Friday, March 16, 2007

Dichotomies

I was reading a book on writing by Orson Scott Card many years ago and he made an interesting observation. He said something along the lines of "to be a successful writer you have to simultaneously think that you're the greatest author since Bill Shakespeare and the worst hack to ever lay your left hand on the ASDF keys..." Okay I may have embellished it a little bit, but his point was to lay forth that particular dichotomy between an over-inflated and under-inflated assessment of your own abilities.

I briefly stepped off the curb into a deep puddle of depression (think Bill Murray in Groundhog Day... Is there anything that movie isn't an analogy for?) the other day. And I had cause to think of another, but similar dichotomy. I think in life, that by virtue of our unparalleled access to our own failings and short-comings, combined with the crushing weight of our own undeniable responsibility for each and every one of them, that we have a tendency to be very harsh in evaluating our own worth against what we judge to be the comparable worth of other people. That would be one side of the dichotomy the other side is that it doesn't take much looking around to determine that the vast majority of people are severely screwed up. That just being happily married and holding down a steady job with decent pay places me above the average. That in comparison to some of the colossal mistakes I could have made, the tiny ones I obsess about are, relatively speaking, pretty minor.

The former view is necessary if we're going to make any kind of improvement in our lives, while the latter is important if we're going to keep from descending into a Hamletian meditative paralysis of doubt and self-loathing. I imagine a more healthy attitude would fall somewhere in the center, but I appear to only be able to live at the extremes so I guess I need to balance the one extreme with the other. Am I the only one who suffers from the buffeting of these two hurricanes or do other people have similar issues?

I call my two hurricanes Ethel and Mavis

3 Comments:

Anonymous Eric said...

I don't know what you are talking about, but shouldn't that be Hamletonian?

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1:28 PM  
Anonymous ed said...

Many people today I think go to both extremes... being very self-centered with high opinions of themselves (see: recent articles on "narcissistic" college students), yet thinking deep inside their insecure selves, that they really aren't _that_ good, that they are phonies somehow.

Happy are they who find a happier medium. Happier yet are those who never set foot on an American Idol audition stage.

3:14 PM  
Blogger aozora said...

I'd agree both sides of Orson Scott Card's consideration are needed, especially for writing (creating) but also life in general, and the extremes only for theoretical exercise.

A more moderate approach is summed up for me in the Socrates quote, "An unexamined life is not worth living."

6:29 PM  

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