“They dedicate their lives
To running all of his.”
– The Unforgiven, Metallica
At some point during every workout, I turn my iPod to M, press enter because the only file I have under M is Metallica, then I scroll down to U – The Unforgiven. Every workout without fail, I have to hear James Hetfield belt out “You labeled me, I’ll label you, so I dub thee unforgiven.” The reason is the feeling. The Unforgiven has Paradoxical Power. It can fire me up bad or fire me up good. It can piss me off or turn the light on. It can put me in a bad mood or good mood. The Unforgiven has been responsible for the majority of my personal bests in the gym. It also saved me in school.
I was doing my master’s degree part-time while working full-time and being a full-time parent. Universities don’t understand full-time workers. They just don’t get it. Some of my professors didn’t grasp the concept of full-time workers and full-time parent. During a seminar that discussed some off-the-wall readings that had no relevance to reality, one of my fellow students said something that flipped the switch. I loved university. I hated elementary school, I hated high school even more. But I loved university. Except seminars. I hated how they turned into therapy sessions. I was a good student in university. A model of maturity. Never disruptive. Never acted like an asshole once. Respected the process fully. I minded my own business. Until that seminar. The student said,
“You know, the other day, I was driving to work and I heard this song. It was kinda strange. A symphony with some wild rock band. It was soothing yet unsettling, and…”
“It’s not some wild rock band. It’s Metallica.”
I didn’t put my hand up, didn’t say excuse me, just rudely interrupted. There was a moment of silence.
Everyone turned to stare at me. Feeling stupid, I tried to redeem myself but it only got worse.
“That’s what it’s called. Symphony and Metallica. “
“San Francisco Symphony and Metallica.”
“Best workout music ever.”
Couldn’t say iPod because the iPod hadn’t been invented.
At the end of the seminar, we were assigned a group project. I was given the name of two other students who I had to do a presentation with. We exchanged contact information. “I’ll call you,” I told them. I never did. I was a conscientious student. I never cheated. Never plagiarized. I was the model university student. But I never functioned well in group presentations. Never understood the concept of group presentations. Most groups can’t agree on pizza toppings without fighting let alone agreeing on a seminar presentation. How can you express original thinking in a group presentation? You can’t.
On the day of the presentation, my group members approached me before class.
“Hey, you never called.”
“Too busy, man.”
“What are you going to say?”
“Don’t worry. I got it covered.”
It was a lie. I never failed to do my homework. Ever. Until this time. I didn’t even understand the topic that was assigned. I tried. Read it over and over. The topic made no sense whatsoever I had worked in the field for a decade but the topic has nothing to do with what I did for a living.
“You’re difficult to get along with. We’re supposed to be working as team.”
My blood boiled. This was the reason why I hated school. Scolding. Micro-managing scolding. Holier-than-thou scolding. Talk-down-like-you’re-a-piece-of-shit scolding. To my credit, I remained silent. I was at a stage in my life where I said Go-Fuck-Yourself. A lot. Chronically. Not proud of it. I don’t advocate it. But it became a personal anthem. To my credit, I didn’t say it. Which built up a severe case of cognitive dissonance that grew and grew during the entire three-hour class. Cognitive dissonance is both a blessing and a curse. It’s an inner conflict caused by not acting in accordance with your personal beliefs. Self-contradiction. Acting out-of-whack with who you are. Pretending. Depending on your response to it, cognitive dissonance will either burn you up or set your soul on fire. I learned to use cognitive dissonance in as many essays as possible. I wrote 4 chapters of a partial PhD dissertation and wrote cognitive dissonance 51 times. And I used it in almost every email and phone call with my PhD supervisor. It never failed. He was impressed every single time. In fact, I told him I was using cognitive dissonance as a theory of interrogation. “Outstanding,” he said. “Great concept. Never heard cognitive dissonance used for interrogation. Go with it.”
My presentation was scheduled last. I had to endure all the painful presentations, with all the bells and whistles like Grade 3 show-&-tell. People clapped. I had nothing – no slide show, no handouts, no goodies. My cognitive dissonance grew. I played it back over and over: “You’re difficult to get along with. We’re supposed to be working as team.” Then I played back my silence, over and over.
The beauty of cognitive dissonance is the clarity of thought that it can generate. My group got called. I said, “I’m going first.” No one objected. I walked to the board and wrote this:
“You labeled me,
I’ll label you,
so I dub thee unforgiven.”
Here’s what I said:
“This is the cause of all cognitive dissonance. This is the cause of all conflict in the world. Outer conflict and inner conflict in the history of mankind. Labels. You label me, I label you… conflict. Cognitive dissonance. All conflict between nations, organizations, teams, GROUPS, even families, in the history of civilization starts with labeling. This line is part of the lyrics if from The Unforgiven by Metallica. Multi-dimensional. Greatest workout music ever and the solution to social and psychological unrest. The true secret to outer and inner peace. The rest of the song is about a headcase who was controlled his entire life, who never experienced true self, and became a horribly bitter man.”
I then assigned optional work for the rest of the class. Youtube hadn’t been invented. Neither had stealing music. I challenged them to buy the song, listen to the entire lyrics, and think of a time when they contributed to the making of a headcase. Then, I challenged them to make the world a better place and working toward peace by never labeling another person again.
Here it is. A Masterpiece. The Unforgiven. The 134 who pressed ‘dislike’ are headcases and are unforgiven.