Monday, September 24, 2012

On being nothing...

The "Opinionater" feature of the New York Times has "Anxiety" as one of its topics inviting online essays. I wanted to pass on a piece submitted by Brian Jay Stanley that notes how at every stage of our lives we desire to be noticed and affirmed by others, and in the absence of notice can easily become anxious, feeling insignificant and insubstantial. His last two paragraphs are a treat:
Society is adroit at disillusioning newcomers, and many self-assured children grow up to be bitter adults. But bitterness, instead of a form of disillusionment, is really the refusal to give up your childhood illusions of importance. Ignored instead of welcomed by the world, you fault the world as blind and evil in order not to fault yourself as na├»ve. Bitterness is a child’s coddling narcissism within the context of an adult’s harsh life. Instead, I know that the world only tramples me as a street crowd does an earthworm — not out of malice or stupidity, but because no one sees it. Thus my pain is not to feel wrongly slighted, but to feel rightly slighted.
There must be a Copernican revolution of the self. Instead of pointlessly cursing the sun to go around me, my chance of contentment is learning to orbit, being the world’s audience instead of demanding the world be mine. If the world is a stage, then everyone’s an extra, acting minor roles in simultaneous scenes in which no one has the lead. With so much happening, society is poorly made to satisfy pride, but well made to satisfy interest, if we will only let go of our vanity and join the swirl of activity.

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