Saturday, March 6, 2010

the history of envy

when does it begin? in the cradle, no doubt.

for example, my younger sister born just a little over a year after myself. my father doted on her. kicked off center stage i became a terror. i can't imagine how much i must have tormented her. my first memory at three (just down the street) of cutting off her golden locks. everybody made such a fuss over them. certainly, that may be jealousy. sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

envy, to me, means wanting the success and material goods other people have (the comfort and attention). why did she get a bigger slice of the pie? how come he's got that gorgeous girlfriend when he's ugly as sin? i suspect all of us go through life with this monkey on our back.

my friend dennis palumbo has just written a blog on the subject, envy in hollywood. good reading.

he consoles screenwriters having a tough time.

author envy, that's definitely a subject i know something about. 'he's nothing but a pimp selling bestsellers. throw him to the dogs.' like many other scribes i used to practice my nobel prize acceptance speech. that's how high the ambition goes. no wonder we've little tolerance for our own measly efforts. i do love a piece while i'm writing it, getting a short high when it's finished. next day, i can't stand it, have to write something else.

too many masterpieces, that's what one teacher said. when you've got tolstoy and shakespeare to go up against, you've got a problem. and the worst thing is: you'll never really know how good you are (and does it matter?) so much effort, so little love. if you weren't heard as a child, you'll keep interrupting your father's sermons, which i did religiously. i'd have the urge at a play or talk to stand up and shout, 'look at me. i can do it better.' this seems to have worn off a bit, thank god.

and in the good old days, say 18th century france, you could write one significant novel and relax. you'd done it. you had your words on everyone's lips. you relax and bathe in the glory for the rest of your life. alas, we live in the land of opportunity. you can always surpass yourself. you must. otherwise, people say, 'he's finished. lost his grasp, poor fellow.' there's more to get, more to be.

and that's the real trouble with envy. it may fuel your desires. at the same time it deflates you. that's right, in your envious state you wish to be other than you are, someone else. gurus and therapists make a fortune out of this, as do all religions. they teach (or try to) self-acceptance. 'but, then, how will i win?' everytime i get unhappy i realize ambition the root cause. as my mother more or less beat into me, 'you were born for glory. save the world!' it's one thing to be loved, it's another to be deified.

if you haven't seen 'tick, tick, boom' at the blue room, i recommend it. an early work of the writer who wrote the big hit 'rent' and died close to opening night. that fact certainly lessens my envy.

you can see pictures of the show here.

and buy tickets here