Monday, January 13, 2014

Compassionate Comparisons?

To be at peace with the self is very difficult. There are constant comparisons. As a boy I felt diminished by persons such as Robert Redford, Roger Moore, and Rock Hudson. And then there was Rembrandt and Ver Meer. And what of Clapton and Manitas de Plata? Then too there was Pavarotti and Domingo. Or how about Einstein or Sagan? And what of de Mille or...? The point is that any sort of comparison easily puts one at a disadvantage, or even worse, might have one feeling superior. Hierarchies of attainment, talent, beauty, skill, achievements, and circumstances are apparent, everywhere! To be at peace with the self, just as one is, warts and all, in the woundedness of one's evolution within the adjustments toward more and more enlightenment is most difficult indeed. All around oneself is comparison. And quite evidently, very few of us could possibly be in league with "bestest of the best." Yet, what a relief! Whew!

Comparisons have their advantage. We pay for things, whichever choice we make, so it can be worthwhile to go price-shopping. Sitting on a rounded rock is better than a sharp. Having a thing not break when needed is better. Hearing a clean CD over a scratched one is clear. Eating a good meal as opposed to... Etc. We all know comparisons. But to be alright with the self when juxtaposed to others is the issue. On almost every level of the human condition we are able to make the comparisons, and to suffer from a sense of lack, or shame, or inadequacy, or poverty, or insecurity, or ill-fatedness is all rather sad. To be the ant or the wounded rabbit or the bird or the fish or even the rhinoceros is simply a matter of the genetic endowment of our soul, and then to be or to have a biggest, better, best of any of the multiple things with which we may compare is to be on a trajectory of comparisons that are hardly ending. It is not too long before the longest rhino horn is a liability. "It's lonely at the top." The price one pays for certain things costs more than money. The upkeep on appearances, the need to be at least as well as the Jones's, and the instincts to put others down all weigh on the conscience, or not. Paradoxically, a comparative analysis will concur, or not. The painting above is clearly better (in terms of applied skill levels) than mine, below.

So very many products and so much of potential is never brought out of obscurity simply due to circumstance. What might the young women and men of history not have produced had they not been killed "before their time"? So very many products are not celebrated thanks to the prizes given to others deemed to be 'first'. Art exhibitions, American Idol, talent exhibitions, dance competitions, bake-offs, car races, even the Olympics leave a litany of also-rans. At which point does it suffice not to have won? Japan in the second world war apparently surrendered willingly only because they did not 'lose face' given that they could say they had been beaten by a clearly superior force. To give up to an equal force would be unthinkable! One can save face when the other is so significantly better that it does not shame you. Like those girls ignoring me, looking at Robert Redford. Like being compared to Hieronymus Bosch, or Dali. Like stacking up my 12 year old vehicle against the neighbour's brand new BMW. Like, well, you get the picture.

The thing is, we each are better off to keep conscious of our uniqueness in this universe of ours, and to contribute toward it from the platform of time and circumstance and chance and opportunity as best as it affords us. No use the Volkswagen wishing to be a Rolls Royce. No use me wishing to be Robert. Best just to be as good as one can be. To want to improve, to be better, to know more, learn more, go further, and have better is really quite natural; at issue is that all these aspirations are better directed at oneself than against or by comparison to another. As desiderata would have it, "for always there will be greater and lesser persons than the self". As long as that 'greater and lesser' is meant in terms of compassion for all, I can handle that. I am really best off knowing what I know, being who I am, compared to what I know of me. 

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