Listen to this story



Forget trying to love yourself.

Figure out why you’re lying to yourself.

Life is not a love story and this is not a romantic comedy.

In the end there is nothing. Sometimes people won’t love you.

How about: the better you are at calling bullshit on yourself, the less bullshit you’ll tolerate.

How, then, does vulnerability — my vulnerability — help the world to become a better place?

Sometimes I’ve thought that I could solve the puzzle. Quite simply, the idea of love doesn’t make sense.

Most people take it for granted that the extremity of the feeling fades little by little.

It seems to me foolish, then, that we should be content in the slow fade. Just let it end.

And so happiness, it seems to me, cannot be an aim in itself.

One is happy and one is sad. One cannot know happiness without sadness and one cannot know sadness without happiness. For those who say that there are many stages in between, well, perhaps.

But without vulnerability, without sincerity, I fail to see how one can ever know either extreme.

To know happiness, it seems to me, is to know sadness. How can it be any other way?

Emotions are…in effect, acknowledgements of neediness and lack of self-sufficiency (22).

The people who do not acknowledge neediness seem to be in the majority.

It seems as if the rest of the world got together without me and came to an agreement.

They decided that it would be better to hide all of that messy human vulnerability behind layers and layers of prescribed rules.

But in another sense, do we not all face similar problems?

Might it not be easier if everyone acknowledged, and then behaved as if every individual’s problems were universal problems? Because surely there is no problem that is unique to one individual and one individual alone in the history of the world.

‘In speaking for ourselves we speak for everyone’, says the artist.

Yes, the details change, and yes, the stories that we tell are unrealistically condensed and stripped of extraneous detail. But without all of the editing, the story would be just another story, and no one would care to listen.

Perhaps this is why truth is so often couched in stories and hidden in everyday life.

The creative storyteller writes about particular pain in order to prove that no pain is so particular that it is not also universal.

We separate further from them because we do not want them to see.

It is nearly too difficult to bear, even for ourselves. The intensity rises and becomes nearly impossible to bear when it feels as if a chorus from a Greek tragedy stands in judgment on the sidelines.

Emotions are forms of judgment…it is something close to this thesis that I shall defend.

So…do narcissists F.L.Y. too high?

Apparently, or so they say, we must learn to love ourselves before others will love us.

This pleasantry is supposed to mean something, but it does nothing to reverse the destruction.

We encounter hardships and come to need something that only another can provide; our sense of value…love and friendship still matter to us for their own sake.

— The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Nussbaum, 1986)

And so we cannot live in a fantasy. At the same time, we do not want to live in a world stripped of imagination.

My sense of personal identity motivates me on a day to day basis, even though I know very well that others may view my notion of personal identity, or continuity, as an “illusion.”

I acknowledge that my own sense of self may not be what others see, and in fact, likely is not, most of the time.

I am even willing to acknowledge that I probably have a less than average ability to read certain types of situations, and that I should have learned better by now.

To believe them would be to give up all further claims to my own sense of myself as a living being who is experiencing life.

When others tell me that I am a different person, and that the statements that come out of my mouth make no sense, then rationally I should stop talking because there should be nothing more for me to say.

I live my life on the assumption that I know myself best.

Without that most basic assumption, I would have no personal identity and that person wouldn’t be me as far as I’m concerned.

Who ever said that self-love was “selfish”? People also say that about suicide.

Specifically, I’m thinking about a recent experience that I had on an online dating site.

This particular fellow liked my profile pictures, which is fair enough, given that I selected them for this very reason.

Overall, I don’t think it’s worth getting too bent out of shape over instances such as this.

The point of this story is not that I did the right thing by refusing to strip or send naked pictures to the guy.

If we are characters in our own stories, then we are truthful insofar as we stick to our emotional barometers in any given situation.

One part of truthfulness is sincerity, if I understand Bernard Williams correctly.

But I don’t really believe that a person’s motivations and actions can be neatly tucked behind one noun.

Do I think that it is wrong to murder innocent people without cause?

It is the action itself that must be judged.

Given certain circumstances, almost anyone could become a murderer. If a murderer is killing me, and I have no other options, would I be justified in killing my murderer?

A less extreme example is the “alcoholic” or the drug addict; the person who is high on a day to day basis and cannot get a job.

Why can’t this person get a job?

I’m not really capable of lying, which is both a detriment — but it’s also something that I like about myself.

Making others feel better about my existence is not a forte.

I am made unlike any one I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better, but at least I am different.

— The Confessions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Ethical conflict stems from a lack of understanding between people rather than any true difference in moral character, most of the time.

I’d also like to think that a lack of complicity helps the process along. In other words, as long as we remain open to the possibility of changing ourselves, we are not lost.

Flannery has a PhD in Comparative Literature. She teaches French, Italian, and visual media. Her book on Taiwanese cinema can be found on Amazon.

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