May 20, 2009

I'm a Proud Bitch

I'm a proud bitch. This is not a guilt-laden confession, but a simple statement of fact. I crouch in the back of the classroom like a vulture looking for weakness. After five wrong answers, I toss out the correct one with nonchalance and then pat myself on the back not simply for being smart, but for being smarter, and being able to prove it so deftly. And all the while another part of me is standing there observing it with curious dispassion.

A friend recently told me that ego not only builds us up, but tears us down as well. My ego pats me on the back for my intelligence, wit, and ability to turn a phrase. Simultaneously, it bites me on the ankle with the belief that I lack any form of genuine wisdom or anything worthwhile to say.

I have this habit (we have this habit) of divorcing myself from my ego. "The devil made me do it." It's not that simple. One thing my mother taught me is to take responsibility. So while a piece of me may be able to stand in the back of my mind and observe while another piece of me pushes me around like a bully in the schoolyard, that doesn't mean I'm off the hook.

The question is not whether or not I am a proud bitch. That is a given. It isn't even a value judgment of whether that is good or bad. The question is, what should I do about it? In order to answer this, I need to understand why I am a proud bitch, who does this benefit, who does this harm, what are the alternatives and their benefits and harms, and how to I change things? That's what the observer is for. She's not there to offer congratulations or recriminations.

This all sounds very mechanical, very logical, as Spock would say, but that's also beside the point. What drives this entire conversation going on inside my head is compassion - the desire to be free from suffering and to free others from suffering. At the very least, to try. Compassion is not dispassionate. Compassion is "suffering together with another; the feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another, and by the desire to relieve it." Dispassion, or freedom from passion, apathy, can never bring one to this end, no matter how astute the observation or understanding.

So, the fact that I am a proud bitch means I am capable of compassion, for pride itself is a strong emotion and causes much suffering. I, by no means, have am exclusive patent on its use. This thing that I have come to see in myself, otherwise known as a flaw in my character, is not without its own subtle purpose. As long as I have the ability to discern and correct, I never need to get too down on myself and all the ways I'm a horrible person. And I never need to spend to much time building myself up and making myself perfect and impenetrable either, since in the end, they are much the same thing.

I can be a proud bitch and that's okay because it's a fundamentally workable person to be.

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