Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Not Used To Boasting


Jonathan is experienced and proficient at improving students competency in English to the standard required for University study, be that study in the field of the Humanities or Business. By utilizing a strongly learner-centered approach, he is aware of the importance of flexibility in targeting his teaching to the aspirations and needs of his students. Above all, by sharpening and refining their powers of expression, he wants his students to grow in intellectual and analytical self-confidence so that they will excel as much as they are able, in both their University studies and the workplace beyond.” Jonathan, 2008

"In the world as it should be, men would not chase women. Women would chase men. Men would chase the Kingdom of Heaven." Jonathan, 1991.

"The problem with you, Mr Tillotson, is you need to live in a more gracious age than this." Father Anthony Meredith, SJ, 1994 (quoted from memory).

Recently, I've had some news. This news is still secret from my Kuwaiti boss. I have about five bosses in my company by the way, but it’s the Kuwaiti one who pays. The news won’t be secret much longer, however. Even though the chance of his reading my blog is quark-sized, amongst the few who care about my Most Royal Obscureness, word begins to circulate. I have a future and it isn’t him. This news might wing its way to him somehow.

Before long he will need to be told. He needs his notice period. The bureaucratic wheels of residency and work visa transference, which I have worried, possibly without cause, he might obstruct - hence my delay in informing him - need to begin their croaking, labyrinthine circuits. Actually, I’ve nothing against him at all. I have always found him rather charming, the two times I’ve met him. He has treated me well. But in the Game of the Gulf, so I sense, when in doubt, fortune favours the silent.

The words that I recently wrote, above in italics, are for some PR literature for my future employer. It felt weird writing it. It always feels weird, having to sell myself. I do not like doing it. I can’t help feeling it is in poor taste. But here, as in interviews if I want to stand a chance of succeeding, I had to force myself.

Actually, in this case the energy and zeal I mustered to get my new job surprised me. Typically, my efforts to secure work are less than half-hearted. Begrudged, weary expressions of resignation to wage slave reality are usually my style. Might it be, can it be believed: after seven years of not wanting to be a Tefl teacher, am I finally coming round to the idea?

There might be some truth in this. I’m not sure. Let me sit on that thought awhile. In any case, do not take this fancy as a cancellation of my invitation to you to suggest, or better provide, rosier, more meaningful avenues for my talents and potentialities – howsoever you may perceive them. As I have written before, I’m happier to be bought than to sell myself.

Where did I acquire my aesthetic, visceral, aversion to boasting. I realize what a feminised psychologist would say, dripping, oozing matronisation: You lack self-esteem. You should be more confident. You were not loved enough as a child. Don’t be so wet.

Whatever the status of these presumptious, intimidating observations, what interests me are the cultural, intellectual influences that might underwrite, shore up, justify my, admittedly, existential reluctance to boast, to loudly sing my own praises; especially to sing them where they belong to be sung, or so we’re told: in the two fields of endeavour that are supposed to matter the most to male egos keen to reproduce their genes and maximize their impact: before the faces of ladies, and in the search for employment.

I like to think I get some justification for what I like to consider not my weakness but my attachment to a gracious, sublimely higher life, from the life of Jesus Christ. Though clearly certain, if not arrogant, about his own importance when pressed, in his behaviour he was very humble; both preaching and enacting examples of altruistic service towards others (albeit a service that made him happy as well; well, until Gethsemane). The boasts he did make, when he made them (expressed most repetitively in the Gospel of John), tended to be made after he’d performed some outrageously cool miracle or delivered one of his heart warming wisdom speeches, stunning his audience into an imploring curiosity. He didn’t market himself as someone who should either be taken on trust, or found interesting to the exclusion of others. On the contrary, that we might be interested in and make space for others, was exactly what he wanted; that we should hunger and long for the happiness and joy of others, as God, with whom it is true he identified, hungers and longs for ours; for the happiness of his creations, their liberation from the dark consequences of their own self-chosen, self-enclosing, selfishness.

In a defence of myself against the accusation of betraying a wetness ill-suited to our shamelessly self-centred age, beyond Jesus, I would defer generally to a long tradition of thought in Christendom; a tradition which at least in its explicit intentions has sought to promulgate and promote ideals of self-sacrificing service and love. I acknowledge that such thought has not always, or even often, materialized in practical action; that charges of hypocrisy and failure to deliver are absolutely justified on occasions. But not on all occasions, I would hasten to insist. What we should remember about hypocrisy, moreover, which many Westerners, resentful and disenchanted with their own culture, seem not to want to see, is that at least hypocrisy reveals the existence of some standards, even if they are not kept. Not being hypocritical, not failing to be who you aspire to be, as a culture, is all very easy if what you aspire to be is exactly what you already are, or even less.

I tangentialise, if that's a word. Should it be? I think so.

What I want to say in conclusion is that I dislike asserting and promoting my qualities in the abstract - by speaking of or referring to them (whatever they may be). I would prefer, unselfconsciously, to just show them, by just embodying them, to those who can or wish to see them. It is not for me to relate to you my value, whatever it may be. It is for you to perceive it, insofar as it is valuable to you. That goes as much, I feel, for a woman who might want to mate with me, as for someone who might want to give me money in exchange for some activity on my part.

If this leads you to suppose I should want to live in a very different world, then, in which, amongst other features, women were more proactive in the courtship processes ( there is no modern equivalent for 'courtship') and employers were more upfront in selling themselves to potential employees, whom they would conclude from their own perceptions were suitable for them, you would be right.

Such a world, sublime, gracious, abundant, sacrificing no standards of excellence on its altars of co-operation; peaceful and advancing according to a higher dialectic; in which the interactions of opposites occur through love, not war. This is the world that I come from, if I might be mythological for a moment. The world I want to see.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You wrote: "It always feels weird, having to sell myself." I agree entirely. However, a friend helped me with this the other day. When you write these ridiculously self-important statements (which, after all, is what they are) do not wrack yourself with guilt about their duplicity. Everyone is "at it" every hour, every minute, every second of the day. This incessant game of selling ourselves is not a question of ego, but one of survival. However, rather than equipping us with delusions of grandeur and misplaced authority, it does in fact enable us to pursue our interests in a world that is seemingly hell-bent upon denying those interests. In other words, sell yourself to the best of your abilities, because it will help you to continue to be you. And it will help you to reside in the pristine space of your imagination. You must sell yourself Jonathan and sell yourself well in order to maximise the potential of your destiny upon this earth.

Jonathan said...

"When you write these ridiculously self-important statements (which, after all, is what they are)"

But tell me, how could a statement made by myself about myself not be important to me? So what point are you making about it being self-important? Of course it is. I think what you are really driving at is: why do I credit significance to my individual inner life? Er...because it's mine? Because I experience it? Because even if I don't
acknowledge it or reflect on it,
it will still work its way out through me?

Whether such self-important statements strike a chord with someone else is their business. I accept though that I can be inclined on this blog (though it is mine after all) to write rather too much about my inner life perhaps - given that I actually would like it to be found interesting by others, if possible...

Yes but that everyone is 'at' something all the time doesnt make it right. Ok sometimes it does..like for example in the case of breathimg oxygen. I don't mind being a conformist in that regard:)

Still, I take you point about my need to assert and push in order not to be squashed. Maybe if I knew who might like to buy me, it would be easier to sell myself to them? I guess I just want to attract a buyer magically or something. I dont mind attracting, and then selling after interest is aroused. God, how sexual this all seems. Still, it has been said that getting a a job and getting a shag are analagous.

My issue, I suppose, comes with imposing the demand to be found buyable upon a potential buyer when they haven't even found me
attractive to begin with. It just seems like a noisy intrusive imposition. Caddish, my lord!

Thank you for your kind remarks, btw, whoever you are...(Im trying to have my suspicions about whether we know each other or not).

Anonymous said...

LOL, yes, I think that getting a job and getting a shag are unquestionably analagous, my lord. Thank you for this wisdom, which I shall ingest forthwith and thenceonward attempt to apply in a practical manner hitherto unimagined.

My problem is that I have no great desire to be bought in the first place - which tends to mean that I get left on the shelf, gathering dust and becoming more and more indistinct by the day. Ah well, so long as I may remain as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM, then I couldn't give a hoot who wants to buy me and who does not. They can take me or leave me and I will have my integrity and eat it. Bring on oblivion!

Anonymous said...

Apologies for implying that "your" statements were self-important, my lord, of course I meant "one's" statements, which is to say, "everyone's" - at least, when statemtents are expressed in terms of "I am greater than thou, because..." (which, of course, is the underling tenet of any CV or resume). We have constructed a bizarre job game on this planet in which it is essential for survival to "sell your ass" every minute of the waking day. I used to find this incomprehensibly savage, odious and laughably inane, but now I have become benumbed to its harmfulness. And I am but half a man.

Jonathan said...

'Ah well, so long as I may remain as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM, then I couldn't give a hoot who wants to buy me and who does not.'

While I wouldn't want to presume that the great, infinite I AM (i.e God) is as delighted as he might be with your manifestations and engagements in the World (I don't know..maybe he is!), what you say reminds me of the old noble desire burning sublimely in the hearts of theists of yore - namely that ones purpose in life, to use a modern expression, was to 'impress God'..and so not, as it more commonly is today, to impress 'Man', which at least to heterosexual males such as I (and thee?), translates as to 'impress women', and for purposes of remuneration, to 'impress the boss'.

And so we make ourselves the ambitious slaves of merely immanent, earthbound standards of judgement, if you 'get' my 'drift'.

Paroxysms of the finite, the opaque and the tunnel visioned all round! Whoopeee!

Blake would not approve....if you ask me.

Jonathan said...

May my ass never be sold.

But if someone wants to buy my ass, of course, well, they can apply through the appropriate channels.

I hope, dear sir, that you can find the other half of your manliness!