Warlord: Conan. What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women.
A high school classmate and I have been exchanging emails about goals and maturity. Half-century stuff. It was in this context that he asked me if I’m “continually heading in the direction of something bigger.”
I live in a building overrun with upwardly mobile 20-somethings and every time I step into the elevator with one of them, clean-cut and hard shoe-wearing, a tiny part of me winces. They’re deal-doers in-the-making, back-slappers-in-training, good ol’ boy aspirants who, one day, will sit in judgement over my loan, my court case, my medical condition. They’ll decide energy policy, tax rates, development strategies and diplomatic goals. Some days I fear them. Other days I pity them. Some days I harbor a low-grade dislike for them that’s based, as much as anything, in my resentment of the fact that they’ve already accumulated more influence and material wealth than I ever will. I’m the old bull chewing weeds at the edge of the pasture while the young bulls rut and frolic in the clover.
But am I so unlike them? Superficial differences aside, I mean. Aren’t we all in the business of crushing our enemies and seeing them driven before us? Aren’t the lamentations of the women music to all our ears?
I’m quite comfortable admitting that I don’t want my creative efforts to disappear down the black hole of artistic self-righteousness. I want the work I do to fund my modest lifestyle and, when it’s to our mutual advantage, catalyze or be catalyzed by the work of others.
I’m less eager to own my competetiveness. It seems to me that relatively few of the best things in life are cut from the still-warm scalps of fallen foes. Really good bagels and coffee, for example, are way up there on my hit parade. So are moments of inspiration, serendipity, clarity, uninterrupted sleep, online dictionaries and street musicians. Why then, with all this going for me, do I get restless when the tribe on the other side of the hill fells a deer? Why does it follow that I should form a raiding party to steal the deer?