On good days, I remind myself of a cuckoo clock. There are no bad days.
Like Yours, Like Anyone’s
When you take advantage of someone in any kind of dealing, business or otherwise, you may think you have gotten away with something, but you have really only sold yourself. For a few pennies, millions, or a sense of power, you have sold your dignity. You have sold another chance of friendship and goodwill. Not only have you sold these things, you have perpetuated animosity and crime, however legal it may be, and called it an artful transaction. And you have, in the very same instant, told the world, “Now see if you can outsmart me.” But there is no art in this way of life. There is only a mirror at home that smiles at you, then laughs at you and despises you when you turn away. That’s the sick feeling you carry around inside you, which pops up and expresses itself at the most inopportune times, and gradually and steadily compromises your body and mind. So the next time you charge “all the market will bear,” or rake some poor timid soul over the coals, remember, the world is watching. Your children are watching. Everyone is. Every creature, every tree, every cloud. Life itself knows what you have done, and knowing this says, “Now we must balance things.” And then — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon — comes your gut ache, your heart ache, your unfortunate illness, the desertion of your selfish offspring when you grow old. Whether you hate people in power or admire them, what good are you if you also, on whatever small scale, emulate their behavior? What good are you if you are the petty dictator of your office or family? How are you different from a dictator on the world stage? Does having less money and less power make you less of a dictator? No. It makes you a sad want-to-be. Beer or champagne, peanuts or caviar — if this is the extent of your existence and the limit of your thinking, then don’t be surprised when it turns out to be your reward. And if you ask me, “Who the hell do you think you are?” I will simply say, “No one. No one at all. Just a fellow traveler of yours who has learned the hard way and is not embarrassed or ashamed to say so, and who knows his life can end at any moment. Like yours. Like anyone’s whom you claim to love.”
Recently Banned Literature, March 11, 2017
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