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12/13/2006 Archived Entry: "Project crash/thoughts on friendship"

A VERY BIG PROJECT MAY BE ABOUT TO CRASH. If it's lost, it will much more than a financial blow. A book that needs to be written won't be. It's a book that could possibly have put me into the mainstream -- or at least the respectable libertarian main street, the kind mentioned on LewRockwell.com.

A book that might, if done well, have someday changed the world.

Just as I can't say what book it is, I won't trot out the details or opine about whose fault the potential crack-up is. But if all doesn't go well from this moment, a friendship is at risk and there could be a lot of immediate anger and chaos, and possibly modest but still very painful financial cost. That's more important right now than whether some non-existent book ever comes to existence.

I'm working with a partner whom I've known by email for several years but with whom I have never before worked. This person and I respect each other and have some tentative trust in each other. And that matters so much to me that, if it comes to that, I'd rather lose in the battle of "who effed up" here and retain the friendship than "win" in the battle of "I'm right and you're not" and lose two more important things: friendship and peace.

I'm kinda mad at him right now. He may be mad at me; I don't know. I'm kinda mad at myself right now and I'm guessing he's mad at himself, too. And each of us may be gritting teeth and leaning toward the "mad at the other guy" side, since that's the place it feels better to be. But this stomach-acidy state, I believe, won't last.

I think this is one of the few great virtues of getting older -- this shrugging off the bristly, porcupiny old ego and saying, "Screw being right. Life's too short to go 'round having to be right all the time."

In my youth, I could be a self-righteous ass.

I had no clue that I was a self-righteous ass. That came many years later when I was perusing one of those articles about "How to put up with the office pests." I was snorting right along, shuddering at the office lech and getting all hackly about the office backbiter, when I crashed right into the office person who always has to push her righteousness about everything. Oh. My. God.

Since then I've been trying to reform, but ... well, I'm human. I'm imperfect. So I struggle with that. And not always successfully.

But really, it's not worth it to be in perpetual discord just because you're &^%$#@!ing right and the other guy's &^%$#@!ing wrong. I mean, of course you have to be comfortable with the peace. Once you've said, "Pal, I'm admitting you're right and I owe you an apology or even recompense if you say so," then you say, "But now that that's out of the way, I need to tell you my perception, okay?" And you work out the terms of the treaty, so to speak so that no one gets crushed or walks away grumbling and feeling abused.

And so instead of getting to be right, you get to be happier and friendships deepen. And it's even possible that, out of that new accord, the project might be reborn or reinvogorated. Or some future project might take root.

I pity the people who don't take advantage of this one bright blessing of aging. I bet everybody reading this has known somebody who just remained bitterly self-righteous right into rotten old age. And bitter is the operative word. They become more and more isolated as they drive everyone away from them. They wear every day like a hair shirt. They mutter to themselves because there's no one left who's willing to be muttered at any longer.

My father was like that. He lived into a doddering old age -- far beyond anyone else in his already long-lived family -- and loathed every day of it. Anyone who dared try to converse with him started loathing their day, pretty quick, too.

His example was part of what made me change my choices -- anything it takes not to become like him.

Now, I'm lucky. I can channel a lot of that kind of holier-than-thou stuff into articles and blog rants. I know a lot of people don't have that luxury. And some don't allow themselves that luxury when they have the opportunity. Because of this channeling, and because I've re-ordered my priorities, my inner ass still exists, but she doesn't get loose as often as she used to.

But think of all those people out there, still aching to have the last word on everything -- people aching not merely to persuade or badger, but to force others to conform to their will. Now, if you or I do it, the poor bodies we're dumping on can get away -- unless they're our children. But if politicians and bureaucrats do it, everyone's trapped. And these days these neurotic people who insist upon having the final say over others and who are so wretchedly insecure and hostile to free choice that they keep on feeling like that into middle age and beyond -- are the ones running everything.

Yeah, instead of mumbling in corners, being avoided by everyone who wants to have a life, they're running the planet. And the more dazzling political ones (those who cloak their "I'm rightness" in the superficial charm of the sociopath and the cache of the ivy league grad) are the toast of the planet and practically the only subject NPR ever covers. Is that bassackwards, or what?

Posted by Claire @ 06:03 PM CST

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