Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Evolution of Arrogance

I'm going to be a senior this year.

Instead of waxing verbose on how delighted/scared/proud/humble that makes me feel, I'm going to look back. I feel that this year my attitude is different than in past years, and that's a good thing. But it also prompts me to consider exactly what my attitude was in the first three years, and exactly how my current attitude is different.


My freshman year was a strange one. I was nobody...but I liked being nobody. Shortly after beginning classes my first semester, I came to the very welcome conclusion that I was more intelligent that 90% of the student body--or maybe that 90% was closer to 95%. I was riding high in all of my classes, and I sort of considered myself an intellectual ninja--someone who nobody expected to excel, because they didn't know him, and then he'd STRIKE FROM THE SHADOWS and get an A in the class, and then disappear back into the woodwork.

More than that, I thought of myself as a youthful, fresh-faced savior. Nobody knew me, but they would, I told myself. I was going to be an intellectual shot in the arm here at my school.

Gosh, I was a pill.

Then came my sophomore year. This was when I began doing theatre, incidentally, and this change brought about a shift in my priorities. While previously I had been rather narrow-minded, viewing academic achievement as the only way for me to leave my mark here at school, now I realized that there were other ways to achieve "remembered" status.

During my sophomore year, I began realizing that my willingness and ability to work well with my superiors gave me an advantage over my fellow students. I had figured out by now that, while I was smarter than most of my peers, I also had to work to cultivate that advantage. I didn't particularly love work, and toadying to my superiors was a whole lot easier than striving and achieving.

As a sophomore, I didn't see myself as a fresh-faced savior; now I saw myself as something of a rising star. My potential was no longer latent; it was becoming active. In another year, I felt, I would be well-known and powerful.

Then came my junior year. By this time, I had honed my social skills to the point where people could actually bear spending time with me, and I had been elected to the executive board of a student organization. I got the lead in our Fall Musical, I had a semi-official position (unpaid, of course) within the machinery of our theatre department, and I felt that I had almost arrived. Surely by my senior year I would be king (or at least committee chairman) of all I surveyed.

Then some funny stuff happened. I lost an election I considered a foregone conclusion. I was in charge of an event that didn't live up to my expectations. I got in touch more with the world outside my school. And I saw a lot of freshmen.

This led to a shift in my perception of myself. Whereas before I thought I was all that and more, now I began to realize that my point of view was wrong. I was considering my accomplishments relatively, not absolutely. In other words, I was viewing myself as a big fish and denying the fact that I was in a tiny, tiny pond. When I have had the opportunity to experience larger arenas, like, say, the Milwaukee theatre scene, I am sharply reminded that I am nobody and I have done nothing.

Now, one might ask, "Ian, how does that differ from how you looked at things your freshman year?" The answer is that I'm in a different pond now. When I was a freshman, I was a small fish, but I was in a small pond; it takes less time to be biggest in a small pond than to be biggest in the ocean. Sure, I'd like to be influential and affect people's lives. But I now know that the chances of being "influential" are pretty small. Everything has to line up right and fall into place perfectly. And I'm starting mighty late.

And one may not neglect the spiritual side. I don't often do this, and perhaps I should do it more often...but here's a bit from one of the least-known books of the Bible, 2 Corinthians:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight--we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5.1-10)

This is interesting, because it doesn't specifically say that the "mortal", the earthly, is bad. It's a "burden", and "we groan" under it, but that's not because the "mortal" is evil. It's because we yearn for our "home not made with earthly hands." I also think the repetition of "being...of good courage" is noteworthy--this earthly pond of ours here can be trying at times, and stressful, but we were "prepared...for this very purpose" by God.

But that's all incidental. What I focused on in this passage is where it talks about "our ambition". See there, where it says that our ambition should be "to be pleasing to Him"? Yeah. My #1 priority should not be building my influence or creating a legacy or even maximizing my potential. It should be pleasing my Father in heaven.

As I enter my senior year, I think I'm on a healthy path. I need to finish these two semesters, and I don't need to elevate my status here any more. I mean, I'll be gone after this year. And who cares if I'm remembered at some two-bit Lutheran school in Milwaukee? The fact that this has been the only world I've known for the last three years doesn't mean that it's the only one--or even a worthwhile one.

I have moved beyond school. I'm beginning to think like an adult.

This concludes the personal, uncomfortable, boring section of this post. Here's a video.

It's catchy, it's intriguing, and it's atmospheric. I don't know why recently I've been on such a '60s and '70s kick...but it seems like they put more thought into their music back then.


(Maybe sometime I'll write a blogpost about my sign-off. It's an interesting story. And don't forget, if you want to view this post with all sorts of flashy stuff, especially that video which I so kindly embedded, travel on over here to The Uninformed Opinion and get the real lowdown.)

Long live introspection!

Also, long live great (really great) music!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like this post. This cycle of growth you've laid out is very insightful, and I look forward to seeing the change this school year.

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