Friday, June 11, 2010
A guy pulled up beside me at a traffic light. Nothing special, but he seemed oddly serene. He wasn't singing or talking on the cellphone. He wasn't rocking impatiently. He struck me as a man who was taking it all in.
His sedan was dark but not flashy; it needed a wash. Not an overachiever, I decided. His passenger window was partially open. The guy knows and likes himself; I could tell by the way his lip curled up at the corner. He's obviously not trying to be a hero. Probably likes a girl somewhere but she may or may not care. His life is insignificant to the people in, say, Haiti, but he's fine waiting patiently for the green light.
I envied him. And the next guy. Watching people makes me wonder if I'm the odd one out. Maybe I'm wired differently. Everyone seems content to live life, to enjoy pleasures, and to find significance in small treasures.
Why do I want to have some kind of colossal impact on the world? Why can't I just be a normal guy? Not everyone's first impulse is to try to fix people, right? "If they'd listen to me their life would be better," I think to myself almost daily.
Yes, I do see the irony in that. I wish I could reprogram my brain. I'd love to stop trying to change the world and just enjoy it. What if I could appreciate people without trying to improve them?
I'm jealous of people who feel no particular compulsion to help people or be the best. They seems the happiest. Maybe they're keenly aware of their imperfections and have achieved peace with themselves? Like that guy in the car. Or maybe they just don't give a crap and are making the most of the days as they come? Like that other guy in the other car.
Either way seems better than having a deep drive to be special, but an acute awareness of your mediocrity. I wonder if the tragic Venetian composer Salieri ever wished that he didn't understand music so well. Without his musicianship he never would have known how inferior to Mozart he was.
Sometimes I feel like the tortured Salieri. Everyone else in the world is enjoying their waltz through life, either by genius or dumb indifference. I on the other hand am plagued by my desire to be great but inability to succeed. Lately I've been wishing I were dumber. Like that stupid guy in the car.