These are only built from within. What is it that is so withered within us that we would despise those who rise?
My flight instructor from the Army said once, “Show me the guy who climbed Everest and never told anyone.” There’s a lot to be said about that. However, that said, there’s also this: I drink deeply from the well of other’s successes. I get it that this isn’t common. However, Jessica, the simple truth is that every man or woman who takes a step into the beyond and comes back transformed, every person who succeeds in some way by the very fact of their humanity gives me permission to do the same.
Just yesterday, a lifetime friend, a woman with whom I share an enormous amount of history called, and we talked for an hour. We were in Officer’s Candidate School. Over the years, she rose to become an Under Secretary of Defense. Advised top Administration officials. Made SCADS of money. Has SCADS of toys. Has what I don’t have: financial options, a love in her life, I could go on. And yet. That friend inspires the hell out of me. I have no desire to have what she has- it wasn’t my life. She still envies me my tiny waist. I love that she has had this life, with multiple houses, a job with a $13b company. Her success says nothing whatsoever about me except that in many ways, she has a lot to teach me. By the same token, the way I have lived my life has a lot to teach her. Every time we talk, we exchange those gifts. We both have paid high prices to have what we have and to live the way we do. To feel jealousy, to attack each other would be an insult to the extraordinary life-long friendship we have. And it would diminish us both.
When she shouts from the summit (which she doesn’t, she just catches me up) it gives me thrills. Just as when I tell her that I climbed Mt. Kenya at 65, it does the same for her. What we do apart from each other raises both of us.
To me, Jessica, in so many ways, one of the great statements about our potential is how well we can embrace that which makes others exceptional. They are me and I am them. We are one body, one species, one human being. While that’s a tall order to be able to operate from that zone, it frees me from the pettiness that infects the mob.
In an interesting bit of reading that is in one of my favorite books, it states that we are “obliged to eat and be eaten.” This at its highest level speaks to how we allow ourselves to be consumed by lower forces (ugliness, hate, envy, greed, jealousy)which eat us like a cancer from the inside out. Or, we can choose to give ourselves up for consumption to higher forces, which means that we admire, celebrate, are grateful for, humbled by not only our life but that of others. I love this concept because it offers a clear choice. One way is madness. The other, we all rise.
Not an easy choice. However it speaks directly to the quality of our inner lives.
This same line of work, if you will, advises something very similar to what you say here. When you have achieved something, you’re allowed one pat on the back. One. Then get on with it. Because you and I have to ask what’s the motivation behind bragging, if that’s what we’re doing. If so, then we are so insecure, so desperate for validation, that we wave the flags of our supposed greatness in such a way that we intend to lord it over others. That’s one way of looking at it. Another is if my buddy simply tells me that she’s snagged this extraordinary job because she wants me to know about her life, and I fucking hate her for it. That has nothing to do with her. That’s my venomous self-loathing and insecurity. That’s not her problem. That’s mine.
All of this is damned hard personal work. Much if it is no fun. In this selfie-obsessed society we seem to be backsliding into the swamps of self hate driven by constant comparison to Instagram lies. Truth is, we’re all sacred. Truth is we’re all enough. Truth is every success touches who we are. Whether we can see that is a whole other ballgame.
Thanks for another great article.