Friday, July 17, 2009

Arrogance and Lighthouses

I’ve never been able to get away with being arrogant. Whenever I’ve started feeling I’m hot stuff, I’ve had a comeuppance. When I played competitive tennis as a kid, I would start thinking I was really something, then I’d get beaten by an unranked player. At school I’d think I was pretty smart, then I’d do poorly on a test. At work I’d feel I was better than everyone else, then I’d do something dumb that put me back in my place. Arrogance is the flip size of inferiority. Feeling better than or less than takes away from just being. I’ve ping-ponged back and forth between these two frauds, first feeling on top of the world then after a comeuppance feeling no good, like a squished bug. So why not just be? I know for me it’s getting in the trap of comparing myself to others. Am I a better writer than the other guy? Am I smarter? Am I a better husband, better grandparent? We, as human beings, seem to always be classifying people. This person fits in this pigeonhole and that person in another. Why do these things matter? I started asking this question in high school where we had all the cliques such as jocks, popular kids and brains. I hung out with some of the jocks since I was a good athlete and the smart kids because I did well in school. Then my senior year I made a random group of friends who weren’t classified. We just enjoyed each others’ company without any labels. The truth is we can always find someone who is superior or inferior to us in some dimension. So rather than trying to feel better than or worrying about being lesser than, we just need to be what we are. My favorite story about arrogance is this. On a stormy night two men looked out and saw each other’s signal lights. The first sent a message, “Move aside.” The second sent a message back, “No, you move aside.” The first puffed out his chest and said to his first mate, “Nobody orders me to do that.” He sent out the message, “You move aside, I’m a battleship.” Then the response came back. “You move aside, I’m a lighthouse.”

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