ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷 (pjammer) wrote,
ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷
pjammer

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Minding the Gap

Lunch last week with sunyata__ in Palo Alto was tremendously fun and our conversations meandered from her new job (for which I again offer hearty congrats!) to something that reminded me I wanted to cover in greater detail here.

The Avatar
For nearly all of us - we have, in our mind, an idealized version ourselves as we'd like ourselves to be. Call it the Self-Avatar. In this iteration, you are magnanimous, thoughtful, well-respected, honorable, courageous ... whatever attributes you'd like to believe you exemplify.

Then, there is your real, flesh-and-blood self - riven with all the flaws that beset humanity. Unless you are completely schizophrenic, chances are good that you bear at least passing resemblence to that idealized Self-Avatar in your finest moments. Unfortunately, your real 'you' has other qualities, revealed in your worst moments - petty, situationally-dishonest, cowardly, or immature.

Between your Self-Avatar and your real you lies ... a gap.

For some, that gap is an enormous chasm of hypocrisy, filled with pious, self-congradulatory posturing completely at odds with their real-life misbehaviors, willfully (or obliviously) unaware of the distance between the self they believe themselves to be, and the actual lives they lead. Others are aware and mindful of that gap, and seek ways to diminish them in time, understanding that their individual failures are part of a necessary and iterative process, along the path to maturity.

As mentioned in the entry on consiglieres,

As children, we expect grownups to correct our manners, grammar, and behavior. In the process, we open ourselves to change - we learn, we adapt, we grow. But somewhere during the transition to adulthood, we cross the invisible boundary labeled 'You Ought To Know Better By Now,' and that flow of feedback slows to a trickle, and then stops. And as goes feedback, so goes your evolution as a human being."

As a personal example, about 30% of my serious dating relationships were ultimately marred by infidelity (on her part, never mine). Now, I am uncertain whether that figure is high, low or average (and yes, I've already considered that the percentage might be even higher and I was simply unaware); but in nearly every case, because she considered herselt not be "that kind of woman," the infidelity was compounded with deceit. A soothing lie was preferred over an unpleasant truth.

In my experience, persistent obliviousness to that gap is a problem shared by a majority of physically attractive women (BOCTAOE). Pretty women occupy a strange world, standing at the nexus of a hive of yes-men looking to bed them, and willing to overlook any deficit in character for that opportunity; if they so choose, they have the option to refuse essential personal development for decades ... until their beauty fades.

Being mindful of the gap is a constant discipline - it is no sin to have lofty ideals as to what you'd like to be, and possess an ambitiously virtuous self-avatar; the difficulty comes in the day-to-day, having a clear-eyed understanding of where you fall from your own ideals and putting unremitting effort in closing that gap when you find them.

If your self-avatar includes seeing yourself as a honorable person - make your peace with those with whom you hold grudges that have long outlived the magnitude of its offenses - summon the courage to be the bigger man and take the initiative for reconciliation, even if you believe the other was in the wrong.

Acting with honor is about the self - not about how others may react, and it is infinitely easy when our own lives are riven with hypocrisy and pettiness to harshly judge the failures of others, to focus harsh judgement on those whose flaws may be more visible than our own, to reassure ourselves that at least we aren't as bad as THEM. Focusing that beacon of judgement on ourselves is a much more difficult action - far easier to sneer at condemn the weakness of others than to acknowledge them in oneself.

It's a tall order, but then again, we should expect no less from ourselves, or those we choose to love.

Now, off to work.
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Tags: essays, life
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