This one is a little long, but trust me you won’t regret taking a ride!
Have a read☺☺☺
Let’s take a ride to 221B Baker Street, London. Yes, Sherlock Holmes! When we think of Holmes, we think of his archnemesis being Professor Moriarty, this criminal mastermind. But let’s look at Inspector Lestrade, head of Scotland Yard, who needs Holmes desperately, needs Holmes genius but resents him.
Oh it’s so familiar. Each one of us had this cute little classmate in high school who was so dynamic and vibrant that every teacher was impressed with him. Singing, dancing, studies -you name it. Teachers as well as your own parents used to patronise him/her to your utter envy. You’d become so curdled with jealousy that you’d hatch out some devious plans to ruin that kid’s image. You’d never have had felt so deep determination in yourself. Under the guise of regular competitiveness, you’d do everything in your power, the little you had, to bring him/her down.
I certainly had such feelings when I was a teenager. Not that I don’t have them now! But now when I look back, I am baffled by my behaviour. Where did those creative ideas come from? I don’t know why I felt so great doing what I sometimes did? Why did it bother me so much that he was so good?
We always find others so impressive, as if they always are appallingly good that a mysterious and pervasive idea of jealousy pierces us inevitably. Now, to blame the society for making us this way is the easiest temptation for us to relieve ourselves of any introspection. Let’s not do that.
Remember when you were two or even younger! I don’t but I remember the stories my family told me as I grew old, that I’d frown at people who took my toys, that I’d cry when another baby was in my mom’s lap. I even made a grumpy face when I saw my brother for the first time, when he was suddenly the centre of everyone’s attention and I was left isolated. So, we are born with a sense of entitlement, of possession which when terminates itself manifests into envy.
We live in envious times yet there is so little psychological acceptance of jealousy. No study parses it’s longevity, the absolute loneliness, the grim thrill that brings us to the brink of an emotion so harsh and pitiless that it impediments our moral narrative foundations. It is an under-appreciated human emotion.
But, fiction is our way out. Fiction is the lab that has done the most intense and elaborate experiments on jealousy. It has studied it in every configuration. It has studied every genre of jealousy, the possessive and the material, the romantic and the academic, the financial and the political. Fiction domesticates jealousy, it demystifies it. It invites it to the table.
No faithless Helen, no Odyssey. No jealous king, no Arabian Nights. No Shakespeare. No Gatsby. No Madame Bovary. No Jane Austen. No jealousy, no romantic fiction. That’s for sure. Novel and jealousy go so well together. Like unintended children of human creativity.
Jealousy boils down to personal desire. When we feel jealous we tell ourselves a story, about others lives, they make us feel terrible because they are designed to make us feel terrible. As the teller of the tale and the audience, we know just what details to include, to dig that knife in.
Jealousy trains us look with intensity but not accuracy. The more intensely jealous we are the more we become residents of fantasy. Jealously makes us all amateur novelists, doesn’t it?
And it is hard work. It’s exhausting. It’s a hungry emotion, it must be fed. It likes every bit of information, details that feed on our crooked creativity to give a narrow narrative of a situation. Jealousy likes photos, that’s why Instagram is such a hit. That’s why Facebook is such a hit. We are all good citizens of social media where the very currency is envy.
Proust, a French novelist, in his ‘In Search of Lost Time’, says that a woman whom we need, who makes us suffer, illicits from us a gamete of feelings far more profound and vital, than a man of genius who interests us.
So, in its own notorious way, jealousy reveals us to ourselves. Does any other emotion crack us open in this particular way? Does any other emotion reveal to us our agreesion, our hideous ambition and out entitlement. Does any other emotion teach us to look with such clear intensity?
Envy is obviously repugnant but deep within it is a scientific investigations with real intellectual value. It feels intolerable and makes us look absurd. But it is, at its crux, a quest for knowledge, a quest for truth, painful truth. The more painful the truth, the better. Though only temporarily.
A man feels suspicious of his wife. He thinks – Everything I love about this woman, somebody else would love about this woman. Everything she does that gives me pleasure could be giving somebody else please too, maybe right about now. This is the story he starts to tell himself and from then on, every fresh charm he detects in her, he adds to his collection of instruments in his private torture chamber. He doesn’t look at what his wife is doing because she is blameless. The poor creature is under suspicion for no cause. But he’s looking for things that he’s wife is doing without noticing, the unintentional behaviour. Is she smiling too brightly here? Did she accidentally brush up against a man there? The man has become the custodian of his wife’s unconscious.
It prompots us to do not just violent things, it provokes us to behave in ways that are wildly inventive. Just think of that smart high school nemesis of yours, what you wouldn’t do to that poor child….. the aggressively creative you, ha?
A 52 year old woman in Michigan was caught creating a fake Facebook account from which she sent vile hideous messages to herself for a year. She was trying to frame her boyfriend’s new girlfriend.
How could you react with anything but with admiration. What immense if misplaced creativity! Jealousy makes us brilliantly bizarre! It muddles our minds. Once we are within the realms of jealousy, the membrane between what is and what could be, can be pierced in in instant.
Let’s go back to where we started, 221B Baker Street, London.
Inspector Lestrade needs Holmes’ help, resents him but as they work together something starts to change. He sort of sees over his bitterness during the course of the mysteries. Finally Lustrade turns to Holmes and says, ‘We’re not jealous of you Mr. Holmes. We are proud of you. There’s not a man at Scotland Yard who wouldn’t want to shake Holmes’ hands.
It’s one of the few times we see Holmes moved. It’s very mysterious yet revealing. It seems to treat jealousy as a problem of geometry, not of emotion. One minute Holmes is on the other side of the street, suddenly he’s on the same side. Suddenly, Lestrade is letting myself admire this mind he has previously resented.
Could it really be so simple? Just geometry and no emotion? Just a matter of where we allow ourselves to stand in relation to another, or maybe then we don’t have to resent somebody’s excellence, we could just align ourselves with it.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Or would it?
Watch this TED video ‘An Ode To Envy‘ by Parul Sehgal. Most of what you read above is her.