The Beggar Maid, German school, 19th c.
"We remain more equal than we can possibly know, let alone understand."

Declaring superiority carries its own disqualification. How smart could it possibly be to declare yourself smarter than another? Likewise with beauty and every other comparator known to humankind. Humans don't seem all that kind up close. We break ranks to stack ourselves like cordwood, judging our position relative to others', taking either solace or frustration depending upon how we, as the saying goes, "stack up." The self-proclaimed morally superior stack their cards in favor of their own positioning, looking down their long noses at all those so-called "beneath" them. The Founders of our once-great republic were exclusively of a single so-called superior class. They preached an equality their lives seemed not to afford them, hoping, perhaps, to level a mountain they stood atop, for there were others on higher peaks than they could ever aspire to, divinely righted to dominate over those less than themselves. By the divinely-righted's accounting, everyone was a lesser.

White Supremacists seem like so many misguided clowns failing to catch themselves parsing the world upside down.
Tolerance seems the rarest mineral, carrying the patina of fool's gold, easily discarded for apparent advantage. We're mean-spirited beings with crocodile smiles, positioning ourselves for a kill. We desperately seek to avoid becoming anyone's shill, and will take unfair advantage should the opportunity afford itself. We seek some sorry dominion, some positioning that might position us on top for a change, even when, perhaps especially when, we know we will not maintain our superior position for long. We carry grudges against those whom we firmly believe did us wrong, those who sold our presumed birthrights for less than a Tin Pan Alley song. We do not seem presupposed to assume any position lightly, taught to always scrabble for better, to at least try to become better than we were and better than 'they' could ever possibly become. The much-vaunted BEST!

Of the ten thousand and more criteria for comparing performance, which should we choose? Which might prove best? Money's the obvious metric, for those driving Teslas and living in mansions must somehow be better than those still scratching along. Looks remain a popular measure, too. The more popular the measure, the less likely it seems to mean anything. Kindness could serve as just as reasonable a measure, though it's much more difficult to treasure anything so difficult to see. Some superficial measure seems best suited to pleasure the envious better. Kindness needs some deeper connection, as does compassion and caring, so these characteristics seem unsuitable for maintaining any hierarchy. The kindest person I ever met was the very old lady who lived across the street when I was four years old. She must have been born in the late 1860s or early '70s, for she was maybe ninety years old then, shriveled and slow. Her small house still had a livery shed behind it and she said she used to keep horses there. It certainly still smelled of hourses then. She gave me cookies without my ever asking and she didn't mind if I stuck my nose in her shed. She might qualify as the best person I ever met.

I have grown to distrust MyBetters. I feel as though they know something hardly worth knowing, and that their too-obvious shortcomings tarnish their standing in this great woodpile hierarchy surrounding me. They might well be blameless, for it could just be that their position within the great if not grand hierarchy says more about me than it ever could say about them and who they actually might be. Movie stars are human, too, subject to all the usual failings, however skilled their publicists and make-up artists. I sometimes cast myself as somehow lesser, an eternal rookie still learning on this stage. I stumble about as much as I stand. I forget more than I ever seem to remember. I remain flesh and blood while others seem to become timelessly iconic brands. I desperately want to believe that this land is yours as well as mine, though I sometimes struggle to find validation for that nobile idea. I might not want to be better than anyone but me, though even this desire for bettering might unavoidable cast me as the chief judge in the kangaroo court of my own opinion.

Subjugate me if you will. I've, quite frankly, already had my fill of dominion. I pray to continuously improve without ever getting much better, without ever ascending to become anyone's better. I've squandered my opportunities, too, and milked unseen advantage for more than it was probably worth. I still strive but without trying to hide behind my achievements. This was never once a zero sum game, however much anyone ever blamed another for their sorry state. Can I accept my fate without denigrating any other for their seemingly more superior or even sorrier state? We remain more equal than we can possibly know, let alone understand. I might well preface a 'just' in front of everything I am: just me, just observing, just here beside you. This perspective might produce a better transcending MyBetters'.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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