Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Been doing some thinking on the nature of jealousy and envy. I tend to draw a distinction between the two. Neither comes out sounding very good in the dictionary. The definition for “jealous” contains the word “bitter” and the definition for “envy” uses “discontent” and “resentment”.

I regard envy as fairly neutral. When I see a nice car, I envy the guy driving it, but I bear no animosity.

I have a brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are real pieces of work. She’s psychotic. She’s my wife’s sister--there seems to be a strong streak of psychosis in that bunch. But anyway…The two of them have never reached hard for anything. She’s a part-time liquor store clerk and he works courtroom security—also known as sitting on his ass all day in the courthouse. But to listen to them when someone drives by in a nice car, or they pass a fancy house, is an education in the ugliness of jealousy. It’s always accompanied by invective. While I say “Wow, look at that Lamborghini”, he says “Look at that rich cocksucker in his fancy car”. I just hope I don’t have to take up that habit when I finally make it.

They’re not the only ones. I see that same reaction from a lot of people. There are people I’m envious of, but I can’t dredge up any hostility. Is it the other guy’s fault that I just haven’t hit the right formula yet? Frankly, I know some people who are in situations I envy, and I have exactly the opposite feeling. I’m glad for them.

There was a festering situation here a couple of years ago. An interim supervisor was needed and the person with the most skills and experience was appointed to the position. It completely ruined a friendship because the erstwhile friend felt that she, not the more experienced person, should have gotten the position. That’s not friendship. When good things happen to people, true friends are glad for them.

And exactly what is to be envied, anyway? Money? Money would get that ketch-rigged sailboat that I’ve always wanted, but it wouldn’t necessarily afford me the time to go out and enjoy it. Quite the opposite, the demands of a high-income producing job might well serve to preclude leisure activities.

Position? I don’t know. A craftsman may have no upward mobility, but he may derive great joy each day from producing objects of tremendous beauty and utility. I’m no more envious of corporate jets and power lunches than I am of the satisfaction of a difficult creation well made. Maybe less so.

A beautiful wife? No guarantees there.

Situation. Doing something you enjoy, living the way you want to. Now that’s what we strive for. Some get there. Some get there a bit later. Some never do. But that what we want, and that’s what we strive for. And to hurl epithets at those who’ve found it in their way is ridiculous.

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