Go with a smile!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Darth Vader

There was this guy at work, I had often referred to him as Darth Vader. He was a capable person, good at his job, and is actually fairly high on the hierarchy, but is one of the least well liked people at work. He doesn’t scream at people or anything like that, but you always felt that he kept up his sleeve something hidden, like he had a knife sheathed somewhere that he could always pull out and do you in with if he felt it necessary. It was like he was the dark side. I heard stories told of him, that he would complain to your bosses if he didn’t like your face. That he was capable of underhandedness when he was in the mood. That he took people down very easily.

People could work with him, and he could be reasonable most of the time, but they would be fearful of making mistakes, and in a way he stifled them.

But one day, somebody told me a story at that Darth Vader told at his mother’s funeral. He had a hard life. His mother was a schizophrenic, and he had to deal with it for most of his life. His father refused to divorce her because she loved her, but he had to deal with not having a caring mother, or one that was constantly liable to do crazy things.

Aside from this, it is all conjecture. But who could resist imagining the effect this had on the young Anakin Skywalker? The sullenness, the rage, the hurt. It is so much more difficult to open your heart out to people when you know that something terrible awaits you just around the corner. The terrible feeling of having to keep secrets from people, because there are things you couldn’t confide in just anybody. The sinking feeling of futility, where there is a lot of suffering, and there is no end to all that suffering, because the source of it does not go away.

People have said before, that which does not kill you only makes you stronger. That statement, by the way, is utter rubbish. Because it’s like saying that everything is either good or bad, that everything either moves up, moves down, or stays the same. Duh. But what it does tell you is that adversity is a transformative experience. Some people feel that they triumph over adversity and take away from that experience a newfound confidence to deal with life’s challenges. Others get tossed and turned by the tide, and get callous and hard. The self defence mechanism that come up to deal with the problem becomes a permanent mask. The cynicism turns outwards, and where before it was possible to treat people with compassion, suddenly life becomes a process by which the strong crush the weak, and the only purpose in life is to avoid defeat.

Something bad happens to you, then you end up saying, “life is unfair”. That is the first step on the slippery slope, because it quickly leads to: “life is unfair, so fuck everybody”. Then later on it becomes: “boy, it’s fun to fuck everybody”. (I use “fuck” here in the sense of cause harm to, rather than have sex with.) Then you put on glasses. Everything looks different when you have them on. Nobody has good intentions. Or they may just be good today and turn around and screw you tomorrow. Or I could want to be good, and everybody could want to be good, but it’s just so much easier to continue our old I fuck you you fuck me relationship.

Why am I telling you all this, other than to get into big trouble with my bosses at work? Because I recognise that there is a (hopefully mild) version of this darkness in my own very heart. The times when I treat people more coldly than I should. The times when I hold people at 1 arm’s length. The times when I just lead people on a wild goose chase so that I don’t have to tell ppl too much. (OK, there are good reasons for being discreet, like other people don’t really want to know, other people don’t have much in common with you, other people won’t understand, etc.)

To be fair to him, I have heard a lot of stories about him in the past. But not in the last few years. It could have been that he's toned down, it could have been that he's risen to a position that he's finally happy with. In any case, it could have been that he's changed.

Anyway at my workplace, there was an initiative to make people behave more positively towards each other, and some of us were startled when we went for a course, and who else should deliver the opening address than Darth Vader? I suppose people were also surprised that Richard Nixon, a nominally conservative president, should have been the one who reached out to Communist China. But if even a conservative like Nixon thinks that US should not have a cold war with China, then it must be true. Similarly I think that even if Darth Vader thinks that it's important to be careful about personal relationships, you have to sit up and listen.



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