I remember attending a lecture by the Tibetan monk Sogyam Rimpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, in which, smiling all the while, he confessed, “So many people, they say, ‘I’m not afraid of death.’I tell you, they’re lying! Death? Very scary. Me? I’m very scared of death.” And I thought to myself, “Phew, if he’s scared, then it’s certainly okay that I’m scared too.”
People can be real jerks. They can be rude, condescending, insulting. They can be greedy, selfish, egotistical. They can be stubborn, narrow-minded, hard-headed, and sometimes just plain mean. You probably know a few people like this, people you avoid as much as possible, those sundry unpleasant sorts you’ve come to regard as, well, assholes. Chances are you’re not even the only one who thinks of these particular individuals in this way. A lot of folks likely consider them assholes too, probably for the exact same reasons you do. Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely if such people didn’t exist? Wouldn’t it be simply stupendous if the world we live in was suddenly completely free of assholes?
Oh, I remember the incident far too clearly. I was about ten years old. My family was taking a road trip to Ocean City, Maryland when we stopped at a fast food restaurant for a quick bite. We got our food, took it to one of the tables outside, sat down, then realized we had no ketchup. When my parents asked me to return, alone, to ask the cashier for some, I refused. They asked again and again I refused, this time more adamantly. Perplexed as to why I’d be making such a fuss about this, their request grew into a demand. I burst into tears, at which point my sister, two years my junior, cheerfully proclaimed, “I’ll go!” and scurried away. (She’s now a public speaking coach.)