Maybe you are like me and you are like most of us and so you imagine that your looks and your brains and your accumulations matter. Sometimes this works well for us, because if nothing else we can imagine the strangers we pass on the street are slower-witted, less noble, less burdened by uniqueness. We can tell ourselves this about every stranger we see, because we are accustomed to imagining that we are smarter or more prescient or more feeling than most, which is a stupid assumption because we haven’t met most people, or even a fraction of some people, and so we have a misshapen and narrow-headed view of what it means to be special.
But we are used to being smarter or prettier or more charming, and this sustain us, except when we find ourselves in the company of brainier and sexier people, people who are charming and witty and who likely never have to ask themselves how they will pay next month’s credit card bill if they buy that gorgeous watch in the Anthropologie catalog.
Then we are run aground, we are gutted on the Colosseum sand, we are denuded and deflated and we see ourselves as very, very small things, as imperfect things, as creatures who will never, ever live up to the images we conjure of ourselves in our most deluded moments.
But the thing is, none of us will heave his corpse, in that last day, onto the same scale. You have the life that has unfolded for you, and I the life that has unfolded for me, and all of us have a very simple and terrifying responsibility, which is simply to answer the question, as Victor Frankl would say, that our lives are asking us. You wake up each day or night and you answer your life’s question. You answer it in cold truth or in warm love or with a craven lie, but you answer it all the same, because only you can answer it, and whether the charming genius with the beautiful Anthropologie watch could answer it better than you is no matter, because he has his own question to answer and it is very, very different than yours, and likely you should thank God it is his question to answer and not yours, because who among us can know, in the dread dark of night, the terror that presses down upon another man’s chest?
Maybe you’ve never answered the question well, in all the days of your life. How will you answer it today?