On feeling ordinary

i'm great

I’ve been thinking it’s not healthy to feel you are above the crush of the morning train, too important to do the washing-up or that listening to someone who isn’t as witty as Oscar Wilde is beneath you. Yet sometimes I want to be somewhere else or with someone else. I feel restless and mildly irritated, like a resentful teenager condemned to spending Sunday with my parents when I just want to be with my friends.

What got me thinking about this was the French film The Dinner Game in which a group of friends find and invite ‘idiots’ to their monthly dinner. They then spend the evening secretly making fun of their guests. One particular dinner is cancelled but one ‘idiot’ turns up anyway. He is friendly, keen to please, very uncomplicated but on the whole just a nice bloke. By the end of the film the cool host realises that the ‘idiot’ is much more likeable and full of human warmth than he is and that for him to look down on such a person is both cruel and preposterous.

Yet sometimes I also have a tendency to dismiss people too easily. I make judgements about who is worth talking to and who isn’t, who and what should be avoided and how best to spend my precious time and I sometimes think I overdo it.

It seems to me that young Japanese children are especially curious about the world around them. Even when they get older they show more enthusiasm and interest than their rather world-weary, cynical peers over in England. The latter only seem to pay attention to things they either want to eat or sneer at. They are so full of themselves by the tender age of twelve there is little room for interest in anything else. They lack humility and perspective. The two groups remind me a little of the two men in The Dinner Game.

Perhaps having humility thrust upon you is a good lesson. I sometimes think that John Profumo’s fall from grace might not have been a blessing in disguise, though I’m sure it didn’t seem it at the time. One day he was being lionised and the next vilified by the whole world. Something similar happened to David Beckham after his sending off in the 1998 World Cup though he managed to regain his lionised status. Even so, he was probably a better man for his temporary fall from grace. The same might be true of bullies who get punched in the face. Rude awakenings can be useful.

There are people who insist that others recognise their specialness. They are like swaggering silverback gorillas and strutting peacocks. Yet surely feeling like you are among equals and belong is more pleasant than feeling superior to, but isolated from, those around you. And convincing yourself of your own ordinariness is surely easier than sitting for 10,000 hours in the lotus position while watching your breathing in an attempt to persuade yourself that ‘you’ don’t really exist; meditation’s way of deflating the ego. All you really need to do is take a long, hard look at yourself and your preciosity should burst like a bubble.


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