I am sometimes accused of being egotistical, and I own that charge in a sense. Without an ego, none of us accomplishes anything. The rub comes when we confuse what we are with what we do.
What am I? I am someone born into a loving, stable family, and I am blessed with reasonably good health. I am above average intelligence and a product of what was once the world's best educational system.
Above all, I am someone who had the great good fortune to live most of my life in America in the last half of the 20th Century.
All of that is, of course, an accident of birth, and none of that is something I should take pride in, anymore than I should take pride in the color of my hair or eyes – or the color of my skin.
As for what I've done, that falls far short of what I should have accomplished, given all the advantages that fell to me by accident of birth. Thus, I haven’t the slightest reason to be egotistical in the derogatory sense in which that label is pinned on me.
Whenever I am tempted to be egotistical in that sense, God or Fate or whatever has been eternally vigilant in finding imaginative and excruciating ways of keeping me humble.
To cite just one small instance, a friend had written Descartes famous dictum “cogito; ergo sum” on a whiteboard at church. I took the liberty of “correcting” him and rewrote it as “cognito; ergo sum”, proving my ignorance of Latin and that I’d never read Descartes. Needless to say, my friend took great pleasure in “educating” me.
But perhaps I am egotistical, since even that sorry episode wasn’t sufficient to keep me from later having the temerity to add my own postscript to Descartes famous dictum:
“I think; therefore, I am; I am that I may be.”
Becoming has been a long slow painful process for me, and it has not been very becoming. But though I have fallen far short of becoming what I hoped and doing what I dreamed of doing, I have learned to accept myself as I am.
One thing that’s helped is a powerful teaching I received from another friend, a Native American shaman:
“You can know what you do, but you can’t know what you do does.”
The truth of that teaching has been brought home to me time and again, and I have been blessed to discover some good I have done has reverberated far beyond my original purpose and intent.
It may be a cliché, but it is no less true that our every act is like a pebble thrown into a pond; our deeds spread out in ever-widening circles far beyond our ability to perceive the consequences.
Unfortunately, that's as true of the ill we do as it is of the good we do. Thus, it behooves us to follow an old Cherokee wisdom saying:
“Walk in a good way.”
©2011 Tom Cordle