"Many people put forth a great deal of effort to free their minds, only to become a slave to their own ego." -unknown
Arrogance is an oily thing, greasing the passage of reality through the trembling fingers of people too afraid to wash it off. With this coating, this barrier in which they have covered themselves, they lubricate their understanding of the harsh world around them so that they can have the illusion of control. Normally this sad state would inspire pity. After all, they're terrified of something. Of the future, maybe. Or of the world truly knowing them. Of the certainty that they don't measure up to what they posture. So they demand authority in the face of their own terror. But what's as bad, people in turn give it to them.
I'm not speaking of confidence, which is paramount to happiness from what I can tell. I'm speaking of the idea that someone would feel more important than someone else on the most basic human level. As though the star-stuff that made them was different somehow. As though their joys and sorrows, victories and defeats were quantifiable by another human being on any level, and on top of that, one of the two was found lesser.
Mankind is a social animal, bound to form hierarchies in the ecosystems in which they find or make for themselves, be they of the mind (Intelligentsia), body (the physical world around us), or soul (religion). These are systems put together by humans, which to my estimation, are only the combination of their genes and means pushed through the sausage maker that is the human condition. This includes following the path of least resistance, just like water, explosions, or root systems. We are all the same on that fundamental level.
However, as frustrating as it is, arrogance has a place. If it didn't, it would inherently not exist. We create it because we need to defend ourselves from harsh truths in order to follow that same path of least resistance.
From passive aggression to unsolicited opinion to outright pissing contests, we find this everywhere, egos swollen by the battering of themselves upon other stubborn egos like rams fighting for dominance.
I'm a great example of this.
I've poured myself into my writing. I've left blood and marrow on the page, my eager eyes begging for people to pay attention. It's how I viewed my relationship with the world, which means my writing is how I define my place in it. I don't write for one person, but for everyone, each piece a prayer to the idea of a self-actualized Jungian collective.
It seems like a higher plane, an impossibility worth dying for, where we can look at one another and not simply see ourselves reflected back to us, but see the infinite wonder and possibility in which Life has chosen to steep us. And it's yielded results. I've received positive accolades from people whose opinions are paramount to me.
But that wasn't enough. This became my id, my view of how others saw me. I was no longer my interactions with the real world, but instead was the accumulation of the thoughts I put onto pixelated paper. It was my art, my craft, and all that I had to offer. And so, if people didn't know of my writing, I had to impress upon them the importance of it. I had to show them my existential value, my confidence. I had to prove beyond doubt that I was their peer, knowing that everyone else felt the same about their own "art," whatever that was. I projected the ridiculous standard that I had for myself onto those around me and found frustration when no one was doing the same. And I let my frustration be known. Hell, some people loved me for it.
But here's the irony of that: I was arrogant because I was terrified of not being known, but that same arrogance prevented people from knowing me. And having pushed them beyond arms reach, I found myself alone and surrounded by people that averted their eyes.
Until one day my brother pulled me to the side and spoke with me. We have more in common than either of us are willing to admit, so we are in a position to help one another with fresh eyes. What he said has shaped my mind since, and in listening to him, my perspective has now afforded me a chance to be happy with where I am in the world. It's allowed me to change for the better.
He said "You are not your writing." And he repeated it. And then again.
And upon my full realization of this, which took about a week, weight has fallen away to leave a well honed vigor for the people around me. I can afford to not care about how they see me, as I know that my faith in the potential of each and every one of us is not simply part of who I am, but is always made known in time. Of that, I am confident.
It might not be a path of least resistance. It's hard to bow out from the game of arrogance, especially when testosterone has carved swaths of skin across a once curly head of hair or when trials are defined by questions like "Is it as bad as when you went to war." But I know better. I am not my writing. I am not even my past. I am how I act in the world.
Having said that, I think Carl Sagan put it best in his speech entitled A Pale Blue Dot. Through this piece of writing, you can find humility without being humiliated, so I strongly recommend you check it out. Below you will find a video with an excerpt from said speech put together by a fellow cinephile that does an excellent job of demonstrating exactly what I mean. Hopefully you will be as moved as I was. Hopefully you'll be confident in the idea that even if you didn't read this, I'd wish you nothing but the best. Because we're all in this together.