and the ancient art of self-delusion
Late this past summer I went to picnic in central park. It stood out from other picnics in the manner of its creation. My wife Annika and I went not knowing another soul, yet were confident that we’d meet other liked-minded characters with shared interests.
The event was part of a worldwide meetup concocted by a blogger that we both really admire, who writes long-form posts covering science, technology and amateur psychology. His work inspires me in mine so it’s fair to say I really look up to him. He’s also insufferably humble; yet another sobering reminder of how much ground I’ve yet to cover in the battle of self discovery.
What made this particular meetup different from the others was that the author himself was present. Neither Annika nor I were there to actually meet him, though if the opportunity presented itself we would have readily indulged.
He was approachable for sure, smiling and chatting with ease. All of his fans crowded around him, eager to soak up even an iota of that elusive spark that he’s somehow kindled. But I resisted the approach — I loathed the idea of him just entertaining another reader.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been reluctant to approach my heroes. I struggle just admitting to myself that I have any. I shy away from any situation where I’m the supplicant, the power dynamic not unlike a cold approach of an attractive mate. The bargain I made with myself in adulthood was to insist on leveling the playing field first; I’ll freely chat to anyone but only when we meet under neutral circumstances, or at least perceptually so.
Perhaps it’s a residue of Australiana. A stubborn refusal to feel inferior. The immanent conviction that I am just as worthy as anyone else. That by lowering myself to petition them, I’d be acknowledging the power they have over me.
If I’m honest, there’s a familiar parasite lurking beneath my pride. That pernicious creature that worms its way into thoughts sowing discontent with abandon — fear. The fear of rejection. If this person I look up to, this person who’s found a way to stay true to their own authentic self regardless of the cacophony of voices swirling around them, if they see me as just another face in the void, well, I suppose I’ll have to consider the possibility that I am just that.
We met a number of fascinating people in just a few short hours that summer afternoon. Conversations such as the ethics of cryonics stemmed naturally from the blog’s more polarizing posts, and before long we were theorizing on what Trump and nativism represent in the American — and global — psyche.
I never approached my hero that day. I left convincing myself that the situational organics were just not there. Walking back to the subway, I found myself trying in vain to banish betraying thoughts of sour grapes.