I recently read the essay “What I Believe,” by E.M. Forster, and one passage resonated powerfully with me. I’d like to share it with you. I put my favorite parts in bold:
I believe in aristocracy, though – if that is the right word, and
if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon
rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the con-
siderate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all
nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret
understanding between them when they meet. They represent
the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer
race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in
obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others
as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being
fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and
they can take a joke. I give no examples – it is risky to do that –
but the reader may as well consider whether this is the type of
person he would like to meet and to be, and whether (going
further with me) he would prefer that this type should not be an
ascetic one. I am against asceticism myself. I am with the old
Scotsman who wanted less chastity and more delicacy. I do not
feel that my aristocrats are a real aristocracy if they thwart their
bodies, since bodies are the instruments through which we
register and enjoy the world. Still, I do not insist. This is not a
major point. It is clearly possible to be sensitive, considerate and
plucky and yet be an ascetic too, and if anyone possesses the first
three qualities I will let him in! On they go – an invincible army,
yet not a victorious one. The aristocrats, the elect, the chosen,
the Best People – all the words that describe them are false, and
all attempts to organize them fail. Again and again Authority,
seeing their value, has tried to net them and to utilize them as the
Egyptian Priesthood or the Christian Church or the Chinese
Civil Service or the Group Movement, or some other worthy
stunt. But they slip through the net and are gone; when the door
is shut, they are no longer in the room; their temple, as one of
them remarked, is the holiness of the Heart’s affections, and their
kingdom, though they never possess it, is the wide-open world.
I am not going to add my analysis, but I’d like you to think about this for a while and decide if you agree.
Yesterday I did something that I never expected to have to do. I cut loose someone very important to me. I won’t go into details, but it’s been an act that I’ve been musing on for some time.
That time doesn’t make it easier.
We make decisions everyday that change our lives. We constantly face crossroads, deals with the devil and appeals to our better nature. The worst part is that you rarely know that you’re there at the time. It’s not until later where you realize “hey, turning left instead of right sent me far from where I meant to go. This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife. How did I get here?” Or “turning left was one of the best decisions that I ever made.”
And some decisions are harder than others. Some of them you know will change your life. Some of them are failures. Sometimes the decision is not turning at all, but letting fear and indecisiveness freeze you in place. Every action has a consequence, and not choosing is still a choice. I avoided choosing for a long time, but I finally did it.
We’ll see if I chose the right path. Right now I just feel hollow. Not good or bad. More like an emptiness. I feel spent. The choice took all of my spoons.
But I’d probably do it again. Part of being an adult is doing what has to be done.
Being an adult is hard.
In honor of the 5th anniversary of my fiance’s death, her collected works is now available for FREE for 5 days. Val was an extraordinary writer, the best that I’ve ever known. Please share in her work and my love by picking up her story collection.
I used to drive for a limo service. It wasn’t a bad job: I picked the client up, drove him to the airport, waited patiently for the tip that never came, and drove back to the office wondering why I always expected a tip. Driving in New York and New Jersey? Sure, it sucks, but most jobs do. But I met a lot of interesting and even famous people…if by meant you mean them staring at my head for an hour or so, depending on traffic. Everything in the area depends on the traffic. And that’s where our story begins…
I finally got around to reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick. For all of my bluster and love of fantasy and sci-fi, I’m poorly versed in the classics. This is because I enjoy reading my favorite books repeatedly and finding new insight each time.
But …Electric Sheep reminded me of what I love about the genre: fantasy/sci-fi is the perfect medium for allegory and philosophy (something I try to emulate in my own work). For example, …Electric Sheep is “about” many things, but what grabbed me was its take on the nature of humanity and empathy. There’s also this dystopian gem during a hallucination where the protagonist is speaking with Mercer, the savior figure of the new human religion:
I have noticed a lot of memes going around about how people have to “earn respect” by proving themselves worthy of it. Things like this meme:
This is a lumbering dumptruck load of self-satisfied bullshit. It’s like saying “I will treat you like a sub-human until you pass my moral obstacle course.” What kind of arrogant bastard thinks that way? How about instead you say “I will treat you with respect until you do something hurtful or otherwise prove that you’re not worthy of it.”
You don’t “earn respect.” You lose it. A person should treat everyone that they meet with respect and common decency. If the person proves that they don’t deserve it, then they lose it. To think otherwise assumes that people are bad until they prove themselves good. They assume guilty until proven innocent.
Truthfully, I give people several chances. We’re all human, and we all have bad days. Life isn’t easy, and everyone has their own struggle. I won’t let one bad day ruin them for me forever. Yes, I sometimes get burned. More often I find dear friends that I would’ve shut out if I forced them to earn respect.
The irony is that people that demand that you earn respect, often demand respect without earning it.
If a person demands that I jump through their hoops before they judge me worthy, but thinks that they are above such judgement, they lose the respect that I gave them to begin with.
If you find yourself doing this, ask yourself why? Have you been burned by people you respected in the past? Boo hoo, so has everyone. So have I. It doesn’t mean that my world view comes tumbling down. Don’t let your past affect your future.
Be brave, and risk that loss. Have a backbone, not a wishbone.
Memories are an anchor. Possibilities are a wild wind, taking you to new and fantastic places.
But if you let the wind alone guide you, you’re bound to run aground.
Use the damn rudder.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. –Samuel Beckett
We do not all begin at the same starting line, and we do not all have the same amount or height of hurdles. We will all fail many times in our life no matter what we do, and we will not catch the people in front of us, those that due to some cosmic lottery, were born on a short track to success.
No matter. Failing does not make you a failure. Losing does not make you a loser. Giving up and blaming others because you didn’t get a short track, that’s where the moral failings fall.
Don’t stop in your stride to blame “The Other Guys,” the ones not like you. Don’t spit your hate and fear at the ones that you’ve never met because that absence makes it easier to see them as not human, not moral, etc. Take hold of your life, own up to your failings, and keep running. Finishing the race when you have the harder track is nobler than winning with an easy one. Pity those on the short track. It makes for a flabby spirit.
If you’ve made it this far, you probably like my writing. Check out my two fantasy novels Song of Simon, and The Watchmage of Old New York, or recommend them to friends. You can also check out this super secret “romance” project, “Welcome to Elmwood Park.” Writers don’t live by the “Like” button alone
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