No airs.

Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:

1) They respect human beings as individuals and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable … They do not create scenes over a hammer or a mislaid eraser; they do not make you feel they are conferring a great benefit on you when they live with you, and they don’t make a scandal when they leave. (…)

2) They have compassion for other people besides beggars and cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye. (…)

3) They respect other people’s property, and therefore pay their debts.

4) They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don’t tell lies even in the most trivial matters. To lie to someone is to insult them, and the liar is diminished in the eyes of the person he lies to. Civilized people don’t put on airs; they behave in the street as they would at home, they don’t show off to impress their juniors. (…)

5) They don’t run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others. They don’t play on other people’s heartstrings to be sighed over and cosseted … that sort of thing is just cheap striving for effects, it’s vulgar, old hat and false. (…)

6) They are not vain. They don’t waste time with the fake jewellery of hobnobbing with celebrities, being permitted to shake the hand of a drunken [judicial orator], the exaggerated bonhomie of the first person they meet at the Salon, being the life and soul of the bar … They regard prases like ‘I am a representative of the Press!!’ — the sort of thing one only hears from [very minor journalists] — as absurd. If they have done a brass farthing’s work they don’t pass it off as if it were 100 roubles’ by swanking about with their portfolios, and they don’t boast of being able to gain admission to places other people aren’t allowed in (…) True talent always sits in the shade, mingles with the crowd, avoids the limelight … As Krylov said, the empty barrel makes more noise than the full one. (…)

7) If they do possess talent, they value it … They take pride in it … they know they have a responsibility to exert a civilizing influence on [others] rather than aimlessly hanging out with them. And they are fastidious in their habits. (…)

8) They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility … Civilized people don’t simply obey their baser instincts … they require mens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. That’s what civilized people are like … Reading Pickwick and learning a speech from Faust by heart is not enough if your aim is to become a truly civilized person and not to sink below the level of your surroundings.

[From a letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886]
― Anton Chekhov, A Life in Letters

To be comfortable in my own skin and life- that’s what I find truly worth striving for. I find purpose in building every aspect of my being to become the person that I am. In a puzzling time-warpesque way, this is also who I wanna be. To make peace with what I am given, is perhaps what religion means when it demands gratitude of our souls. In this clutter of information and inference, I sometimes lose my way and grapple with conflicting messages, only to realize that it is the messenger that has felt harsh. The message, in understanding it, has rubbed a nourishing balm on my mind, quieting my demons, stilling the noise, and soothing my nerves.

To give poetry to the intellectual is the equivalent of casting your pearls before swine– which is not to glorify the pearls, nor appear condescending to swine, but to take note of the clash. Each has their own version of chancing upon the truth, and that is how the universe unravels. My life may be a blip in that grand journey of time, but without it, all else will be void.

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2 thoughts on “No airs.

  1. Well quoted, Tejaswi! Compassion, humility, respect, gratitude,
    Love the Warhol piece Solitude that you picked to illustrate this article. Very fitting to depict the inner peace and reflection through gratitude, and the beginning of giving back.:)

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