Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Can't We All Just Be Arrogant?

As for feeling "arrogant" that first day of class, I have dissolved that feeling. I'm so used to thinking I offer nothing of worth or value that every time I put myself out there, without apology, it feels arrogant. But under my standard - developed over years by an abusive family - declaring to a waitress that I want rye toast instead of wheat would feel arrogant. The fact is I am different from the world - this isn't a declaration I'm pulling out of my ass. I look at things differently, I connect things in ways that make other people go "hunh?", I'm certainly not motivated by many of the same things most people are motivated by, and, for sure, I'm much more concerned with developing my own self-awareness and enlightenment than what I see around me. The only reason to suppose my declarations above are arrogant would be to assume that by making them I'm asserting superiority over others. That would be erroneous, and anyone assuming superiority within my declarations might be served by asking: what is it about another person asserting that she's different from the rest of the world that could make one feel inferior?

We are all on this planet together. Some of us take one path; some others. I am, as we all are, the result of a combination of things: family background, inherent personality, the influences that have passed in and out of our lives, the random responses that the universe saw fit to attach to our actions. But for me, that combination has resulted in the following: when I sit in a group of people, I'm usually not interested in what they're talking about; when I speak about what interests me, I'm usually met with wonder, or reverence, or I'm written off. When I am myself in the world, and not conforming to culturally accepted norms for socializing, I make other people feel uncomfortable. This is not an indictment of anyone and this is not an assertion that I am better than anyone.* This has isolated me mostly, as various people have tried to categorize me or ensnare me in their personal scripts in an attempt to make themselves feel more comfortable around me. I have spent a great deal of energy trying to reconcile my isolation against my need to be myself, and I'm tired.

Awhile back, I made a commitment to simply be myself in the world from now on, and to damn the rest of the world for any adverse reactions. That commitment revealed to me a deep irony. Before I made my commitment, the only way I could socialize was to put on socially accepted masks and play socially accepted roles. Discomfort came with distancing myself from myself. In order to keep wearing the masks and playing the roles, I had to anesthetize that discomfort, which I did with booze. If you define "alone" as having no one else in the room, then I am more alone after having made that commitment than before. I have fewer friends and social engagements, and spend a lot of time by myself. But I'm not sure that the socially accepted definition of "alone," is accurate. Back then, when there was no one in the room, I was alone because even I wasn't in the room. Back then, even when there were other people in the room, I was still alone, because the person those people were socializing with wasn't me. How can I feel community with others if I'm not even present for them to commune with? Since making the commitment, I struggle less internally. I'm calmer. More peaceful. And I think it's because, while there are fewer people in my life - the generally accepted definition of "alone" - I'm actually less alone now than before. Now, at least I'm in the room. At all times. Even when no one else is.

That day, the feeling of arrogance came from my need to manage everyone else's feelings. It came from a fear that if anyone around me felt uncomfortable that I'd be in danger. Unsafe. Another legacy from my childhood that I still have to struggle to dissolve. But of course I am in no danger and the feeling is useless. I wonder, however, that if a little feeling of arrogance can actually mean less struggle and more peace and calm, couldn't the world benefit if all of us were arrogant?

* In fact, it's always been my suspicion that people who claim to be superior because they're not like anyone else, ie, unique, non-conformist, etc., are actually trying to find a way to deal with their own discomfort over being different. But that's just my theory.


Bhaltair said...

Yes, we all know that the world would be much better off if most of its inhabitants were arrogant. People like Bush, Cheney and all their chronies have taught us that lesson.

Belle Ambrose said...

Yeah, I especially make people who miss my point uncomfortable. And a surprising number of people from the left miss my points. That's okay, people from the right miss my points as well.

Told you I was isolated.