Sunday, January 09, 2005

A spiteful and envious mind

A spiteful and envious mind

Updated 11:23am (Mla time) Jan 09, 2005
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A12 of the January 9, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I RECEIVED many cordial congratulations for my article "On turning 80" (Inquirer, 10/10/04) from contemporaries who were happy to extend me a warm "welcome to the club" of advanced senior citizens. They said I was now entitled like them to the usual privileges given to octogenarians, like allowances for loss of memory and occasional infantile behavior as in second childhood.

We all had a good laugh. I really enjoyed their greetings and sincerely thanked them for joining in my happiness. They showed me that conviviality, more than misery, loves company.

One reader, however, was not equally pleased. In fact, he was resentful and imputed to me boastful motives. He said the article "gave (him) the impression that (I) seem superfluous in self-laudation, expressing praise, commendation and self-satisfaction in (my) many accomplishments...

"I can't help to wonder how many oldsters in the 70s and 80s who did not make the grade felt after reading your essay," he lamented. "How degraded they must be for being 'failures' ... The truth is that the lives of these 'failures' are made more miserable because the ones who have made it in life are not willing to allow them to forget the successes of some of their contemporaries."

Part of such successes, he concluded in a pique of envy and selfishness, "spells LUCK." For this, he suggested, although he did not actually say so, I cannot claim any credit. I should not be so egoistic, he said, if I had not been just lucky for being "in the right place at the right time." (Like being the millionth visitor to a fair?)

I suppose this was a happenstance he did not enjoy, which is why he felt so frustrated. My first impulse on reading his letter was to throw it in the trashcan where it belonged. On second thought, however, I decided to write this reply and exorcise, if I can, the bitterness that must be gnawing at this man's soul.

The malicious impression he got from my article is his, not mine, nor did I give it to him. If he felt dejected and excluded, that is his problem, not mine. Contrary to his accusation, I was not showing off for that is not in my nature. I was merely narrating some of my pleasant memories and sharing them with my readers, whom I consider my friends.

It is the pleasure of old people to recall the days when they were young and vigorous and full of hope and ambition. The present has become a plateau and the future is a time they can only await but no longer anticipate. Memories, especially the cherished ones, are like caresses from the past that enable them to re-live the adventures of the vanished years.

That is what I felt when I looked back in my article. There was no vain or wicked purpose to compare myself with others without similar recollections.

The suggestion that my intention was to make others feel miserable for their failures is an inane malediction. Only the malicious can entertain such a cruel thought. The writer of that letter must presume the worst in every human being and suspect that everything a person does is aimed to molest his innocent neighbor. That is what he has convicted me of with his disaffected mind.

Rather than rejoice with me for my fond memories, he has decided that I am a churlish person whose purpose in life is to compare myself with others and put them in a bad light. I do not even know who those others are, what he describes as their failures, and why I should criticize them at all. Yet he would make me the ultimate villain for saying I am better than those others who should be ashamed of their failures.

Most of us think of the best in people (except crooks in general and politicians in particular), but the person who wrote that letter is an angry exception. He is a hater who thinks that every guileless act conceals bad intentions. He must be a lonely man. As he has revealed that he is spiteful and unwilling to see others enjoy themselves, he will be, for charity's sake, nameless in this piece.

I thought at first of replying to him privately to correct those ugly thoughts that are warping his heart and mind. I have decided, however, to do this in this column, just in case there are some who think as darkly as he does. The many other letters I have received on that article were cheerful and affable, but there may be one or two like him who are lurking in the shadows. I hope they will see the light even if he does not.


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