Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day CVI: Stubborn

Even as a good and happy child, I was stubborn. I'm not particularly fond of not getting my way. You could say it's something of a work in progress. Something that could use a little more attention. Something I've been reluctant to admit.

You could say it's something I've been working on.

And that would be a lie. Maybe not a lie. That sounds deceitful, ill-mannered, caustic. It's merely an untruth. A statement that's not quite correct. An inaccuracy. (How fun to have so many ways to convince ourselves that we're better than the very raw, honest, visceral reality of a situation. It's too easy to be self-convinced of our betterness, to conflate goodness with less callous qualification.)

Perhaps that is where stubbornness lives? In that dissonant canyon between the actual and the created, between the truth and suggestion. To dig into that space is difficult. To float in that chasm and examine our own inability to be sincere, to find the genuine: it's not an easy task.

It would be a lie to say I'm working on my stubbornness. Attempts have been made. Countless conversations between myself and me, between me and him or her have tried illuminating strategies to mediate the bull-headed, scrunched-nose presence of my own inability to concede, to compromise, to understand. They aren't frequent dialogues. I don't spend days fixating on what's creating aversion, what's perpetuating the misery of an inflated ego. But they happen, with assured return, at a rate I would describe as "when necessary." And, of course, there's another issue: the subjectivity of necessary. The subjectivity of honest. The subjectivity of fair.

In her novel, The People in the Trees, Hanya Yanagihara's unreliable narrator writes
Beautiful people make even those of us who proudly consider ourselves unmoved by another's appearance dumb with admiration and fear and delight, and stuck by the profound, enervating, awareness of how inadequate we are, how nothing, not intelligence or education or money, can usurp or overpower or deny beauty.
Immediately, I was struck by the ignorance of the words. Surely beauty is not so supremely overriding as to command even the most commendable of traits. Do humor, kindness, transparency, or vulnerability account for nothing? It is Yanagihara's awareness of the subjectivity of beauty that settles her assertion on such stable ground. By understanding her position is reliant on the lack of universal beauty, that no two understandings of beauty will ever be wholly alike, there is concession. There is admission. There is "maybe she's right."

So I wonder: is acknowledging subjectivity--understanding that there will always be an infinite number of reflections in the same piece of cracked glass--the bane of stubbornness, the kryptonite of the anti-concession? And is that different than empathy?

In the rigid expanse where stubbornness lives, rarely do we see a glimpse of the other side. Rarely do we allow our ego to become second to change. Rarely do we construct that bridge waiting to be built with just a few extra planks of humility.

You could say "at least he's trying."

And that would be the truth.

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