Looking Past the Petty to What Matters

Gem in hand
What Truly Matters

I cannot recall ever having an inferiority complex. By that I mean I don’t recall ever experiencing a sustained feeling that someone else’s greater natural or acquired status, intellect, talent, or abilities, in any way diminished me—that because I was not so endowed, I must be made of lesser clay. That’s not to say I haven’t felt envy from time to time, or that I haven’t felt inadequate for some task. I certainly have. Knowing my limitations, and accepting them, seems to me the better part of maturity and happiness.

On the flip side, I have experienced people who have a finely tuned superiority complex. I’m sure you know the type; they have the air of someone who wants you to think they’re naturally superior. Candidly speaking, I’m usually not bothered by these people. I’m actually rather amused…and curious.

The snobbery of wealth is typically hollow and fake, there’s usually not much depth there. You find out quickly in conversation. There are no spiritual or mental qualities worth admiring in money snobs. And typically speaking, they’re terrible bores, because they’ve got big pockets but not usually big minds or souls. The snobbery of beauty is, well, skin deep. We may find the snobbery unattractive and off-putting, even if we can’t help but admire the beauty.

A truly cultured and refined intellect or artistic sense…now that’s something different. The snobbery is bad and, yes, off-putting. But unlike the rich or the beauty snob, the intellectual or artistic snob may have something to truly offer beyond mere show. Their snobbery, in part, may actually be justified. Not in the class sense or “I’m superior than you” sense, but in the “I’m unique” sense. I have no problem recognizing and admiring superior minds. I’d like to think engaging these minds is good for my own. If you’re an avid reader, especially of the Great Books, you’re use to getting past the ephemeral and detritus of human folly and admiring the enduring gems of wisdom and art. If we seek a life of depth and meaning we cannot get “caught up in the thick of thin things.”* We must move past it to what truly matters.

I should note that I’m not saying that being a snob, in any way, is a good thing, because it’s not. I’m just saying that some self-regard may be deserved, even if most of the time, I find, it’s not. I’m saying that sometimes truly gifted people may be a snobs, but I don’t let that distract me from enjoying and learning from engagement with their mind—which is the only part of them you can truly learn anything of lasting value. I can look past the petty, even inwardly laugh at it sometimes, to recognize something unique and take from it those gems that edify my own mind and soul.

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