Tuesday, February 4, 2014


An actor dies of an overdose, and a Washington Post style writer admits to anger at the violation of "artistic responsibility."

A mixed-race Asian-American man confesses to feeling undesirable, and some commentators seem to go out of their way to put him down.

And I wondered - when did we decide that letting slip the fact that not everything is perfect become reason to see people as having transgressed against us? Why be angry or bitter at Messrs. Hoffman or Cho? What harm have they done to us? What injury is salved by excoriating them? How does deciding that they are culpable in their imperfections make the world a better place?

Part of me wants to analyze - to create a narrative that would explain why people see being unlike themselves as somehow sinful. There is an answer. There is always an answer. And I want to find it. But what good would it serve? If I determine that the anger and bitterness are the result of people being damaged and unhappy, would that bring Mr. Hoffman back from the dead? Or lead Mr. Cho to self-acceptance?

I understand that to express anger at Hoffman's death from drugs violates my personal taboo against speaking ill of the dead. And that to put down Cho for suffering from a form of self-loathing is to kick a man when he is down. And so I realize that part of me is stirred to the defense. And so - do I simply want to purchase my own self-esteem with the idea that I resisted, this time at least, the world's penchant for meanness? Am I seeking to understand other people's vices to show myself my virtues? If I cannot mount a defense of those who are attacked, must I at least show that I am better than their attackers?

One stop on the road to self-acceptance is learning to accept others - even when they are less accommodating. Sometimes, the faults we see in others are the reflections of the faults we wish to excise in ourselves. To the degree that the analytic impulse is about proving to myself that I am accepting, it does, of course, prove the opposite. And so I must let it go. The paradox is maddening. But in that madness, lies peace of mind.

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