Sunday morning, about 9 am: the sun is up, but the summer heat has yet to make its presence known. I'm sitting on the back patio watching the daily birdfest: the six or seven species who frequent this neighborhood are all competing for turf and breakfast, and while the robins are temporarily the Alpha Birds — the blue jays held this title last summer — there's plenty of activity lower down in the pecking order. The occasional squirrel who is foolhardy enough to venture into this domain is beset with screeches and swoops.

In other words, nothing particularly unusual for my back yard at this time of year. I yawn — 9 am is still kind of early, even if I get up at six on weekdays — stretch a bit, and look down at myself. The shock of not having any clothes on has long since worn off, and there's a load of laundry underway besides, but for some reason it occurs to me that this is an awfully self-indulgent way to spend a Sunday morning.

I return to my desk, where I've only recently filed away all the receipts from World Tour '05, and it hits me again: did I really spend two thousand dollars and odd to go gallivanting across a quarter of the country for the sheer hell of it? Five times, yet?

Over in the living room, there's a floor lamp that is far more decorative than functional, which I spent entirely too much time putting together. Everywhere I look, there's an example of something I probably could have done without, but didn't.

Now why is this happening? My first thought is that it's a bit of residual guilt from the days when I was a bit farther to the left politically: as Mort Sahl once snarked, "Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they've stolen." But maybe that's not it either: while I've presumably slid rightward, I don't feel exactly gleeful over having a houseful of stuff, or over the willingness to spend time on doing absolutely nothing.

I went back through the archives and found this rueful statement from Christmas 2001:

I seem utterly to lack a sense of entitlement. My birthright, so far as I know, is to draw a finite number of breaths, and that's the end of it; anything else that happens during the interim is a matter of chance.

At the time, though, I was bewailing a lack of romance; it hardly seems relevant to the current discomfiture. And I suspect that had that void been filled in the interim, I'd probably be typing something about how I can't possibly deserve that, either.

Then again, it's not like I have any reason to make my life look like, or even sound like, anyone else's. The dynamics of jealousy are fearful, and I would rather avoid them if I could. Besides, as Francis W. Porretto writes:

Envy is a deep failing, but beneath it lies a deeper one: the assumption that the worth of one's life and station is determined by how they compare to others'.

It is one of the pervasive errors of our time not merely to apply a comparative standard to human lives, but to act as if equalizing the conditions and stations of all men is a moral obligation. The unskilled are regarded as oppressed because they cannot command the salaries of professionals and executives. Cripples are regarded as oppressed because they cannot become star athletes. Dullards are regarded as oppressed because they can't acquire college degrees. The ugly and graceless are regarded as oppressed because they come off badly in social situations, particularly with regard to romance. And those who've coppered their bets on the profitability of sowing guilt among the innocent harangue us from dawn to dusk about our obligation to raise all these folks to our level.

And with the exception of the occasional moment at work when I wonder just what sort of nimrods exist in this freaking industry, I don't feel oppressed, except to the extent that I put the squeeze on myself.

So for the moment, I think my best bet is to ignore these occasional twinges. If I am self-indulgent — and I have a blog, fercrissake, and what could be more self-indulgent than that? — it's not in any way that's likely to prove self-destructive. (Neither slower debt-reduction nor deeper suntan is going to kill me.) But blowing them off, I'm sure, will prove easier said than done.

The Vent

#447
1 August 2005

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