(One year we returned to school, only to find that our large table had disappeared. We found out from an assistant dean it had been placed up on the third floor in the “quiet study” lounge. We rolled up our sleeves, and the silly little table that was our substitute, and proceeded up the three flights of stairs to the “quiet” lounge. We dumped off the dinky, told those studying “Sorry, change of plans,” and proceeded to roll our large table all the way back down to the corner of the commuter lounge. We pulled up chairs and got on with our school year. I remember someone in the lounge moaning “Oh god, they’re back.” We sure were. BTW: No one moved our table for the next 3 years.)
|"Animal Corner" ala Camelot|
Almost three decades went by. When the shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003, I sent her my condolences. I was aware that some of these astronauts were her friends. I also sent her a copy of my first book. Eventually I heard back from her that she had received the book, skimmed through it, but really didn't understand it. It wasn't her thing. That was it - no "Good for you" or "Congrats." - nothing supportive at all. I figured she was curt because she was busy and shrugged it off.
A few years later, our Alma Mater was giving my friend an award. She would be in town. Could I pick her up for a visit? I was delighted! On the specified evening, I met her at the University. She got into my car with a load of scrap books, looked at me and said “What happened to your hair?”
“I cut it short.”
“Looked better when it was long.”
“Yeah – 30 years ago, maybe.”
Next I was asked to take her to a CVS so she could pick up some essentials. After that, we went to my house. She walked in, looked around and said “I'm not afraid of color. You should see MY house.”
I had invited another college chum to join us. When this woman came through the door, she looked at Sally and happily exclaimed, “I would know you anywhere!”
The response? “I'm not sure I would know you. I work out to keep in shape.”
The rest of the evening went along those same lines. I was a published author and teacher. My other friend was a scientist with Lockheed Martin. Sally was having none of our adventures. We sat through books of awards and stories about her sporting events for the rest of the visit.
The next evening, she again asked if I could take her to another shop. Afterwards, we stopped for ice cream. I started to tell her about my friendship with Pauline Campanelli and how I missed her. (Sally is into art; Pauline was a famous artist. I thought it would interest her.) I saw a look of complete and utter boredom on Sally's face. “Did I tell you all this before?”
“No. It's just – I don't know this person, so...” and shrugged off the rest of my tale.
We parted that evening. The next day was the awards ceremony (I was not invited), and then she was winging home. As I pulled away from the college, after dropping her off, I remembered why I had stopped writing to her. I would always pen a personal letter, no matter how busy I was. In return, I started getting form letters, like I was part of some fan based group. (Today, she would have blogged instead of writing.)
So, why am I telling you this? Well, I periodically look on line for news of long lost or past friends and classmates. I had seen Sally's various web sites, proclaiming her successes and making sure folks knew she was available for public speaking. She describes herself in glowing terms. “Well, good for her,” I would think to myself. I suppose we all do a little self-promoting from time to time. After all, I don't have book signing and tell the folks my books are mediocre, do I?
However – this week – a large news operation did a story on our Sally, now that the shuttle missions are ending. The photo they used was of our gal, dressed as an astronaut. Sally has never gone into space. Physically, she didn't qualify. So why the get-up? I thought of those who went into the unknown and risked their lives. I also thought of the Challenger and the Columbia where lives were lost. This, to me, was just more "Showboating Sally" - and I found it very sad.
|I blotted out her face to protect her I.D.|
I had to ask myself, when does accepting recognition and acknowledging our accomplishment turn into Hubris? I've boasted to folks (kiddingly) that I could hurt them without leaving a fingerprint, so they'd better behave. Can I? Well...yeah, not that I would. Was I being Prideful? Humm...maybe so.
How do we usually feel about those Witches and Pagans who declared themselves “King” and “Queen”? Those of you who are a tad older in the community, remember the “witch wars” when certain folks (seemed like one on every corner) declared them-
selves the teacher of the one true Wiccan path – and fie on the rest of you phonies. Were they defenders of the faith, or just puffed up glory hounds?
I still find some of this extreme self-aggrandizement among our ranks, although happily less and less. I think there is something lacking in folks who have to extol their own merits so aggressively. Shakespeare wrote: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” ... but that doesn't mean they get to thrust it upon everybody else!
Aesop had a fable about the results of Hubris: There were two cocks fighting in a barnyard. (Get your minds out of the gutter, the bunch of ya!). One rooster eventually won, and the loosing cock quietly removed himself from the hens and rested in the shade of a far corner.
The winning cock sprang to the top of the hen house. He ruffled his feather, flapped his wings and crowed as loudly as he could, announcing his victory.
At that moment, an eagle was flying overhead. He saw the bright plumage, the flapping wings, and heard the victory call. He honed in on that, and snatched the rooster right off the roof. Later, he became a tasty lunch, and the “looser” cock ruled the hen house from that day forward.
When my niece was small, she started to brag about her reading skill. I told her to try being a bit more humble. Did she know what that was?
“Sure,” she said, puffing out her tiny chest. “I read it in one of my books: It's when you're not too proud, and close to the ground.”
I think it may be time for all of us to get closer to the ground, and let our intelligence, abilities, and achievements speak for themselves, for a change.