my discontent with the pretenses we use to mask our comments
|There was a story I read of a pompous, annoying, showoff that irritated a conglomeration of thoughts in my volatile mind. These sentiments have been running through my mind since I was eight years old but I have never before written them down.
I often wonder why we set up so many pretenses. It’s a pain to sift through them. Yet, after nearly sixteen years of doing so, I find myself spouting off phony crap just like the rest of the world with no regard to its fraudulence. Of late I have begun to notice that the filmy surface with which we smother the truth is littered with garbage. And we cut the film in small selective places, to let only the truth we wish known seep through. Strangely, from far away, this film is a canvas of beautiful colors - so beautiful that we might want to applaud this fantastically feigned paradise. Yet, if we come closer and tear open the film, we find that the reason the film is coated with garbage is because the substance leaking through those tiny slits comprises a veritable compost heap. The comments we make seem so harmless on the surface, but their depths are poisoned with waste. The words we utter can be beautiful or bland, but their roots are absolute sludge.
Let me give you an example. I went with about fifteen friends to a play tonight, Julius Caesar. Obviously, being Shakespearean, it was spoken in Elizabethan. So a bunch of my friends, including me, had a difficult time understanding a lot of the words. A few of them even left early. I enjoyed it, but it was obviously taking a toll on some people. (Oh, God. I was tempted there to not say, "including me", hinting that, because I naturally excluded myself in the remark about my friends, it would be thought that I understand Elizabethan as clearly as plain English. But then I turned around two sentences later with that goddam disclaimer. "I enjoyed it, but it was obviously taking a toll on some people." Im going to leave it there to use as evidence that I, too, have been infected with this terrible plague. We’re all goddam politicians.)
Anyway, we were at intermission, and I picked up a synopsis of the play to read to help me understand exactly what was going on. My friend, with whom i am in constant competition in school, turned to me and said, "Ooh, a synopsis? Oh, I didn’t even know they had those. That kind of ruins the play for you, don’t you think? I like to hear it for myself." On the surface, that comment might seem harmless and even downright amicable, but I assure you, there were ulterior motives. The first few giveaways were not directly in the comment, but were contained in his manner during delivery. The first clue was his glee at seeing me with a synopsis. He smiled like a lawyer seeing folly in his opponent’s argument. He was so glad that I might be having trouble understanding the Elizabethan dialect and that he might be able to pretend that he spoke it fluently to himself in the mirror every morning that he couldn’t help but grin foolishly. Then it was the fact that he brought attention to my page, even though there were several other people around with synopses. Mind you, they all still heard him, and the comment still had the same effect on all, but it is because he wanted to wound me and not the others that he directed his comments towards me. The true and final reason that gives their validity to the others previously stated is the last sentence: "I like to hear it for myself." In essence, he was not saying, "I like the plot to be revealed to me as the play progresses." He was saying, "I can comprehend the language better than you can and I don’t need to use the synopsis as a crutch to help me understand the plot." That was a smack in the face. But it was subtle, very subtle. And only small bits of sewage leaked out, barely perceptible to the mind, but as piercing as a bullet to the heart; for, the only true motive of that comment was to make me and any other person that had picked up a synopsis feel inferior to him. In truth, he probably couldn’t understand Elizabethan better than a lot of the people there, but it made him feel good to know that he didn’t need a synopsis. He was so unconfident in his ability to be superior that it made him feel good.
Another friend of mine calmly asked me to explain everything that was going on, because he hadn’t understood everything perfectly. That’s humility, humility and confidence. If there’s one thing I can appreciate, its humility. God bless the humble. My friend asked me to explain what was happening in the play. He admitted a weakness to me, but in doing so, he gained my respect. He didn’t fool around with all the crap of trying to look strong. He just admitted his difficulty because he wanted to learn. That kind of humility deserves respect. That is also a lesson that I need dearly to learn. I am one of the least humble people I know. I could stand to learn some humility. But that act was humble and honest. He deserves a goddam medal. Not only was there no film to coat the garbage, but if there was garbage present, it looked and smelled like a Thanksgiving dinner. I pity the soul who cannot appreciate an honest comment.
But even more so, I pity the soul who needs those injurious comments to fill his ego. His insecurity needs examination. Sadly, I fall into that category. I must change, though. It’s difficult, but it must happen if I am to look myself in the eye. There is an ulcer that burns deep inside my heart and in all those who rejoice tact over humility. I just hope that I can repair what has already been done. Perhaps one day I will change, and the only films I shall need to sheath my truths are those which are used to protect and not harm the emotions of others. Until then, forgive me. And in time, I may learn to forgive myself.
My disclaimer: If I have mentioned anyone in this piece that you recognize, please keep the knowledge to yourself. The people I wrote about are my friends and I don’t want anything misconstrued as resentment. If you have qualms, you know where to find me.