When Danielle was in school, a student bullied her. She offered arguments, she tried to show to the bully that he actually gained nothing on acting so, but it didn’t help.
A fellow student, who liked Danielle, told her, “Bullies only understand force. When he comes next, give him a good hard kick. And if he comes again, give him an even better one”.
So, the bully upset Danielle’s lunch-box and walked away, and Danielle, following the advice, followed him and gave him a hard kick. Danielle was disturbed to find that she actually liked it.
On another day, the bully hit Danielle in the back and tried to run away. But Danielle caught him, and gave him five better ones. Danielle loved it, her friend (for her adviser was now her best friend) loved it, and the bully disapparated. Danielle was upset, though, because she did not understand why she loved it!
The Wise Old Man said, “Danielle starts becoming a human”.
When Danielle was 15, she was elected the Chairgirl of the C. C.P. She was full of ideas and the will to correct all wrongs. And she jumped right into the business.
Her first strange case was a man refusing to give Income Taxes. Danielle met him, and he quoted Burke and said, The Thing is an Outrage. Danielle didn’t understand him, but she did understand that her own position depended on people not objecting to Income Taxes, and so she sent him to jail.
Pretty soon she had her hands full. She found that a popular councillor was quite corrupt. She dismissed him from the council, and found too late that he had friends everywhere! Soon, newspaper editorials starting speaking against “the slow destruction of the C. character due to foreign influences”, the Yeas in meetings started coming tardily, and even her cook started adding too little or too much salt! Danielle consulted books and found out that one “consolidates the Society” via external threats. She declared, “We shall not stand by and watch the provocations by our neighbours. We are ready for fitting replies, replies which suit the great C. people”. She studied up on propaganda, and started promising that by following her plans, the poor will become the rich, that the great C. people, drawing on their traditional wisdom, would soon enjoy an exciting and calm life at the same time, et cetera. And she organized a sting operation to catch the corrupt (ex-)official “red-handed”, and put him in jail.
Everything now went smoothly. Only Danielle’s soul was contorted. She was actually in pain. It seemed to her that she was not made to “lie, flatter, evade, compromise, pander to every ineptitude”, just so that idiots can be happy. So, she resigned from her position.
And the Wise Old Man said, “Danielle is become more human”.
(Almost forgot. Before resigning, she remembered about the tax protester, and pardoned him. He emigrated to Mars, and in later years he and Danielle became good friends.)
A couple of years later, Danielle found herself in a “strange” company. (It was actually a barbaric company, but Danielle didn’t acknowledge such things! She wanted to be always friendly, graceful and helpful.) There, a man tried to rape her.
She asked herself, “How are such things even possible? How is it that while I won’t do this to anyone, someone else can do this to me? Could it be that the world is ugly? Can one live in a world where such things are possible? Would I have to keep a look out for such things at all times, henceforth? How would I be able to love humans again!” Danielle found that her world was collapsing and started crying.
But the Wise Old Man appeared, and started speaking to Danielle thus:
“Danielle, suppose you were passing through a jungle and were chased by a wolf. How significant would this event be? Would it shake your world? Would you say, ‘This digs up fundamental issues! I cannot move until I’ve reconsidered — in light of the new details — how I see myself, how I see The Others, and how I relate to The Others!’? No, you wouldn’t. You would just take a bath, laugh at it, and then forget the whole thing.
“There are events — and the responsible agents — which you wish to honour and cherish, because they affirm your best hopes. And at the other end, there are events and agents which you cannot accommodate in your worldview, because accommodating them will corrupt your picture of Humans. So reject them! If someone asks you, ‘did something unpleasant happen there?’, you could just answer, ‘I don’t remember!’. Who says that this is a ‘significant event’? It is up to you to assign significances!
“Wash it off after retribution, if you can afford to deliver it swiftly. Or wash it off without retribution if you cannot deliver it swiftly. But, it is like holding hot coal in your hand – a top concern is throwing it off.
“Accommodation of an event and the person in your world is an honour, and if the other person can learn of it: a gift — for it shows that one’s efforts are meaningful. Notice and praise are gifts. Censure is a greater gift. Use them carefully. Give gifts to what you love and wish to strengthen, not what’s ugly! And while the very act in the former case strengthen you, the very act in the latter case weakens you!
“Become hard, Danielle. It is not right to attempt to love ‘all of it’ — pick up and nourish some, and ignore or suppress the rest. It is not right to care for all of it, not right to get entangled with all of it. You love yourself much in your opinions, show more love to yourself in your acts!”
Danielle liked what she heard and found that she had become stronger, and also lighter, than before. (She was resolved to consider and develop the ideas still further, of course.)
And the Wise Old Man said, “Danielle is now become a human”, kissed her forehead, and disappeared.
As she passed her mid-20s, Danielle noticed that things were getting duskier. She noticed that meeting new people did not excite her, as it once used to do. A walk through nature used to be immensely pleasing to her, but she noticed that it wasn’t anymore. She found that people respected her, and some even loved her, but there was something unlovely about this love. At times, she wanted to marry and have children, but she wanted a husband to look up to (at least in parts!), and she didn’t know any such suitable person. A few years of being cooked in this — and Danielle was now in pain!
One fine day, she was strolling in a garden, and whom does she find but the Wise Old Man! He had become older and frailer, but he looked as profound as before. They greeted each other, and Danielle seated him on a bench.
Danielle was eager to talk about herself, so she started right away: “Dear Old Man, could you have any idea about why I am unhappy? I am able to do good work, I am surrounded by friends and well-wishers, and I don’t see any unsolvable problem around me! So, why am I permanently troubled? Why am I getting heavier?”
The Wise Old Man thought a bit, and said:
“You are trying to solve problems created by others. Others have some ideas about shaping the world according to their own visions. They do what they can, but part of their failure is that they create new problems on the way. And you follow them, correcting errors. It is essentially the garbage collector’s job.
“That everyone likes you is precisely the sign that you are doing things wrong. Don’t you recall the stories of people opposing new ideas and perspectives with their full strength? Every new thing ‘cannot be done’ — and when it can be done, it is ‘bloody murder!’. The majority hate anyone who differs — in opinions, actions, powers, habits and dress! And yet you have a cakewalk everywhere. Isn’t it curious?
“But you don’t have a cakewalk. You are unhappy. You are unhappy because you are not a prime mover, but someone constrained to employ her powers in service of the ‘common good’.
“You wonder why you don’t find ‘good people’? That’s because you see them as ‘dissipators’ or ‘evil’. According to you, they should be there, right next to you, under the yoke, sharing your burden.
“You, too, don’t have to solve problems. You can, instead, be playing! Get rid of the ‘spirit of gravity’.
“And develop your own dreams, and work on them. You don’t have to worry about solving problems of Spain — problems, of which there is no end; dream of your own voyages.”
Danielle felt excited at such talk, and filed the Wise Old Man’s words reverentially in her to-do cabinet. When the Wise Old Man moved to get up, she gently kissed his forehead, and helped him stand up. Before leaving, the Wise Old Man said, “Dear Danielle, never despair!”.
The Wise Old Man said to himself, however, “Danielle will become a child”.
Danielle did often despair. How did she overcome it?
She had always been severe with herself as she thought that by “not sparing herself” she would be grow up faster. When she noticed that she handled some event non-perfectly, she got angry. Repeat mistakes, or stupid mistakes, despaired her.
One day, when she was in despair, she noticed a stranger, and said to herself, “Wait a minute! I think I am worth more than him! I think I am worth more than many around!”. This made her wonder, “Is my pride in myself, which is still perfectly intact, consistent with my despair with myself?”
So she dug. She noticed that her desire to “not spare herself” requires her to be as harsh as possible and see everything in the worst possible light. Repeated a mistake once too often? You would keep on doing it! Would an attempt succeed? Bring out the most unpleasant possibilities, and set up that as the ‘truth’! Such ‘truths’, however, robbed her of cheerfulness.
Danielle had often noticed that when she felt weak or pained, she worked badly. She had realized, though, that failure when weak or pained is “natural” — nature punishes the weak, often with death. She wondered if she needs to attempt to be happy all the time when working.
And she asked herself if it is not foolish to assign probabilities in the first place. All cases are unique, so there is never a precedent. When Moses led Israelites out of slavery, would he have worried about the chances of success? Is it not enough that there is a possibility of success? If she cannot do without a picture of the future, then instead of the ‘truth’, she can have a ‘belief’!
It is wonderful to illuminate all the weaknesses and mistakes. She can work on correcting them! But at no point can she do without cheerfulness. “Nothing succeeds in which Übermut plays no role”.
She finally realized that she had been taking things too “seriously”. She hadn’t noticed that there was no God anymore, poking around everything and nodding or shaking his head at everything. There was no more a worry about Eternity. She was ‘allowed’ to make mistakes. She was ‘allowed’ to blow things up! It is a game. She said, “I can frown on myself — and then cheer up!”
What allows her to handle the world so lightly? How does she have the power to get herself into fresh air? Remember the Wise Old Man? So she thanked the Wise Old Man.
This has a few elements from a story which Ray Kurzweil and Amy Kurzweil are writing, mentioned here [Youtube.com: around 27:00 to 33:00.] and elsewhere. Danielle is a supergenius who (in the Kurzweils’ story) changes the world by solving humanity’s accumulated problems.
I have tried to show that some parts in the story (the Kurzweils’ story) are missing.
“Danielle will become a child”: See Thus Spake Zarathustra, The Three Metamorphoses.
“worry about solving problems of Spain …”: This is a reference to Columbus, though Columbus was born in Italy.
Übermut means a bold cheerfulness, where the limits of “good sense” have been crossed; excessive cheerfulness. A translator of the quote uses ‘prankishness’, another ‘high spirits’. (The quote is from Götzen-Dämmerung.)
“There was no more a worry about Eternity.”: Some concern for Eternity is probably healthy. See “The Seven Seals (Or: The Yea- and Amen-Song)” in Thus Spake Zarathustra.
[Also, the 5th section is not complete. It covers only half the problem. There is another despair — when you think that “the world” not good enough.]
“In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!”: Burke.