I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.”
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
With all my discussion of my lack of focus, lack of time, and lack of self-discipline, I thought I should pause for a moment to qualify that I'm not really complaining about my lot in life. I am well aware of how outrageously priviledged I am to live the life I do and have the advantages that I have. My growing self-awareness has highlighted just how much I could potentially achieve if I could find some drive and focus. Or just access some drive and focus, because I don't think I don't have those qualities, or that I've somehow lost them.
And this is what I'm complaining about: that I have neglected myself. I have had many opportunities and many advantages and time and again I've failed to grab them and use what I have. These meandering posts of self-examination are my way of trying to drum this into my head and gain some momentum and energy so that I can grab these advantages and use them.
In addition to the reading I've been doing over the past year, and some amazing forums and blogs that deal with priviledge, I've watched three reality TV shows over the past few months that have really helped me to gain some perspective on just how lucky and priviledged I am. The shows are Blood, Sweat, and Take-Aways (a group of young Britons live and work in Indonesia's fast food production industry for a few weeks), Blood, Sweat, and T-Shirts (another group living and working in India's sweatshops), and Britain's Missing Top Model (a group of variously disabled women competing for a chance to become an elite model). Although there are many moments in these shows that are cringeworthily offensive in the sheer presumption and superiority of the first two and exploitation of the subjects of the third, it is really this embarrassment factor that pushes the perspective shift and the acknowledgement of priviledge.
Something else these shows deal with is self-pity. Usually it is the most priviledged person who displays the most self-pity in the face of hardship, until circumstances and awareness of the worse plight of another person brings perspective. I think this route to self-awareness is a very powerful one. We learn this lesson best when it is brought to us through a little bit of embarrassment and guilt and a desire to try and make things a little better somehow.
I quite like the D.H. Lawrence quote at the start of this post, and I've tried to make it a motto in the past without real success. I now know why it doesn't quite sit right with me. It's only half the story. It's what makes animals so strong, but what sets humans apart from them. Here's my response to Lawrence:
A little bit of self pity provides context for empathy and compassion for others.
A reminder that David Baboulene, author of The Story Book, will be joining me on Tuesday, 29 March on a stop of his blog book tour. Don't miss it.