A Fool of Myself

All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again.

I finished reading Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls this week. Overall, fantastic book. Great storytelling. Compelling protagonist.

One sentence, which I cannot remember word-for-word, was to the effect that Lily (the main character) noticed that her father never felt sorry for himself even though he’d been kicked in the head by a horse as a child and left with a severe speech impediment and a gimpy body. Lily admires this quality in her father and decides that quality — not feeling sorry for oneself — will be one by which she measures most people in her life.

A few thoughts about that:

First, how many of us can put into words the qualities we most admire in others? Do we allow ourselves to be that honest about what we like — and don’t — in our fellow human beings? As of late, I really appreciate smart people. People who think logically and rationally about politics and theology and science and history and all kinds of other topics. Not just informed people. Not just opinionated people. It’s a quality that surpasses information and opinion.

Second, I propose that the qualities we admire most in others come from two personal “motives”: 1) That these are qualities we secretly wish we had, too, or 2) That these are qualities we secretly admire most about ourselves. I think the difference in these two motives is maturity. When we’re young and don’t have a lot of experience in life, we look for people who exemplify all we want to be in our own lives. As we mature and become more comfortable in our own shoes, we know who we are — or at least who we are becoming — and can pin point what we actually love about ourselves.

To that end, yes, I admire that I am a smart person. I feel like I have apologized my entire life for my love of reading and learning. I often feel silly for admitting that I listen to NPR all day long. And I’ll admit that I’d rather read a really compelling non-fiction book than a fiction book just about every day of the week.

There so many more qualities that I admire in people because I want to be defined those qualities and because I have those qualities myself: loyalty, strength, perseverance, joy, kindness, grace, patience. I could go on and on. What are the qualities you most admire in others?

All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe