Saturday, December 18, 2010

Of Pride

If you've ever read a Marvel comic book that featured the being known as The Watcher aka Uatu, then I'm pretty sure you're familiar with the policies that entailed his job, i.e. pure observation and non-interference upon events (although after reading some notes from Wikipedia, I've discovered that he had actually violated the policies applicable to his race). I, for one, have found it an entertaining pass time, if not a habit, to be as observant as I can be of people, events, and the dynamics that intertwine circumstances all around us. It can indeed be pleasurable and enlightening to observe and analyze, while not necessarily criticizing and judging how people think, act, react, and behave. For friends who might read this entry and find this hobby of mine unnerving, I assure you that this is in no way a malicious or voyeuristic fetish that I have grown accustomed to nor is it something that should be labeled as such. I'm sure a lot, if not all people, practice this. It is inevitable for people to use their sensory and empirically-oriented faculties, as well as their intellect, to observe and react to what the world around is presenting to them. There is no way to escape from it, unless you are in a comatose state, then again, dreaming can still provide the input. The key difference is perhaps on what people do with the input, do we judge; do we generalize; do we analyze; do we use our biases; do we criticize; do we keep the thoughts we come up with to ourselves; do we share it with others; do we rumor-monger; do we snitch on others; do we appreciate; do we hate; do we empathize; do we sympathize; do we laugh at; do we ignore; do we build ideas on; do we learn; do we...It is a tricky activity indeed to have the knowledge and information and to have the free-will to choose what to do with them; after all, knowledge is power. People, collectively, society creates the reality and belief system we perceive and conceive them to be. It is what Stephen Colbert termed as wikiality and truthiness. Although, indeed there are cold hard facts and truths out there, empirical evidence and the scientific method are only as credible as the media and avenues by which people are informed of these data. And I guess that’s why they say the victors write the history the way they want it to be when the dust settles after a war. That's how powerful the human mind can be, more so if a lot of it are amalgamated to some creature that no one person can define given the inevitability of change and haphazard reactions.

So what have I learned after being the ubiquitous observer that I am? Even before moving forward, let me set the tone for this piece of article. I have read or heard somewhere (I really don’t know which) that you can win readers/observers by not being preachy. People don’t really appreciate being told of things or what to do with certain ideas, especially when they are not really asking for some form of advice at all. It strikes a nerve, it affects the ego. It is a conversation worth ignoring and forgetting. So let me clear the air and tell you that I’m sharing this like a friend who would tell a story during lunch.

I have found that pride and insecurity drive and affect the actions and reactions of people. You don’t have to believe me, but it might be nice to keep it in mind when you try and observe other people. Sure there are other “sins” out there, but pride is a different breed in my opinion, because it is interestingly attributable to both good and evil. Let’s list the 7 deadly sins before moving on for the sake of just enumerating them, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.

From what I usually hear, greed is a major force in bringing-out the worst in people. Money might be the object, but the undesirables do not emanate from it. It is rather the attitude toward it. If there was no legal tender to move around an economy and people bartered items, then the excessive desire to accumulate as much pig tails and cowhide is as corruptive as the greed for money.

So where does pride step-in amidst the influences of greed? Pride is a form of motivation for a person with an ego. We all have egos. We don’t have to explore the sex-violence concept of Freudian thought to acknowledge the fact that people have needs and also wants/desires. While, every human being deserves dignity and respect (a constant lesson taught even by the Catholic Church), the dynamics of social interaction, I think, also bring about a sense of insecurity and varying degrees of contentment and confidence, which all influence how “greedy” a person can be. I read somewhere a long time ago that a Satanist doesn’t necessarily entail being a worshiper of the devil or to be an occult practitioner, all it takes is absolute obsession and love for one’s self and not giving any damn for anyone else. So, there you go, the ultimate practice in pride, a love for only the self. Come to think about it, it is a despicable attitude indeed, but that’s just my opinion. I recall that Christian teachings usually refer to the pride of man as the primary reason for his loss of favor in the eyes of God, the pride to be greater than what has been bestowed upon him by the generosity of God.

Greed is an extension of pride. When people are insecure, people tend to hoard-up for a rainy day. People are imperfect beings indeed. We feel inadequate and unworthy, our pride/our egos are hurt when we feel like our self-dignity is being attacked or reduced below someone else.'s No one deserves to be labeled as someone less than what he thinks he is. Why do political advocates fight for their beliefs, whether it be democratic or communist in principles? Ultimately, it is the pursuit for equality, whether it may come from a socio-economic or socio-political standpoint. We look for a place of solitude and comfort. Of course, there are those who do not really want equality, but want more. Can you say pride? People attribute self-assurance and security to objects of value (gold, stocks, money, etc.) and positions of power. And even when someone who is good natured, but due to circumstances is richer or loftier in position (whether in truth or based on perception), comes around, people who are in a lesser status and who are unfortunately insecure about themselves, tend to fire the first shot (whatever that form of a shot is). Insecurity breeds contempt, no matter how unjustified. There is paranoia involved and it becomes a vicious cycle. The insecure hating the insecure and the insecure hating the insecure, well you get the drift. Through this way of thinking, I was able to get a clearer understanding of the wisdom involved in what Yoda said regarding Anakin. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to pain and suffering. Fear is a very basic instinct indeed and it can be translated to some other term we have been using in exploring this topic, i.e. insecurity. Pride and insecurity can be a poisonous mix. I also heard of some joke in a sitcom before, that it is good parenting to make their children insecure, the more insecure a child is, the greater of an achiever he would be in the future. Insecurity is indeed a devastating tool for people to use and we are all susceptible to it. That’s why people can’t help but justify their actions amid an audience of listeners/readers, whether willing or not. That’s why people tell everyone they can about their achievements, the jobs they do, the positions they hold, the people they know, the cars they drive, the things they’ve done, the schools they’ve studied in. In a very judgmental world, there’s nothing else to do but fortify our credentials and make sure we are as secure as possible. Whenever malice comes in to the picture, no matter how secure a person thinks he is, whenever another person comes to the scene and seems to present a degree of confidence in himself, even if he does not boast about his credentials – sillier if there was nothing to be obnoxious about in fact - would be subjected to attacks motivated by insecurity. But before we write-off pride as something undesirable and evil, I must say my piece on how pride defines the progress of mankind. Pride pushes people to their limits, in terms of physical capabilities, will, and intellect. Pride allows civilizations to advance. If people didn’t have pride and people over-emphasized on “contentment”, then we would all be sloths. We would be swaying to the will of the wind and accepting events and circumstances as random inevitabilities that cannot be circumvented or challenged by man’s ingenuity, intellect, and innovativeness. Pride is extremely evident in our hobbies, our crafts, and in sports. So why do sports serve as such useful tools in politics, i.e. think ping-pong politics between the U.S. and China; basketball between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.; among other sporting events that happened despite the political tensions between the opposing sides? I think it’s because of the acceptable scenarios in the paradigm. Two groups go on head-to-head given certain rules and procedures and the game goes on gruelingly, but on the back of the minds of both groups, they know the reality, the inevitability when they submitted themselves to the match, there will be a winner and there will be a loser, but in the end, after the hard struggles during the game, the spirit of sportsmanship conquers. Pride motivates a player not to lay-down and let the time just run-out, even when he knows they’re down 40 points. There is something fascinating about pride because it allows man to achieve so much despite the odds and the perceived impossibilities. Who would’ve guessed more than 100 years ago that man could achieve heavier than air flight?

So after all the analyses, have I learned something from my observations? I would like to think so. I have been a believer of the middle way philosophy for quite some time now. Ultimately, I think there is discord brought upon by extreme resolutions and attitudes when dealing with circumstances. I have also learned that there is wisdom in living with the dual principles of confidence and humility. These two principles are a beautiful pair, I believe, because it combines the modern teachings introduced by The Secret, John Maxwell, Mr. Jhun Benedicto =), among other gurus and even reality TV shows, that tell of ways on how to achieve success and fulfillment; humility meanwhile is best depicted by the life of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church. Through experience, however, I have found that humility in silence, candidness, and nonpartisanship does not sit well with most people and those unfamiliar with the practice very often misinterpret the intentions and the beliefs underlying it. The reactions of people to the practice are often influenced by their insecurities and how used to they are to the conventional reactions they have been accustomed to. The practices of over-assuming, deductive reasoning, and intuitive guessing are the means by which stereotypes, misconceptions, and misunderstandings between people begin to corrupt the interaction of what would have otherwise been a non-malicious encounter. I am still a student of this dual philosophy and I must admit that it is always a learning experience amidst the influences of pride and insecurity, but with confidence and humility, anxieties are always reduced and the best part is probably the achievement of peace of mind. To be at peace with one’s self and with others are results which I think are attainable by practicing this dual philosophy. Malice and anxiety seem to dissipate when you alter your perception and way of thinking. Again, that is how powerful the human mind can be. All everyone needs is an open mind.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have found and I can humbly impart as well is the value of open-mindedness and respect. While people are undeniably different in various aspects and in the levels of their talents and intelligence, everyone has something unique to bring to the table. Individualism is valuable, but towards goals and purpose, the collective strength of the many trumps all. By accepting this reality, people can find solitude in their personal dignity/pride. They don't have to be so self-conscious and insecure that malice and misinterpretation will continue to plague the thoughts, activities, and decisions people observe from others - as if there's always a hidden agendum or message against them. Corollary to this concept is the pride and fulfillment achieved by people through hardwork and humbling lessons brought by experience, AND NOT JUST BY the pride brought upon by innate and congenital talents and blessings, whether preordained by some higher Order/Being or the circumstantial convergence of random factors and probabilities. The prima donna mindset is what often corrupts the well-off/blessed and irks/irritates other people. There is indeed value in harnessing attitude and perception. Anything that is earned dissipates insecurities and cultivates positive pride. That's also why I think thieves and cheaters will always feel inadequate about what they have accumulated/attained. False pride in no way solves the problem of insecurity, it just makes these types of people more insecure and so they try to cover their flaws-up even more. That's why, in sports or in taking basketball as an example, the greats and hall of famers who didn't win a championship ring do not feel less about their accomplishments. They gave it their all and they accepted the fact that that they didn't get themselves in the proper situation/opportunities to win a ring, even though they possessed immense talents. There is indeed fulfillment in what is properly earned. Of course all these thoughts are but humble opinions that people may or may not agree with. After all, I am just a speck in the continuum as anyone else.

As a side discussion, I have always heard of criticisms regarding the Catholic Church’s vast wealth amid the poverty around the world. If the Catholic Church was really authentic, it would’ve given all its riches to the poor, right? Otherwise, it would just be a hypocritical institution. These arguments might have a point, but I for one believe that there is wisdom in what the Catholic Church is doing in managing its wealth. The Church is after all operating in an economic and social paradigm that requires power, influence, and money. What authority and ability would an institution that is known to represent the Son of God then wield if it succumbed to economic poverty? Would there even be respect or credence for its beliefs and teachings? Unfortunately, for the Eastern Orthodox Church, that is precisely what is happening. The Turkish government already has this Church by the neck because they have a rule that the Patriarch must be a Turkish citizen. Turkey is a predominantly Islamic country by the way. So bit by bit, the social and political pressures are chipping away on the foundations of this Church, although no direct siege is being done upon its institution.


All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2010. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.

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