Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Greed and Vanity

Strange thing about people is that we all claim to know that vanity and greed are "wrong," yet we are all guilty of it.

Greed is the obvious one. Just about everyone wants money, things, the "easy" life, and most people will do whatever they feel they can get away with to get them. Keeping up with the Jones' isn't the exception, it's the norm. I'm not a typically jealous person, but I sometimes find myself wondering how to "catch up" to someone else, or how to "stay ahead" of others. I don't usually act on such instincts, but I do find myself experiencing them. As do you. As do your friends. As does your family.

Today I was reading about the poaching of rare and endangered one-horned rhinos. My first thought was, "why?" I'll give you one guess.

It's no accident that the saying is "money is the root of all evil." While that's fundamentally untrue, it's theoretically close enough. Were it not for money, there would be something else worth fucking others over. It's also no accident that the saying is "money makes the world go 'round," because it does. And put to good use, it can make the world go 'round pretty smoothly. Unfortunately, we're all, by our very natures, greedy.

A far worse crime to me, however, is vanity. Oh, fucking vanity. If greed makes people do evil things, vanity makes people hypocrites. Too many people want to be the best, to be noticed. Not enough people just want to get along, work together, and worry more about the end result instead of the headlines.

Some examples (and please keep in mind that I'm not pointing fingers, laying blame, or even trying insult the people involved... I'm guilty of it, too):

This totally fucked up event at Virginia Tech. Fucking crazy. Insane. Completely and utterly horrifying. A person contacted me yesterday, not to express concern over what happened, not to vent horror, not to cry, but to tell me that she knew people that knew people that were killed. Her instinct wasn't to wail despair, but to place herself as close to an infamous situation as possible. To make herself the talk of the massacre. Why? Vanity. More concerned with being linked to an undoubtedly historical event than being horrified by it.

I was working on a short film. I told the director from the get-go that I don't like doing "vanity projects," and I needed to be convinced that this particular film was anything but. And I was convinced. But after a few weeks of working with the director, it became utterly clear that this film wasn't anything but... it fucking was. I had to hear about how "artistic" the director and the director's ideas were, how "fucking cool" it would be to be a member of the three most powerful guilds in Hollywood, how everyone is going to fall at the director's feet and give him the money and talent that he needs because he's so damned artistic. Why? Vanity. More concerned with developing ego than developing the actual art.

The irony of the above examples? The first person is a so-called "devout" and fundamental Christian. The second person has a lot of genuine potential. But vanity gets in their way, making them believe they've already "got it."

Vanity gets in my way, too. Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows this. Vanity almost fucking killed me last year. And I learned my damn lesson.

Which is my point. Greed sucks. Vanity sucks. We're human, though, and we'll always have some level of both, but if we don't learn and adjust those levels so we can flourish not as individuals but as a society, we're fucked.

Think about political parties. Religions. Even when people are arguing points that they know are completely wrong, their vanities won't let them stop. Religion is the most heinous offender. There's nothing wrong with keeping your faith, but so much so to argue that other faiths are wrong (or even evil)... well, that's just the type of rhetoric I'm suggesting we get rid of. The fact is, that's what faith is... knowing you might be wrong, but believing anyway. Vanity makes people think that faith is knowing that they are right. And that's bullshit. There's only one answer, and that waits for you when you die... no book, no belief, no idea propagated by man knows what it is. You find out when you die.

But that's faith; let's get back to vanity. So, what about it? Well, vanity doesn't work.

You'll find out when you fail.

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