Sunday, March 18, 2012

Arrogance is Elective

Like most people, I always assumed arrogance was the inevitable trait of smart, accomplished, distinguished, successful people. After all, why wouldn't superiority be palpable?

But I kept meeting really smart, accomplished, distinguished, successful people who weren't arrogant. Nor were they falsely modest (which is just another sort of arrogance). They were just....people.

If arrogance isn't inevitable, then it must be strictly elective. People actually choose to act this way! And ever since I realized this, I've found arrogance hysterically funny. If you thunder imperiously at me about whatever narrow slice of the world you happen to have mastered, I won't be able to stop giggling. It's awful. It gets me into lots of trouble.

And it's only gotten worse as I've come to be seen as an expert on a thing or two, myself. Hey, I'll freely admit that I know a bunch about food, beer, jazz, online communities, and a couple other realms. But everyone I've ever met knows tons more than me about at least one of the countless topics where I'm ignorant. Yup, I've authored books...and my mechanic can rebuild a transmission. He comes to me if he needs to know where to eat, and I come to him if I need help with my car. Should either of us - or both of us - be stuck-up? The very question's hilarious!

Richard Scarry was right: it takes all kinds, and by contributing our respective expertise, we create a utopian whole (which liberals romanticize as cooperation and which conservatives theorize as competition - a false dichotomy that was the "original sin" of political theory). We're each holding up one end or another of it all, experienced at some things, and pathetically helpless in most others. And it's impossible to feel unworthy in the presence of a thunderous Wizard of Oz once you realize there's always a helpless little dude behind the curtain!


oddlyme said...

Jim - you are spot on.

There's some stuff I know tons's about - and some stuff I know nothing about. I'm glad to help and thrilled to get help.

I think once we realize that the cosmic spark manifests itself in many ways, for many reasons and they are all important - we're all better off.

Jim Leff said...

Just reread your comment, and noticed a subtle contrast:

"I'm glad to help and thrilled to get help."

Yeah. The privilege of having such a wide range of know-how out there is an incredibly heady luxury. It's indeed "thrilling".

And it does make us "glad" to help. As with raffles, the ante's dwarfed by the payoff....even for noteworthy types (Spielberg or Hawking or Dom DeMarco).

The more you examine life on earth, the more trudgey it can seem. This is one of the few utopian saving graces (though, again, it's given birth to the false political/economic distinction of cooperation/competition currently splitting our country).

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