Monday, January 19, 2009

Tool Academy

I got an email from my brother-in-law, whose first language is German, or perhaps it was my sister, I'm not really sure, asking me "Korte, what is a tool?"

A tool, basically, is a guy who is cool- in his own mind. The world can see that he is a self-absorbed clown with delusions of grandeur, but to him, the fantasy he has of himself is real. He likes to hear himself talk, generally about nothing, or if about something, with a cluelessness of the topic or of reality in general that boggles the mind.

"Tool" is also slang for a particular male body part, which is probably not a coincidence.

Take the new reality show "Tool Academy" as a frame of reference. There is an assemblage of various "kinds" of tools. Jason- the skinny tool. Tommy- the "slacker tool" lives with his girlfriend off her child welfare checks, There is "power tool" who is always showing off physical strength by whipping his girlfriend around in the air, the "loudmouth tool" and so on, Matsu-something-or-other who can't keep his clothes on, hence the "naked tool" moniker.

Generally, I loathe reality TV, and well, yeah, I kinda loathe Tool Academy. But after watching the first two episodes, I am reeled in like I'm witnessing a car crash from which I simply can not turn away.

After recommending the show to a female friend, I was informed that it was "too painful" for her to watch, as she sees so many hapless , clueless girls (like the women on the show) who continue to put themselves in league with imbeciles like the tools on the show.

She said to me, "it is kind of funny at first, until you want to jump through the screen and yell at the girls, "What are you DOING with this ASSHOLE? Start worrying about why you want to be with this loser, and stop putting all your energy into changing him."

I see her point, it is painful to watch unfold. While I agree wholeheartedly with her assessment of the situation, I doubt there's going to be any encouragement of introspection for the ladies. The total focus seems to be on the guys and what colossal idiots they are.

The premise is somewhat evil genius. Nine guys arrive via bus to this mansion where electronic signs abound, shining "MR AWESOME!" into the night. Yes, the guys think they are competing for the title of "Mr. Awesome", America's number one alpha male.

Perhaps the coup de gras of each episode is the end, when the "Tool Badges" are handed out. Of course, one of the tools is going to get a badge, and is instead going to be bounced from the show, not without ceremony. The girls will be focused on with closeups, as they hope against hope it isn't their tool who is given the gate, the slim hope for their flagging relationship is on the line here.

The real hidden gem here is that the host of the show is perhaps the biggest tool of all. He smugly condescends to these por shmucks throughout the show, and at the crescendo of each episode, declares the soon-to-be-exiting contestant to be "just a tool".

Of course, the host is the least repentant style of tool, the "I am better than you" type.

In episode one, the lads, (most of whom look like they spend a great deal of time staying in shape,) are led to a runway styled stage and dance down the runway to the cheers of screaming women. These clowns really ham it up, from obnoxious pelvic-thrust style dancing to talking smack into a microphone. My favorite moment is when "Tommy", the "slacker tool" comes out spinning a basketball on his finger and says, "I get it done ON the court, and OFF the court" then proceeds to take one dribble, which goes awry and biffs one of the cheering girls off the head.

I immediately thought, "now there's a tool for ya- he can spin a basketball, but he can't even dribble."

To put that in perspective, I played four or five hours of basketball most days of my life between the ages of 13 and 17, then played constantly for another 6 or 7 years, and I could never spin a basketball. It takes time, effort and skill to spin a basketball. Since there is no real practical use for it in the game of basketball, I never learned to do it. Dribbling, however, comes naturally. You learn it instinctively just by walking around with a ball, by playing.

This goofball had to have spent countless hours learning to spin a ball for show, but he can't dribble one dribble without beaning some unsuspecting bystander off the noggin? That's a tool for ya- all show, no game.

I got into a bit of trouble with Tina last night after sticking up for Sean. "I can't believe your sticking up for him," she said, retiring after 10 minutes of the show.

Sean has had two girlfriends for the last three years or so, which we just discovered (and they discovered) in last night's episode.

To me, this guy is a classic example of the difference between selfishness and evil. Some of the other guys strategically cheat on their partners. This guy is just so self-absorbed, and obsessed with the delusion that getting his way all the time and getting what he wants is the key to happiness. Last week, he matter-of-factly stated that he "seems to feel better when he has multiple girls" hanging around to date than just one.

He is oblivious to why that is, of course, assuming it is the natural order of things- more makes you feel better, right?

In our culture, it is almost impossible not to believe that. It is shoved down our throats every minute of every day. He has no clue as to why he feels this way, no idea what his gluttony is covering up.

What I like about this guy is that I think it is possible that he could see that he is missing the point entirely. When confronted with the two women, there was a moment of clarity, when he just threw in the towel and stopped lying. He bluntly stated how he got himself (and the women) into this situation and seemed to have a genuine moment of anguish and pain when he saw how much suffering he caused the girls. I thought he was having a fleeting moment of clarity, after which he bluntly stated with what seemed to me to be genuine regret, "I hope I don;t get kicked off the show. I need to stay here. I am obviously the biggest tool here."

Tina thought he was just feeling guilty, and maybe that's true. But I recalled a similar situation in my own, one which I consider a very powerful spiritual experience.

I was a few months sober, and writing some personal, "spiritual inventory" when I realized that women were nothing more to me than emotional, mental, and spiritual Tylenol.. pain killers for alcoholism and how I felt inside my heart and mind. Ego boosters and pain masks without which I may had skipped in front of a fast moving vehicle a thousand times over.

That moment triggered a shift in awareness and thinking for me. I would go forward from there and write a thorough inventory and discovered that I was as much of a tool as any of these goons on this show.

This morning I awoke and recalled a similar situation to the one that Sean experienced on the show, and it was horrific. At that point in time, all I was capable of was resenting one of the women for "making me look bad", but in reality, the entire thing was self-inflicted.


Today I set the coffee up for Tina before I go to bed so she can flick a switch at 5 am and get hot coffee.

Today I go shovel out her car at 4:30am so she doesn't have to.

Fifteen or twenty years ago I was terrified of being too good to a partner for fear she would feel too good about herself and figure out she was too good for me. (Of course, I was unaware of this.)

Today, I thank God for Tina, and I pray that God give me empathy, compassion, loyalty, appreciation, and show me the way to be the best man I can be. I need to pray daily for unselfishness, honesty. I thank God for the privilege, and ask to be a mirror for her, that God show her how wonderful, beautiful and special she is through me. I can somehow see how special she is, when she can't- that's a gift of the Spirit.

Ironically, when I align myself with spiritual principles, I don't have anything I need to medicate emotionally or mentally or spiritually.

As I sit here, I realize that "Tool Academy" isn't an opportunity for me to sit here and feel superior by observing degenerates ruining their lives, and the lives of the women around them, it is an opportunity for me see myself in these hapless men.

The difference between me and these guys isn't intellect or instinctual decency, or any sort of virtue. It is God.

Without a vital spiritual experience and awakening, I would be exactly where these guys are today. Sometimes I forget that, and maybe I even forgot until I started writing this blog. The only difference between the guy who makes the coffee, cleans off cars in the middle of the night and tries to be a mirror to a special lady each and every day, and the guy who possessed only the capacity to think of himself is God and spiritual principles.

I had intended this to be a funny blog, poking fun at these jerks and the women who hang on to the delusion that they can change them into someone else... but it turned out much differently, as it so often does when I open my heart an just start typing. The truth has a way of finding its way onto the page.


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