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Today I Realized What An Arrogant A**hole I am

By December 12, 2015 0
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I’m so liberal. I’m not prejudiced. I don’t judge. I’m a nice person. Probably the nicest.

Not anymore. Never was. Today I realized I’m an egotistical jerk just like everyone else.

So I’m in English class, remaining a quiet little statue in the corner (as usual) as the class discusses a chapter of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, entitled “Reading,” in which Thoreau expresses his views on the importance of reading. Half way into the chapter and all I can think is this guy is so full of himself.

No, seriously, read.

“A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself.”

Seriously Thoreau? Written word is the best kind of art? So someone’s book is more valuable than someone else’s painting? I see what you mean. You mean because you like books they must be the best.

“Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race; for it is remarkable that no transcript of them has ever been made into any modern tongue, unless our civilization itself may be regarded as such a transcript.”

Okay so what you’re saying is the only way to really read a book is to read it in the language it was originally written in. Makes sense. Words can be misinterpreted. Significant aspects of writing can be lost in translation. But I don’t have the time or the talent to learn all these different languages and I shouldn’t be admonished for not being multilingual just because you are.

“We are underbred and low-lived and illiterate; and in this respect I confess I do not make any very broad distinction between the illiterateness of my townsman who cannot read at all and the illiterateness of him who has learned to read only what is for children and feeble intellects.”

Okay, I’m done. I literally cannot. This guy really believes there is no significant difference between a completely illiterate person and an average reader? And do children not count as people? How is reading a children’s book no better than being illiterate? I’m pretty sure it’s very important for a child to learn to read. Are you going to tell me their progress doesn’t matter until they read some Shakespeare?

Don’t get me wrong. Please do not. I love reading and I think everyone should totally be forced to read the classics. Actually, I sort of agree with everything he says and that scares me.

He is so harsh on people, expecting them to live up to his achievable and yet improbably high standards. In the beginning, I’m highlighting every brilliantly written line. So relatable, I think. Yasss. Preach. Then I get to the lines quoted above and I realize it.

This guy is arrogant. I agree with him. Therefore, I am arrogant.

Just like that, I am no longer the epitome of liberality as I once seemed. I judge people all the time. For example, my class recently read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and I just could not contain my constant reminders to my friend that “yeah, I’ve already read it.”

Not only that but I find myself literally shaking my head every time someone’s analysis of literature doesn’t align with my views or when I believe they’ve said something ignorant.

And then there’s my agreement with Thoreau that everyone should read and everyone should like reading and everyone’s an idiot if they don’t. Actually, I would like to recant my statement now. The fact is (and I’m just realizing this thanks to Thoreau’s hyperbolic self-importance) reading is not everything. There are people who can’t read and are they idiots because of this? No, of course not. Some people have had little access to education. For others, reading is just not their thing. It’s okay for reading to not be your thing.

It’s fine for Thoreau to think written word is the best form of art and to endorse reading for the purpose of acquiring knowledge. But to value other people based on one’s own passions is simply not fair. If Thoreau had his way, we’d all be full-time readers and writers and then how could society survive with no one doing anything else? A visual artist could just as easily say painting is the best form of art and that everyone should paint.

Everyone is different and we all have different passions. And ultimately we need each other’s differences in order to survive.

And now all I can think of are all the times I’ve thought of myself as superior just because I’ve read some Pearl S. Buck or have gotten A’s on papers or have easily read Shakespeare. Yes, I can say I’m intelligent but intelligence is not a virtue.

But if I’m admitting to being a complete a**hole, I’m taking my fellow humans down with me. Yeah, I’m looking at you. I’m looking at the “grammar nazis” who completely discredit people just because of their grammar mistakes. Grammar is just a human creation and the nature of its use says nothing about a person’s character.

Wait. I’m suddenly getting the image of a man in a satin robe, wine glass in hand, in his luxurious sitting room. Expensive paintings line the walls, there’s a statue of a lion in the corner, and a large bookshelf takes up a whole wall. He uses the phrase “uncultured swine.” Because, you know, owning books and drinking wine is so cultured.

Okay, let’s continue.

I’m looking at the teens who think they’re smart just because they’ve read some required high school reading like Catch-22 or that excerpt from Odysseus, which they think is the entire book, and then proceed to rant on Facebook about how all their peers are idiots. I’m looking at that one guy I know who will point out a fallacy in everything I say. I’m looking at Henry David Thoreau. I’m looking in the mirror.

I’m looking at everyone and anyone who has ever judged someone for something they’re not good at instead of appreciating what they are good at.

 

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