Am I selfish? I don’t think so.
But so many people over the years have given me rather long and angry lectures on how selfish I am. This morning I can remember about 100 of them. Funny thing is that I always feel as though other people are terribly selfish: driving around in SUVs, owning four houses, saying things about wanting to “have it all,” making babies as single parents and then sending them off to boarding school anyway, spending $100 on a meal every other week.
I guess there are two axes to selfishness… material-praxis and ideological inflexibility. When people say I’m selfish they mean I don’t forgive them for their sins, or rather that they have a right to be forgiven and I am standing in violation of this principle. I’m very unselfish materially, behaviorally (with regard, for example, to time given when asked). But I do at times refuse to be generous with my thoughts, I suppose. Or rather, I should say, that I am not injudicious in generously applying my thoughts. People can’t stand the fact that I won’t concede on that point. I think that’s something unique to our current milieu—the notion that unrestricted generosity of thought is much more important than even minimal generosity of material-praxis.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m destined to be hated. At those moments I feel as though I want to declare myself to be Jesus and start damning the children of sin.
I remember every lecture I’ve ever been given about myself and the sins I commit. They sit around inside and every now and then they all come to the fore and I have to fight them off. To lose is to lose myself. I suppose we all lecture each other all the time, just about different things. Nobody ever thinks they are lecturing anybody else; they think they are either being helpful or fair. The lecture resides in the receiver.
In any case, the economic milieu of our age dictates that people get very upset if they don’t manage to retain control over their own pocketbooks on the one hand, and on the other if you manage to retail control over your own mind enough to make them feel embarrassed about theirs. The master idea is that you are supposed to see the ads, buy the goods, and consume together in harmony. It shatters this masterplan if you won’t shop and won’t stop pointing out the decadence, thereby disturbing everyone else’s consumptive harmony (which, incidentally carries them directly into their own—and everyone else’s—graves).
I am in a bad mood this morning because all the people I have loved over the years have come back to berate me in my head once again—I can see all their faces and remember their accusations, one by one. I sometimes feel righteous victory in having left them behind, but sometimes it just makes me sad that the fundamental nexus of disagreement is so often never resolved.
I suppose at some deep level it makes me sad to confront the obvious reality that there will never be consensus, about anything. Consensus is a myth. The corollary to this is that it is impossible for everyone to feel as though they have been dealt with fairly. That this will never happen is the fundamental injustice of the universe. Indignation is the currency of the Dasein economy.
Only people who are embarrassed by what they have done believe they are being judged and get upset about it. I fully realize that I catch myself in the very same net.
Clearly this is too much introspection for a public place.
“We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something. Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if he has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself.”