Saturday, May 13, 2006

'We made it, Thomas,' Pyle said. I remember that, but I don't remember what Pyle later described to others: that I waved my hand in the wrong direction and told them there was a man in the tower and they had to see to him. Anyway I couldn't have made the sentimental assumption that Pyle made. I know myself, and I know the depth of my selfishness. I cannot be at ease (and to be at ease is my chief wish) if someone else is in pain, visibly or audibly or tactually. Sometimes this is mistaken by the innocent for unselfishness, when all I am doing is sacrificing a small good - in this case postponement in attending to my hurt - for the sake of a far greater good, a peace of mind when I need think only of myself.
-The Quiet Man, Graham Greene

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mind your P's and Q's

There was a very telling quote in another Graham Greene novel (and in case you wonder why the Graham Greene kick, it's because the books are thin, easy to read, and contain deep insights into human nature - perfect material to read for a student, in the last dregs of a semester, who walks to school and aspires to become knowledgeable): actually, I don't have the book on hand. But bear with me.

In the quote, the main character has become wounded and hears, in the distance. the cry of another wounded man. When the stretcher bearers come to take him away, he motions them towards that other man. Everyone takes this as a heroic act, but the main character mulls on this for about a paragraph, knowing himself better than they do, thinking about how some action that looks selfless may actually be a deeply seated selfishness.

It is not because the object of some act of heroism is considered, but that, in the end, it is only for oneself, in order that the conscience will not trouble one. It is perhaps similar to giving a homeless man outside a restaurant leftover food not because one primarily recognizes someone who is in need, but because a feeling of guilt might assail one afterwards at being full, with excess food, and yet passing by someone obviously not full.

The selfishness and selflessness can be easily conflated, the act that is not even selfless turning into a point of self-congratulation. This morning I read some words of St. John of the Cross that I'd copied out - words to the effect of you must desire nothing so as to place your all in Christ. And when this is done, when nothing is desired but Christ, then the actions that flow from that love will be for Him. Um. and you won't be selfish anymore.

This semester has almost ended. And I'm glad. One class was really Rather Horrid, the class average for homework being less than 59 --- and homework counts for 40% of the grade. After playing ultimate frisbee yesterday, I studied logic for 6 hours straight (well, just about. 5 hours and forty five minutes, to be exact). Am I intense or what?

By way of dodging a substantial post, look at some faces I doodled. I will be taking an art class over the summer (sorry, Erik - your class looked like a lot of fun, but bilocation isn't my strong point) so eventually this will all get better (if you're not keen on proportions, then just copy the picture and flip them horizontally in a graphics program - the faults will be made manifestly apparent).