Temet nosce....

You know what?

We're never really as important as we would like to believe.

We're all expendable, we're all replaceable.

True, some of us can be quite important relatively speaking, maybe if you're like, President of some superpower with a nuclear arsenal or CEO of a billion dollar business empire. But for the vast majority of us, in the grand scheme of things, we're just like every other schmo we meet in the street, desperately fighting a silent war against anonymity, against obscurity, even if it is within our own small spheres of existence, seeking to find our place in this world.

From day one we were always taught that we are special, that we are unique. That's actually quite true, but the supreme irony is that if everyone is unique, then uniqueness is nothing more than the ultimate equalizer, since being unique is absolute. No one can be "more unique" than others. In being different, in other words, we are all the same.

Some people have difficulty accepting this, and I've met quite a few of them in my life. There are those who wallow in the illusion that the world revolves around them, that they are truly more important than they really are. Of course, we know better.

It's not bad per se, to think this way. Everyone is entitled to his or her view on life. If some people would like to think of themselves as important, that is their business, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that. In fact I myself think like that at times, because it can be quite depressing to think otherwise. To consider one's self as a mere inconsequential piece of flesh walking aimlessly through life can have quite a negative effect on one's self-respect, and a little personal pride can go a long way in improving one's esteem.

However, what gets my goat at times are people who "force" you into living the illusion of their own personal importance. These are self-centered people who do nothing but live and breathe the rat-race of life, obsessed with furthering nothing but their own careers or other personal endeavors under the mistaken impression that they are better than everyone else. The clincher is, and I try to say this without being judgmental, that they are clearly not, and everyone but them realizes it.

Vanity can often lead people into overestimating their own personal worth whether in terms of competence, ability or some other aspect. These are people who refuse to, as Descartes may say, "know thyself", because if they did, they would probably realize their own weaknesses and failings as well. Everyone has their limits, and we should all learn to live with ours. If we set out to push our own limits, which is not a bad thing really and is in fact encouraged, we should be willing and able to bear the consequences of our own actions, and carry ourselves with grace regardless of what effects our actions may bring. The people I'm talking about couldn't care less about such consequences, as long as they partake the illusion of their own personal greatness.

These are poseurs who push clearly beyond their own abilities, and they try to sucker us into living in their own personal fantasy land. Take certain candidates for political office for example. Just because one is a popular actor or athlete, or bears the last name of a renowned politician does not necessarily imply an aptitude for politics. And yet, for some reason, they persist. Popularity tends to go a long way in this country, never mind ability. Witness the sheer number of celebrities elected to various public offices throughout the country. And while some of them manage to pull their own weight, a lot of them, especially those with little in the way of education, sad to say, hardly do anything at all, much less do something for the good of their constituents.

On a more personal nature, I've known people at work who purport to be intelligent, but lack communication, technical and/or decision making skills, yet they still think as if they can do no wrong, that when they speak, people should listen. Yeah right.

Outside work, there are those who would like to regale you with their career or personal exploits, or complain on how busy they are, but when you read between the lines, you arrive at the inescapable conclusion that they are in all likelihood lacking something between the ears. Yes I know, this opinion probably sounds harsh, but it's true, as I'm sure all of you can relate.

Besides, being busy does not necessarily connote intelligence or importance. Case in point, a hamster running on a hamster wheel. It may be running like a bat out of hell, but it's definitely going nowhere fast.

In a way intelligence or competence is like pornography. As the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said: "x x x But I know it when I see it." I may not be a pornographer or (arguably) a pornography addict, but I know porn when I see it. The same way I may not be that intelligent myself, but I know intelligence when I see it. And sad to say, some who purport to have it, simply don't.

For these individuals, I have some unsolicited advice. Know your limits. And keep your illusions to yourselves.

Sometimes, more important than intelligence or competence, is how we treat our fellow men. We may not all be big shots, but kindness and justice are often remembered, regardless of how smart we are, or what we end up as.

A little self-introspection can go a long way. Temet nosce.

But if you insist on living your illusions...well, talk to the hand. :-)


Ronald Allan said…
I take it you've met your share of "illusionists" as well? :-)

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