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Dominicus Custos:
A Grotesque Head with a Helmet in the Style of Arcimboldo (1594)

" … a nearly sacred responsibility to judge my own behavior …"

I yesterday experienced an existential crisis. I encountered another dark side of Success, the idea that it might be all about competing. I felt as though I'd fallen into an inescapable pit, like I'd made a poor, perhaps even hasty, choice when selecting Success as my focus for a series. As with any existential crisis, I was blinded by insight and could not see beyond it. I scratched a barely legible note on my cell wall and moved on into my day, feeling supremely disappointed in myself. I sank into a bout of self-pity from which I figure I might one day recover. My realization shook me to my core. My inquiry into Success had produced an overwhelming feeling of failure, for I had not intended and never wanted to cast myself as a competitor. I consider competition a serious illness best treated by refusing to engage. I'd imagined that Success might be managed as something other than competition. I still believe this must be possible.

I could take each of the seven deadly sins and expose each as a primary means for achieving Success.
Not the sole means, for sure, but each an alternate if one should choose to use each as their template. I speak of Style, of manner of pursuit, for that manner must matter. One could decide to become a glutton, for instance, for Success, and consume to excess each element of Success. What would that get them? The Success of their Success might not be up to anyone else to judge, for it might be proper only for one to evaluate their own manner of Succeeding. I would find the Gluttony route unseemly, but tastes vary. I would find little worthy of emulation if I were watching someone gorge themself, regardless of the objective. I cede the choice to whoever’s pursuing the end.

I hold my ethical imperatives and personal limits delineating proper manners. These transcend mere morals, for they were not passed down from on high like anybody's Ten Commandments. I painstakingly carved them as if from stone, all by my lonely self. They represent the sum total of my choices, the template for my acceptable manners of engaging. They naturally exclude the seven deadly sins as options for pursuing anything, for each goes sideways to my ethical intentions. In this context, I insist that there are an array of Successes, some acceptable to me and others absolutely not. I need not embrace the notion that Success involves competition in order to seek Success. Regardless of how others might perceive it, I need not see it as a zero-sum game.

I imagine a certain sanguinity might be necessary for me to congruently pursue Success. Earlier in my career, I might have lusted after it, but now I find the pursuit more palatable if I just let it happen seemingly by itself. I finally feel free enough to believe that my world leans in the general direction of Success, that it's been no stranger in my life, and that it might just be pursuing me. My responsibility might be to stay out of its way by not overthinking it. My taste, judgment, and understanding of my ethical responsibilities should capably guide me without resorting to garish competition or piggybacking on any of the seven deadly sins.

My Style of engagement matters to me, even if it matters to nobody else. I hold the ethical responsibility to hold myself to my ethical imperatives above all else. I believe, without proof, that Success results from holding myself responsible for something limiting my range of responses. The deadly sins each violate this imperative that I maintain limits. Success could never become unconditional for me. Beyond some boundaries, even Success becomes unthinkable and unacceptable. I'd rather fail than transform myself into a competitor. I need not engage in that game, in that manner of living, even if that choice renders me a failure in some people's eyes. Success seems more personal than anybody else's judgment. I hold a nearly sacred responsibility to judge my own behavior and also not to judge it too harshly. I always need my own most generous possible interpretation, too, for it might be my most crucial ethical responsibility here.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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