Sunday, August 11, 2013

`At an Awful Cost'

An acquaintance has announced she wishes to quit her job, sell her house and chattel, everything but her car and clothes, and head west to “find herself” – ominous words. She’s almost fifty, divorced, without children, a bright woman smitten with “spirituality,” which she associates with incense, earnestness and obeying what her “true self” tells her. I like her and wish her well but keep my opinions to myself for fear of not being sufficiently “affirmative.” I don’t mean to sound patronizing but I worry when otherwise sound, middle-class people express an interest in finding themselves. Such discontent is fashionable and even socially sanctioned, and has a way of devolving into destructive self-indulgence. Theodore Dalrymple warns 

“As I tell my patients, much to their surprise — for it is not a fashionable view — it is far more important to be able to lose yourself than to find yourself.” 

Precisely. The last thing most of us should be thinking about is ourselves. The self-directed and self-seeking are a nasty lot. A.M. Juster has an epigrammatic couplet titled “Your Midlife Crisis”: 

“You found yourself—but at an awful cost.
We liked you better when you were lost.”

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