One of the disadvantages of our over-broadcasted lives is that we encounter an ever-increasing temptation to live another person’s story. We humans have always been jealous creatures. With Cain and Abel, it only took one other person with which to compare and compete; yet that was plenty to instigate a fit of rage, one life lost and another life chained to restless wandering and sorrow.
Midrashic tradition asserts that Cain and Abel were not merely fighting over God’s pleasure with their sacrifice but also over which brother would marry the beautiful Aclima. Since history, for as far back as history goes, tells us that men have thumped their chests and sailed their fleets into bloody war in order to secure the beauty, this traditions seems at least plausible. The sad truth, however, is that we don’t need any deeper reason for the conflict or the tragedy that ensued. All we need, if we are to inflict violence upon another or upon ourselves, is fear.
Fear that we are nothing. Fear that our odd and marvelous peculiarity is not enough. Fear that when someone else knows great joy or splendid success, that this means there is less joy or success in the universe for us.
Of course, the opposite is true. The more we revel in another’s goodness, the more we find ourselves bumping into goodness too.
The tragedy of a small, fearful life is not only that we inevitably harm our friends (or someone who could be a friend, if our ego were not in the way), but also that we harm ourselves. When we waste our energy attempting to capture the glint from another person’s life, we completely abandon our life, the life that will tragically go unlived if we do not pull up our boots and get to it. As Rumi said: “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
Another person’s life may be swell, but by the time it reaches you, it’s old hat. We don’t need another recycled life. We need you to get busy showing us your life. Whatever uniqueness your life exudes, the world is smaller if you do not give it to us.
Don’t mimic another’s voice. Don’t give too much time to the fantasy of what might be if you had only been given their opportunity, their smashing looks, their resources, their golden touch. Bless that person, I promise they’re fearful too. Then blaze ahead with your one life. Please.