The notion put forth by myself last night regarding my sadness when faced with other’s creativity being a result of my need to be the most clever person in the room has prompted me to spend a good portion of the day mulling over the possibility that there is some truth to this.
One line from the desiderata goes thusly “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Why is that I’m so okay with the idea there are lesser persons than myself and so not cool with the definite possibility that there might be greater? That previous sentence was only kind of a joke.
It’s a place I frequent, the I’m so fucking awesome my hair can do cartwheels domain. It’s, at least to my way of thinking, coming from pretty much the same mindset and offering about the same benefit as the sarcastic/self-deprecating version of the same sentence. I don’t think there is any major benefit to either, they’re both in a category with back-handed compliments. With one there’s a kind of insincere humility and the other allows for a slow erosion of self-worth. Neither come from an honest place.
Speaking of the “joke” I made earlier when I talked of being okay with lesser but not really entertaining the notion that anyone is greater. It’s actually more a lie than a joke, but since I say it in a funny voice or acknowledge the improbability of it being true, it becomes comical?
Of course there are people I consider greater than me, I wrote a whole fucking blog post specifically mentioning 3 of them yesterday! So my “joke” that I really can’t imagine anyone being greater than I am was exactly that. But it’s not very clever because it relies on my ability to pigeon hole myself into a place where I’m better than some at everything and not as good as others at everything. Savvy? That actually seems a little confusing. That’s fair, I’m a little confused. I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this, hence the “question” of ego, rather than the “solution”.
It seems as though there is a wide and unfair pendulum swing here. On the one side, I’m lesser than people who have accomplished great things, not once taking into account our different circumstances, opportunities, ambitions, desires, inspirations, etc. I don’t allow for the possibility that I would kick Neil Gaiman’s ass at hula hooping, make Neal Stephenson weep with joy when he tastes my baking, knock Clive Barker away from his writing desk (i’m just presuming he has one and doesn’t prop his laptop awkwardly on his knees) because he has never seen anyone do a one handed cartwheel into the splits while juggling fire.
Honestly, the reason I don’t allow for those possibilities is because I’m not comparing my hula ability to Neil Gaiman’s, but it was a valiant effort little ego friend. It’s my own way of saying, it’s okay that you’re not as good as him at reinventing Sherlock Holmes, there are other things you can do. Leave the writing to him and do those things!
That’s all dandy, but I’m talking about an ego-driven need for a sense of legacy. When you look back, what will you have done that made a difference somewhere. Where were you great? I guess what I’m really wondering is this. Does that great thing I do, whatever it is, have to be greater than someone else’s effort for it to matter? This is the question I’m putting to my ego tonight.
Why does it have to be that I’m lesser than people who are well known to be great at things they’ve worked hard to be great at, especially since I have never worked really hard at any of those things? Also, why is it funny to be better than everyone else? Where is the goddamn happy medium here? I think the problem actually comes from that desiderata line, somewhat. There will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself. That’s feeding the self-flattery/self-deprecating pendulum beast all fucking day long! It then becomes necessary to put everyone you interact with into one of two categories, making it possible to look upon them with either disdain or envy. I think where the desiderata gets it right is where it says ‘don’t compare yourself with others.’ I know it doesn’t say exactly that, but it pretty much says exactly that. If you don’t do it, there’s no issue. It’s hard not to though, I’ll freely admit that. It’s very difficult to come from a place of knowledge and not at some point or another hold that over someone else. Something that makes me crazy is when a question is asked and there’s that jackass in the crowd who says, you don’t know? And then doesn’t immediately tell the person the answer. How readily is someone going to ask a question if they’re going to be made to feel like an idiot for not already knowing something that perhaps they never had a reason to know? But it’s that (horrible/wonderful?) moment of being greater than someone, if only slightly and if only for a moment. It’s really quite sad.
I do not honestly think that my sadness when I encounter incredible talent or skill comes from a place of wanting to be better than the source of it. I don’t quite understand it completely. I know that there is a fear that I am 37 and so there are things in my life that if I don’t start doing soon will pass beyond the realm of my capability. I don’t say there are those things I will miss out on, I say there is a fear I will miss out on. Those feelings pass because truthfully, as I get older I realize I don’t want to do everything. I don’t care about being a physicist, a mathematician, a marine biologist, a race car driver, a rock climber, a marathon runner, a ship’s captain, a pool hustler, an amazingly talented knitter (I would like to be able to make my own legwarmers though) and a host of other things. There are so many things I can do and there’s so many opportunities for me to achieve them still. Being all wah, poor me because I don’t spend 22 hours of every day practicing to be good enough for Cirque du Soleil? Getting my panties in a bunch because I don’t write as imaginatively as Clive Barker? Getting my ego in a twist because I’m not as amazingly patient a human as Jane Goodall? Even Jane Goodall probably isn’t as patient as Jane Goodall is. And this is the point I often forget. I have no idea what the actual lives of these people I proclaim myself to be lesser than are. And so comparisons are pointless. I probably won’t stop making them, but I guess the best way is to be aware of it. It’s funny how being concious of something is so often a key to if not stopping the behaviour, at least changing it, altering how it affects me. So that leads to another question. How much of the ego comes from a place of mindfulness? Maybe I’ll figure that out once I start learning about neurology. Again, does neurology have anything to do with things like ego and emotion and mindfulness? Somehow I don’t think so but only because I’m not sure any of those things stem from the nervous system. But I really don’t know. Yet.