Monday, April 06, 2009


Nah, it's not my car. The friend walking with me said it was an older Rolls. It was at a repair shop on South Congress.

It did seem like a photo worthy of the title of this piece, however.

I've never owned a Rolls. I've never ridden in one either. I don't have anything against someone who does, however. I'm a capitalist. I like having money to get things I want. But I know that I am lucky to live in a place where I could amass a little money (starting at zero? less than zero?) and enjoy things I like in my dotage. Oh, I have a beat-up Civic I bought eight years ago because my other beat-up Civic got totaled. And I only have 1200 square feet to shelter me. But it is a cool place, downtown where things ain't the cheapest and I spend profligately (by Honda Civic standards) on eating out, travel (well not so much last year) and my favorite charities.

Apparently there are people who will hold my lifestyle against me. (An article we wrote in the Austin Chronicle about walking to bars and restaurants and museums elicited a detractor who compared us to French royalty during the French revolution. Off with their heads!) And, certainly, there are people who will hold a Rolls or a yacht or a big estate and 'compound' or lavish trips against those (many) folks richer than I. Not me, though.

I know that if you start deciding what people 'deserve' to own, you are no longer a capitalist. Of course, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't have sensible regulations, prosecute fraud, have reasonable taxes (not punitive ones).

What I find unforgivable is hubris. Not just pride but:

hubrisnoun excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.
I think it is fine to be a little proud, to stand up for yourself, your accomplishments. But in excess it is the thing I despise most.

Hubris can be exhibited by anyone, too, not just the rich. You see rich people, though, who believe their circumstance is the direct result of superiority, of brains, wits, risk-taking with no element of luck. You see it in the poor, too, who adopt a victim's mantle with an excess of pride, as set apart and enamored of their lack of luck and their circumstance as any rich man who worked for (or defrauded for or stumbled blindly into) his riches.

I love my life. No Rolls although I suppose I could have had one if I'd wanted little else! I have food, shelter, health, a computer, a retirement income. I have most of what I could possibly ever want. Maybe more than I can successfully consume (especially if you count newspapers to read, books to read, movies to watch, walks to take, blogs to read, etc.).

But I hope I always remember that while I tried to get to this place and have the things I want and be safe and happy some luck helped, too. I try to be thankful for potable water, shelter, medical care for me and those I love. I try to be thankful I live where women, if discriminated against sometimes in some ways, are basically considered human and free. I know that my luck in having these things has little to do with me and much to do with where I was born. I also don't believe a god blessed me with these things but if you do, that works, too.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
I have trouble forgiving pride and think gods do, too.

I also think there is a great amount of hubris people adopt in their attempts to identify and right wrongs. Some people are convinced that only they see the true path to what is right. That the world is only flawed because they have not come up with the right procedural path to an ideal world. I think the world is flawed and we only make it better when we admit how unimportant one person is although our acts are magnified if others adopt them.

Perhaps I would have been more successful (hard for me to imagine, though) if I had been more proud, more sure of my own ideas. But the doubt of my anti-hubris kept me grounded, I think, and perhaps kept me from making a few frightful mistakes.

And, maybe, just maybe, I'm too proud of not being proud! Still I hate hubris. But I love the word.


Forrest Preece said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Forrest Preece said...

Great piece, LB. Beautifully put.

As always, I'm proud to be your mate.


Bitsy Parker said...

Excellent post! I love to spot hubris and stick my finger right in the middle of it!