Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pericles & The Dark Bat, Envy

"For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted: when this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity."

-Pericles of Athens, during a funeral speech

I can handle hearing about the awesome things other people are doing if I'm doing those things; if I'm doing awesome things. How hard it is, however, to hear the praises for the person doing things I cannot or would not do.

And not everyone can be an astronaut. Not everyone drove down to the Gulf after Hurricane Katrina to help people put their lives back together. Not everyone loves their family the right way. Some things are out of reach. Because of time and opportunity. Because of ignorance.

And yet, some great acts---some noble gifts--are out of reach simply because we lack self-discipline. Because we haven't believed our contribution was important to anyone, or that it could be important to us. We don't do the really difficult, great things because there aren't incentives to doing them, and because we act in our own short-sighted interest 99% of our waking hours.

However, I'd wager that the most wonderful thing you'll ever do in your life won't seem courageous or glorious while you're doing it. You'll probably be forgoing other, better options to do it.

That's what makes the choice to do it so glorious.

Where did this start and where did it go and where will it end? Perhaps the difficulty of envy is that it afflicts the one who understands the glory of a good life but just can't convince himself to pay what it costs. It's hard to rejoice when someone else is doing what you should be doing. It would be a curious moment of the soul.

{Back to studying Ancient Greece}

1 comment:

  1. "Perhaps the difficulty of envy is that it afflicts the one who understands the glory of a good life but just can't convince himself to pay what it costs."

    --excellent thought

    ReplyDelete

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