The problem is not entirely what you have so keenly observed, my pretentiousness, my overblown supply of self-esteem; it’s not my ignorance, grand in scale yet constantly masked (I think) with all sorts of follies and falsehoods. It isn’t merely my innate streak of meanness or my cowardice or my determined inability to be truthful. All of these, I can’t deny it, appear so often as assets in unworthy hands these days that I’m drawn to them like a desert wanderer to a well of eternally cold water.
So little do I care for the consequences of any act that I never consider Whether or Not to do it, only How Much. What effects it may have on anyone else are as nothing to me, when after all, no one else exists on my plane. If this world can be a wicked place at times, full of sins and flaws that are rebranded as business acumen and charismatic charm, don’t blame me that they’re beginning to seem admirable.
What is nagging at you as the problem, really? That these iniquities have a certain appeal to you as well? That they might not be considered dangerous until there’s no civility left to compare them to, perhaps? Or that they may finally not even be considered at all?
…but I can’t guarantee I’ll be smart or committed enough to take advantage of it. I may represent the truly average human in that, though it’s hardly cause for admiration or celebration. We’re just good at being too blind, stubborn, ignorant, lazy and foolish to make proper use of whatever riches are set in our way. It’s silly enough that I can sit at the brink of a well pouring out pure, cold, sweet water and die of thirst, but that I would fail to fill a cup for any of the other thirsty people waiting for my smallest effort becomes a much more significant omission. I should be better. I could be better.And I want to be better. The first step, surely, has got to be simply paying attention. Am I so accustomed to privilege that I have acquired wealth-blindness, forgetting how rich I am, or worse yet, have succumbed to that ugly disease, Entitlement? I must teach myself to renew my awe and wonder at what is good and great in my life. Then I must remember to make wise, generous, jubilant and extravagant use of it all. A whole new year lies ahead, a whole new series of opportunities for improvement. See you at the brink.
Isn’t it intriguing how easily we have (supposed) conversations without actually interacting at all? I confess that I have refined these abominable skills as much as anyone: listening without hearing, talking without saying anything, being in a room full of people yet in my self-centeredness, remaining utterly alone. This, I fear, is a nearly universal art among the human denizens of earth, something we began to create and cultivate as soon as we first attempted to interact, no doubt. We may want to do better, to mean something and be of value in ourselves to the rest of the world, but it’s hard to rise above the urge to feel more important and focus on self for long enough to accomplish any such thing.
Our only hope, I suppose, is to do what little we can, each of us, in the tiny moments when we are sufficiently distracted from our narcissistic whims to stop staring, if only for the blink of an eye, at self and realize the beauty and value of the rest of the company. What was a faint whisper at the remotest edge of consciousness could indeed prove to be a word of great and precious wisdom from a true sage. That little wink of light over there on the far, far horizon might actually be a flash of beauty or the light of kindness or even the warming blaze of a loving heart somewhere not entirely out of my reach if I’d only open my heart to it. I’ve fallen short of reading these signs and responding in proper ways so many times over the years.
But perhaps it’s not too much to say I’ll try, and try again. I know in reality I am not at all alone.
Ah, Shakespeare me boy, do tell me. I’m just curious: did Bottom have any sort of Fairy Fella epiphany after his little ass-hat adventure? Me, I am fairly certain that had it been me I would have felt smugly brilliant in my newly dawned state of knowledge the moment I was un-donkey-fied again, but I’m even more certain that I would have slipped right on back into my unwise natural state just about as quickly as twitches a donkey’s tail. Because I am so very much a silly, stubborn creature of habit.
Mr. Shakespeare, whatever his level of formal education or high culture or (if you’re of that particular school of thought) of being multiple persons, had a decidedly perceptive eye for ordinary human nature. The bard’s keen observation and sharp understanding are the fundamental reasons his plays and poems have so long endured–he had us figured out, my friends. I may sometimes wish that the characters in Shakespeare whom I resembled most were the heroic and compassionate ones, the witty, the powerful and the sage. But alas, it’s in Bottom that I recognize myself, in Shakespeare’s dolts and fools and in the obstinately self-centered and weak and wooly-minded characters.
I guess I should just thank Mr. S. for having raised my humbly mortal state to high art and sashay back over to perch in my little flower bower. I rather hope that one day these moments of revelation won’t need to be as frequent or as rudely transformative as getting me visibly turned back into the braying boob that represents my true inner being.