To Lennie (v) – To cause pain for oneself and/or others by acting without understanding the context and potential consequences of your actions.

Ex 1: “History has shown that despite arguably noble aims, socialist leaders always Lennie.”

Ex 2: “Wow, I really Lennied again?”

Though I skipped nearly all of my high school reading assignments, Of Mice and Men lives with me to this day. I recount here only that Lennie, a burly man with the mind of a child, accidentally kills his pet mouse by petting it with too much force. 

I’m not intending to belittle intellectual inferiors by saying “Lennying,” by the way.* If you’re as steeped in nonsensical political correctness (Do we still use that term?)–as I am–you might think that I am somehow mocking Lennie. I’m not. I am only using the literary reference to facilitate understanding. If you’d prefer, we can call it “Steve-ing” or “Your-naming.” Simply Copy + Paste this post into a word processor and Find + Replace as you see fit. This essay functions the same either way: I am Lennie and so are you.

If you are reasonably analytical and strong at pattern recognition, it’s easy to spot Lennying in friends, family, and colleagues. They make it easy: It is typical that an individual will do the exact same thing they have done n times before, with n times the number of catastrophic and painful consequences.

When you observe a friend Lennying, you want to grab them by the shoulders, shake, and scream at them: “Don’t you see the obvious downstream consequences of this relationship/investment/action?!” But unless your words resonate, they will be ineffectual. And your words will not resonate.

This is why, by the way, the business of coaching and counseling is presently uninteresting to me. An effective counselor, according to my paltry level of understanding, cannot solve a client’s problems for him. (Doing so would be Lennying on the part of the counselor.) Instead he often watches a client self-destruct in slow-motion.

Call it immaturity, maybe, but it drives me bananas to see an obvious problem lie unsolved. It is likewise uncomfortable for me to observe human emotional or even existential pain. These are two of the principal burdens of a counselor, it seems to me. 

While observing Lennying in others is easy enough, it is nigh impossible to prevent yourself from Lennying. The only way, it seems to me, would be to give up taking action altogether. Does that sound Daoist to you? Good. It’s supposed to.

The other possible way to avoid Lennying is to understand yourself and your context. That is: to truly understand your condition, to be wise. That seems to me to be well out of grasp for most of us, most of the time.

It may be the case that you disagree with me: Your actions are just and rarely–if ever–have painful consequences. In that case you are either disingenuous or delusional, and you are definitely more dangerous than you realize. 

This, by the way, is close to what Jordan Peterson is talking about when he says “clean your room.” A small action like room-cleaning is perhaps less likely to be catastrophic than implementing some societal social engineering program. Still, room cleaning is an action with consequences. Peterson may be responsible for more Lennying than anyone else alive today. 

Insofar as there is a bright side of Lennying, it is that self-inflicted Pain is a brilliant signal of misunderstanding. It is possible to blunt that pain with drugs, alcohol, sex, social media, politics, or what-have-you. But the Pain may also engender a fleeting moment of lucidity. During that time you might create Art. 

*It may be the case, actually, that the intellectually gifted have an even greater capacity for unintended destructiveness.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: