Last week I read Stephen Jay Gould's essay, "The Median is not the Message" and in it the author says,
"Heart and head are focal points of one body, one personality,"
By which the author means that one's hope for oneself must also consider the facts about oneself but, the facts about oneself must be respectful of one's unique nature if hope for oneself is to be had.
It is helpful to understand where you fall in the bell curve and you can't be afraid to find out that you might be far from average.
George Orwell gives advice in "Why I Write" that is specific to writing but, could apply to a broader consideration of self-reflection and self-acceptance he says;
". . . there are four great motives for writing . . . they exist
in different degrees in every writer . . .
- Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc. etc. It is humbug to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one . . . Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
- Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose on the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not be missed . . .
- Historical Impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
- Political Purpose - using the word 'political' in the widest sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society that should strive after."
They all make sense to me and they are all hard to admit.
I like to make arguments that express my personal sense of who I am in the world. I feel more hopeful when I do. To sum Orwell, I am an egotistical lover of beauty who hungers for truth and change.
Gould wrote his essay when he was diagnosed in 1982 with abdominal mesothelioma, a rare and very deadly form of cancer, which technically speaking offered him, a "median mortality of eight months" to live. He took the time to understand who he was relative to the average and lived for 12 years.
His quote above is the resolution of the conflict between "what is" versus "what's possible" and, he postulates, a death sentence is only accurate if a person fails to appreciate, with head and heart, the unique variations s/he carries within. He concludes with sage advice,
"It has become, in my view, a bit too trendy to regard the acceptance of death as something tantamount to intrinsic dignity. Of course I agree with the preacher of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to love and a time to die - and when my skein runs out I hope to face the end calmly and in my own way. For most situations, however, I prefer the more martial view that death is the ultimate enemy - and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light."
Makes sense to me.