To live in modern culture is to swallow bitter pills. When I hide the pills under my tongue, spit them out when the "social gatekeepers" are not looking, wonderful things start to happen. Let me explain.
During my years at university, my opinions were not kept to myself. I participated in many stimulating conversations about society and what might make it a better place to live. My concern, for members of society who are unable to effectively lobby for their own interests, was not appreciated by many of my fellow academics. One "gentleman" went so far as to disparagingly call me a "bloody bleeding heart". Considering the source of this intended slur, I was both flattered and disgusted. However, from my present vantage point, I now believe he mistook my concern for ambition. Had he been correct, I believe the slur might have been deserved.
He could not conceive that anyone would concern themselves with the less fortunate, unless building a career or name for themselves. I could not conceive that anyone would concern themselves with the less fortunate, unless they felt a deep committment and concern for all the members of the human community. He was wrong and I was a fool.
My career path has brought me into close contact with two distinct types of individuals. The first, I consider to be exceptional, in their spirit rather than their overt accomplishments. My feelings about the second group changed over time; they became increasingly frightening as I got to know them. The thin veil of legitimacy, goodwill and social concern, that initially surrounded the second group, eventually fell away to reveal a hard core of raw ambition. I find ambition disturbing at the best of times, and even more so when hidden behind a veil of goodwill.
Lately, it seems that ambition has gained much popularity as a cultural icon and an ideology onto itself. Recent observations leave me unable to discern if it has completely overgrown decency and integrity. In any event, people seem unwilling or unable to touch each other's lives in meaningful and satisfying ways.
And that is why I have been thinking lately, that I just don't believe in "people" anymore.
"Just another of life's bitter pills," I thought.
Then an epiphany of chance allowed me the opportunity to spit out those bitter pills. And spit them out I did.
A few days ago, I received an email from a reader. It was simple and to the point, asking me what was meant by the phrase "quietly assertive", as someone once described my writing. I found the reader's question piercing and profound, because it addressed the very reason why I write this journal.
I considered the message carefully. Not everyone who writes is sincere. I returned to the message several times during the evening, and finally, the next day, decided at last that it felt "right". I replied. How glad I am.
The reader wrote back to share a bit about their own life, its challenges and rewards. The reader is a person who belongs to the first group of individuals I described, those who are rich in spirit.
Dear reader, thanks for sharing, it was a wonderful thing.
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