Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I read the book, The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, and one scene in particular sticks in my mind. Two men are flying in a plane high over the earth, looking down and musing that there were now nearly 7 billion people down there, all of them struggling for life. One man turns to the other and says “and I suppose they will all want dignity.”
Something about that passage puts things in perspective for me. Here we are, nearly 7 billion people on a small planet which is running out of resources…and most of us seem to act like the whole thing revolves around us- the control freaks who can’t let go, the drug addicts who can’t accept or process their own pain, the pampered princesses and princes who pout when they don’t get the exact color Porsche they wanted for their birthday..
When you pull back and look down at it all, we are like millions of ants crawling around. And yet we all want dignity. We all get upset when someone doesn’t treat us properly or follow our wishes.
Do we all need to go and live in Darfur for a while, or what?
My daughter is ten and whenever she doesn’t get her way she reacts with righteous indignation, “what do you mean I can’t have…!” As a child, this is normal and healthy- seeing the world as it all revolves around you. Children do not see the world as separate from themselves and there is both gain and loss in the awareness one gets with age of a separate sense of self. The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is such a metaphor.
Our culture seems to reinforce immaturity; it is unable to balance the self and not-self very well. The message ends up: “It is all about you.” I’ve been noticing many bad decisions and unhappiness stem from personalities which simply don’t understand their own insignificance.
Reality is a duality and insignificance needs to be balanced with significance. “You can make a difference” has to be balanced with “you matter not one iota in the big scheme of the universe.” Having one philosophy without the other makes a person self-centered. That can be either positive narcissism (i.e. I am the hero and everyone depends on me) or negative reverse narcissism (i.e. I am the anti-hero and everything is my fault.)
The first step in AA addresses this issue: powerlessness is a synonym of insignificance. Until you embrace your insignificance you can never learn how to be significant.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Do-gooders seldom realize how much of their ego is involved in their deeds, and how much importance they place on themselves.
One of the things I like best about being older is that there is no temptation to imagine one is the center of the universe.
The closer I get to leaving this world, the more I wonder why the hell I drove myself nuts over so many things that had nothing to do with me.