everyone is a rotten, lying bastard, even if we are proven right. Of course, to everything there is a limit, even mutual respect. And if someone tells you he saw a leprechaun, feel free to laugh at him all you want.)
MEMBERSHIP DRIVE UPDATE: Many of you will be pleased to note I have sent a free, lifetime membership to former President Bill Clinton. As interim grand marshal of the SFMPB, I took the liberty because after the way he behaved in South Carolina, I feel President Clinton could benefit from some SFMPB influence. For our conservative members who may object to belonging to any club that Bill Clinton belongs to, I will probably be sending a free, lifetime membership to George W. Bush as well ... not that I believe it would do any good.
OFFICER UPDATE: As how we have not yet had an election to determine who should lead the SFMPB into the future, I have appointed myself interim grand marshal until such an election can be organized. At that time, the general membership can also decide if we want to keep the title "grand marshal" for the club's highest-ranking officer, or revert to a more standard title such as "president," "premier," "pope" or "ayatollah." Personally, I would prefer that we didn't go down the same old path as all the other clubs. But if you really object to "grand marshal," consider "swami," that being my second choice.
INSPIRATIONAL THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: If I just get myself a measly one-10th better every year, in 10 years I'll be twice the person I am now.