As there is no guarantee, from one post to the other, what genre the friday's randomly selected fortune will inspire, I think it best to denote whether the week's piece is fiction on non-fiction before the start. Poetry, should I subject you to it, will be obvious enough. Today's post is non-fiction.
One lives life through contrasts and comparisons. As the Rabbi says in Lucky Number Slevin, one is unlucky only in so far as a reference for those who are lucky. The cheap shot at making villains seem deep has long been to in some form write the question onto his lips “without evil how can there be good?” Want drives economies, desire spurs on action. To measure oneself against others and to find something lacking is the human way, to want what one doesn’t have or hasn’t had recently or might not have at the moment.
The opposite is true as well, to find something in one’s self that others lack. To justify with phrases such as “at least I’m not” or “yes, but I don’t,” to comfortably other the majority of those who aren’t one by a determined lack in their something or other.
My phrase of choice has been for decades, “I’m better than most people, but most people are terrible.” It’s at once dismissive and self-deprecating, arrogant and a humble brag.
If the world’s a room we all fancy ourselves the smartest man in it. For some it’s truer than others, but it’s absolute for no one, myself included. The recognition of one’s fallibility and not failing to it is, I think, a stage of maturity. To acknowledge that one isn’t the absolute expert at every endeavor and to feel no more insecure at the thought of having to ask or learn from another marks the adult different from the teen.
All that being said, fiction doesn’t seem to like the inexpert man anymore. No longer do stories focus much on the training, the learning, the overall development of a character. Instead we seem as a culture to be in the midst of a return to legacy and royalty, to the magical boy or girl syndrome of young adult fiction wherein a character was the chosen one all along and rather than subverting the norm through his or her actions he or she is really returning the world to its proper state.
That’s fine for kids, but to me it seems rather dull and uninteresting. I’d rather read the novel that takes ten chapters to ready the protagonist for his first awkward conflict with a much more expert foe. I like the stories wherein the old are not obstacles to be overcome but sources of power, of wisdom, or at the very least, of experience.
The idea that one is born with some special affect that makes him destined to rule is what’s given us this seething mass of self-congratulatory do-nothings. There is no need to strive. You’re good enough, you’ve done enough.
To me, that’s nothing but promise of disappointment and a refusal to admit reality, and some touch with the real is necessary for me, for most, I’d imagine, to really immerse him or herself into a story.
What say you? Is self-satisfaction good enough, or should one live with striving, even at the threat of constant insecurity? Which fiction indemnifies each ethos and which way do you lean, toward elevation of the specially or the especially dedicated?