I want to be the man she sees when she looks at me.
That’s a country song, ain’t it? It’s the first line of the hook. That’s fun for me, and everything like that is fun for me, but it’s more fun because it’s so painfully real.
In love more than anything, and in my marriage to Cathleen more than once, I have seen myself at my worst, much to my shame. Those are good words — I have seen my self at my worst — the kind of words that, the more you worry them over, the more you find yourself thinking the way I think.
But: Being eloquent about bad behavior is ever the poet’s absolution, and I absolve myself nothing. I know I have done badly by Cathleen, because I have seen myself doing it. And because, having done it, by impetus of memory I can never stop seeing myself doing it.
And yet, when she looks at me, she almost never sees anyone but the man I could and should always have been.
I want to be that man.
I want to be good, I want to be good, I want to be good — I’ve always wanted to be good, and I’ve always known what the good was to me — my own ego. And I’ve done a pretty good job of developing and defending my ego, I think, not so much in spite of the resistance I’ve run up against but because if it.
But I’ve won much of my freedom, I know, by scaring would-be bosses-of-me away. I’ve never hit anyone, not since I was a boy. I’ve never needed to: I can lay a lash on you that will sting forever in ten words or fewer.
But here’s a fact of nature I managed to learn in just fifty short years of careful study: Not everyone is trying to be the boss-of-me.
Many people are, of course, and one of the things I’ve loved about living my life so publicly, at BloodhoundBlog, is that I get to see dominance games I’ve been watching my whole life, but I get to see them out-of-phase, repeatably, in linkable, quotable text. If you want an education in how mobs try to dominate individuals, there is a four-year university course in the archives — not just here but all over the net.
And I am just the man for the job of standing down howling mobs. This is a role I relish, and I know it. Being scorned by hordes of people doesn’t prove me right — nor them wrong. But my belief is that, if I am right about the ego, I should expect to be met with howls of outrage.
Bully for me. All of that is stupid by my own standards, the mob wasting its time trying to dominate me, and me wasting time flicking rhetorical boogers at the mob and its manipulators.
That’s not my job. Nothing of evil is my job, not even opposing it.
I want to be good! — and what that means is that my concern, my particular concern is — get this — with the good. I’m all about ontology — being — all the time, but philosophy is always, always, always about teleology — shoulding.
Here is the shoulding of me: If I want to claim that I live my life to the right of the zero on the number line, then I should expect to see myself living in the world of values and not of disvalues, of should and not should-not.
I want to get shed of the idea of evil in every way, and I want to get shed, even, of the idea of should-not. I don’t need to think about what you or I or anyone should not do, except to know that I myself should not do those things, and I should not waste my time — nor soil my character — with people who do.
What could be more simple? But there’s more there for me, because I think that I should go the further step of documenting everything I know about being good — about being an egoist in the way that I understand it. I have known all my life that I have to do this. I have to do it in order to be satisfied with myself — more very useful words.
Cathleen sees me at my best partly because she has seen more of what I am talking about than anyone else I have ever known. She’s seen more of it in my behavior, and she’s lived with me explaining everything I think about in excruciating detail for many years.
But Cathleen also sees me at my best because she is loving and generous: She credits me with a virtue I have not yet earned.
But I don’t want anything I haven’t earned, not even from a woman I love so much, and who I want so much to love me. I want to have earned and deserved everything I see in her eyes when I see her looking at me.
And so I’m going to do this. I don’t know how — or how quickly. I’ve been thinking about this since 1988, since the last time I attempted to describe the world I see in a comprehensive way. I’ve been actively dreading it for the past several years, not alone because I can hear enough howling from mobs.
But this is who I need to be. I’m tired of living half-behind camouflage, and I think there are more people than me who need to see the world as I do. And even if there aren’t, I don’t care. I burn, burn, burn with these ideas, and I don’t want to die without having made them as real as I can make them, without raising a defiant fist to the entire anegoic mob of human history, without shouting, for once at least, that the self is the essence of human life and that my self is my only reason for living and that building and burnishing and perfecting my ego is my only goal in life.
More comedy: Greg loves Cathy, and he proves it by writing, not by loving Cathy directly — and by writing about himself, not her! Take heart, I do love Cathy in many more direct ways all the time — and yet I never love her better than when I write words that she will be the first person to read. And for that reason, Greg’s plan for living up to Cathleen’s love for him consists of — what? — of writing, not simply loving Cathy directly.
I live up to her — and to everything I love in her — by living as my best, my most perfect self. I don’t get to live in words — so easy to correct, so easy to perfect — but the best of my love of my life is found in the loving words I have made for it — for my life and for Cathleen’s. It’s serious, because everything of the human ego is serious and serene and radiant, but it’s funny, too, because everything of life is comical and joyous and light and free. The best parts of the fully-human life are met with a smile, at a minimum — and a smile and kiss is even better.
I love my life. I love my wife. I want for my wife to be able to love a man at least as good as the man she sees when she’s looking at me. I want for my Cathleen to love the man she deserves, the man who loves her as she deserves to be loved. I want more than anything to be that man.
This is how I choose to begin to be him.
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day.