Full Deck by Barbara Shulgasser-Parker

October 1, 2007


Filed under: 1 — bshulg @ 7:35 pm

Esteem should be awarded only on evidence. I think Thorstein Veblen said that. Thorstein and I agree one hundred percent, but we comprise an increasingly shrinking minority. I mean, for the last thirty-five years or so every form of pop therapy – in complete misinterpretation of the works of J.D. Salinger, of Hermann Hesse, of all those popularizers of the thoughts of Buddha – has relentlessly instructed us that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself, that you’re not worthy of the love of others until you love yourself. People plop themselves into therapy, bury themselves in self-help books and blandly chant the jargon of the moment, all of it in proud announcement of a desire to forgive themselves, to embrace who they are, to love themselves. It is my experience that people who proclaim self-love not only don’t love themselves, but often have very good reason not to. Why embrace who you are if you are awful? Thus good old Thorstein. When you decide to love yourself based on no good reason, without having earned it, without having gone out into the world and accomplished something that merits one’s own admiration of oneself, then what the hell good is it? One of human nature’s greatest coping mechanisms is the ability to lie to oneself, which reminds me that my favorite New York Times front page headline of the decade is the one proclaiming that incompetent people don’t know they are incompetent. I extrapolate from this the obvious: that stupid people don’t know that they are stupid, talentless people think they are talented and monsters believe they are saints.

     The battle against self-love is what every decent philosophy, every effort to socialize man’s unruly nature – from the Ten Commandments to table manners – is all about. You don’t have to work at self-love. You’re born with it. Frankly the last person on earth I’d want to spend any time with is someone who loves himself. Loving yourself is not something that can be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job. Unceasing vigilance is required. And what could be more horrifying, or boring, than that smug self-satisfaction of the self-loving? (more…)


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