Every month, Eric Kaplan, a philosopher and writer for The Big Bang Theory, will answer your questions about life, the universe, and everything else. To send Eric a question, you can him email him here.
Dear Eric Linus Kaplan,
There is a powerful man in my life who is driving me crazy. Let’s say he’s my boss.
My problem for which I need the advice is: I am trying to figure out if he is an evil mastermind? Or is he psychologically ill?
I keep arguing it over with myself. Sometimes I’ll say he’s obviously psychologically ill – I mean he’s clearly thin-skinned, self-obsessed, given to fits of rage, and has a bottomless hunger for flattery, while at the same time seems to act in such a way that he brings down upon his head scorn and contempt. So I’ll think, okay, crazy! But then I’ll wonder – he has so much power over my life – something is obviously working for him.
So maybe I’m kidding myself, saying he’s crazy. Maybe he is actually… an evil genius! And my idea that he’s crazy is just a lie I tell myself to feel better. That would explain how he won, how he is the one who I have to worry about, while he has never heard of me.
And so the battle rages within my tortured soul – crazy? Evil! Evil? Crazy! – and I can’t answer it! This guy is driving me nuts! What should I do?
Confused about the Boss
Is he driving you nuts? Really? A boss? You were able to make it this far in a world with car-crashes, infant diarrhea, schizophrenia, suicide, alzheimer’s dementia, earthquakes, tornadoes, outhouse spiders, sudden infant death syndrome, barking dogs, serial killers, one time killers, double killers, get-rich-quick scam artists, people who pretend to be in love but aren’t, people who are in love and never get that love returned, kids with real violin talent who have to work at CVS and never get to afford a violin, parents who are bored with their children, and breast cancer, and none of those drove you nuts? And this boss got to do it? Give me a break.
Your boss is not the person driving you nuts. The person driving you nuts is you.
How are you doing it? By trying to figure him out. There are good reasons to think he’s crazy. There are good reasons to think he’s evil. And you’ve never met him, and probably never will, so you don’t know.
It’s a bit like you have a particularly bad pimple on the line between your butt and your thigh. Whenever you sit down it hurts. And you keep asking yourself, “Is that a thigh pimple? Or a butt pimple? When I stand up it seems more like a butt pimple. But when I sit down it kinda migrates in the leg direction. So it seems like a thigh pimple.”
That is the wrong response. What you should do is squeeze the pus out of that pimple, wipe it off your fingers, put on a band-aid and go on with your life.
Your crazy-or-evil boss is just like that thigh-or-butt pimple.
You don’t need to figure him out. In fact, letting him suck you into the effort to understand him is playing into his game. He is an attention suck. Whether that’s a product of his mental illness, or his evil, doesn’t change the fact. And the fact that he is a weird, puzzling attention-grabbing phenomenon is really all you need to know. That, and that he’s a pain in the butt. Or possibly thigh.
Don’t waste another moment trying to figure out this weirdo. Your thin-skinned furious and erratic boss might be crazy, or he might be evil, or he might be a sentient potato visited upon us by alien overlords to help us get to the next level of the cosmic video game.
Squeeze the pus out of that pimple and get on with your life. And maybe see a dermatologist or buy some really good soap, so you don’t get one again.
Best of luck in your endeavors!
Eric Linus Kaplan
Send Eric your question about about life, the universe, and everything else, by emailing him here.
Eric Kaplan is an executive producer of (and writer for) the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory and the author of Does Santa Exist: A Philosophical Investigation.
He studied Buddhist thought and practice at Wat Chulamani in Thailand, Jewish thought in New York and Jerusalem, and philosophy of science, philosophy of mind
and existentialism at Columbia University and UC Berkeley. His blog is ericlinuskaplan.wordpress.com.