Tuesday, September 15, 2009


It seems that we must aggrandize ourselves in order to
survive. Only by projecting a larger sense of self can we
hope to prosper as social beings. From among many
potential selves we choose the one that works best with
other people, the one that gets the business done, the one
that gets results. Eventually, by this quotidian alchemy,
we all seem bigger than we are. Hence the revelation at
the end of The Wizard of Oz: in the final analysis, each
one of us is crouching behind a curtain cranking up the
volume and furiously pumping the smoke machine in
order to impress and even scare others.

The fear of inconstancy has become the terrorism of the
soul. For the sake of conveying a consistent and
presentable image of ourselves, we fight this daily war on
terror at enormous expense of emotional resource. Yet
when, with some trepidation, Isabel Allende published a
memoir, instead of feeling exposed (she writes), 'I felt
stronger. I realized that what makes people feel weak is
all the secrets, the things we hide, the things we think are
embarrassing and shameful. And when you just talk about
it, you realize that everybody else probably has the same

I remind myself that it was one of the aims of the people
who came together at Little Gidding, the 17th-century
English religious community, ‘not to think of human
nature above that which it is, a sea of flowings and
ebbings, and of all manner of inconstancy.’

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