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 preposterous.

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 time.

Japanese and English children remind me a little of the two men in The Dinner Game. Young Japanese children seem 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 spend most of their time sneering at something or other. They are so full of themselves that there is no room for an interest in anything else. They lack humility and perspective.

Perhaps having humility thrust upon you is a good lesson. I sometimes think that John Profumo’s fall from grace might have been a blessing in disguise, though I’m sure it didn’t seem it at the time. One day he was being lionised by society and the next he was 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 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 or strutting peacocks. Yet surely feeling like you are among equals is more pleasant than feeling superior to those around you. And convincing yourself of your own ordinariness must surely be easier than trying to deflate your ego through, say, meditation. All you really need to do is take a long, honest look at yourself and your preciosity should burst like a bubble.

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