Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Eating Green Grass

Google tells us there is simple jealousy and complex jealousy. If you probe those web pages a little further you’ll come up with a plethora of attributes, angles, theories, plausible explanations and some pretty far-out scenarios to explain adult jealousy. For example, some would argue that simple jealousy expresses value and complex jealousy drives you crazy. Another theory is that simple jealousy regulates distance while complex jealousy expands distance. These ivory tower dissertations do little in offering plausible explanations for us layman.

There is a clearer definition and I think the actress Carrie Fisher (Star Wars) got it right the first time. She’s been quoted as saying: “Envy is when you take poison and wait for the other guy to die.”

That’s it in a nut shell. Jealousy is that bile-taste in your mouth when you hear of another person’s good fortune. It’s the knot in your stomach at the sight of someone else’s newest possession. It’s perhaps hoping their good fortune might end sooner than later…and you’ll be around to see it.

I was reminded of these strange phenomena the other day when I was forced to watch one of those inane reality shows in front of my stationary bicycle at the gym. In this case it was one of those ‘The Real Housewives of…’ But it could have been any one of a dozen reality shows meant to garner eyeballs while leaving those respective minds void of any plausible rational thoughts. Some pretend news web sites do the same thing. Buzzfeed and The Daily Mail come to mind.

Jealousy is something we usually attribute to older children and teenagers. There’s an assumption that with maturity comes a realization that life isn’t fair and ‘some people have it made’ while others don’t. That’s the way we’d like to believe life works…but that can be far from the truth. Adults can be as jealous and envious of others just like kids. Sometimes it’s even worse because they can’t or won’t admit it.

We’ve all probably experienced someone in our extended family or circle of acquaintances that seems to be living the good life…without having earned it. They don’t seem to be working very hard or just seem to be lucky all the time. They might be business owners who have inherited the family business and have never worked overtime or evenings or weekends. It might be others who seem to be floating along quite blissfully without a care in the world.

Truth is, it’s been that way all of our lives. We all knew who ‘they’ were back in high school, in college and even in the workplace. We couldn’t help but notice their trappings of success and seemingly easy accumulation of material things. As ‘real life’ teaches us, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the tracks even if our eyes seem to tell us differently.

The media feeds us a steady diet of this Pablum all meant to make us want to be someone else. I have a friend who has an interesting take on the public’s continuing obsession with Hollywood gossip, ‘Entertainment tonight’ type programs and pretend celebrity news channels. His theory is that most people lead very dull lives and as such they love to live vicariously through the lives of their movie/television idols. He claims ‘we want what we can’t or don’t have.’ Does anyone remember ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?’

Once again envy raises its ugly head but under the guise of admiration or interest. In reality, nice people don’t always win, hard work doesn’t guarantee success and in general life isn’t always fair.

My wife and I have reminded our kids since grade school that ‘life isn’t fair’ and that things don’t always turn out in their favor. I would then add (gently): “Welcome to the real world…now learn to deal with it.”  Now they’re telling their own kids the very same thing.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard all your life for those things of importance to you. It just means there is no guarantee you’ll ever get there. But at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you tried and that in itself should be more than enough gratification.

Hard work and effort is still a moniker worthy of pursuit. To have tried and failed is still better than to never have tried in the first place.

For truly the journey itself is the destination.