I was reading David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon commencement speech (found here) and got to the part where he speaks about avoiding the dangers of close-minded thinking.
‘Not a problem for me,’ I told myself, ‘I’m one of the most open-minded people I know.’
Which is well and good, except…except I realize the danger of believing in one’s own rhetoric. Even if I am as open minded as I believe I am, that doesn’t mean I don’t participate in my share of wrong-thinking. There is a difference between liberal sensibilities and having a progressive and expansive view of the world.
And because I refuse to let such ideas go, I began looking for the flaws in my own thinking.
For most of my life, I’ve worn my selfishness as a badge of honor. ‘I’m selfish,’ I would tell people, ‘But I’m upfront about it.”
Admitting it, you see, makes it okay.
My selfishness is a personal bit of self-irony and an exercise in comedic masturbation (how else do you describe sharing an inside joke only with yourself?).
I tell myself it’s alright. Because while I am very selfish in some areas of my life, in most areas I am incredibly selfless; on the whole I’m a really nice guy.
…but that’s entirely irrelevant. Because it’s not really about being selfish.
It’s about being self-centered. It’s about viewing the world only in terms of the role I have in it. Not that there’s anything innately wrong with this – I Ihink it’s the default view for the majority of people, if only for self-preservation reasons.
But if it’s not innately wrong, it’s not innately right either. And a change in perspective has never done a person harm.
I’m quite content with my predatory nature; this isn’t going to change.
But there’s nothing wrong with being a better wolf.