Envy is one of the less noble but more common of human emotions. We’re all subject to it to one degree or another, but for some of us it is more pervasive and disruptive than for most. Envy has always been a regrettable part of my character, looming over nearly every aspect of my life, casting long shadows. It is a natural extension of my childhood-forged conviction that because I cannot be everything I want and expect myself to be, I am somehow unworthy and inferior. I’m sure a psychologist would find it significant that my envy is almost exclusively directed at men who are younger, better looking, more talented, more graceful, more intelligent, more well read, more successful, or wealthier than I, and I have worked hard—and not very successfully—to find some way of dealing with it.
Envy is not exactly a mature emotion—it has clear roots in childhood. A child who wants another child’s toy isn’t interested in the reasons why he (or she) can’t have it. He wants it. He doesn’t have it. It’s not fair. Period. And the more things the child/adult wants and cannot have, the stronger role envy plays.
Unfortunately, for those of us who want so very much that we cannot have, envy can become something akin to an emotional toothache, distracting us from fully appreciating those things that we do have. I’m constantly reminding myself of just how lucky I am, but envy is not materially affected by logic.
As disruptive as envy may be, it is largely an internal affair. The danger is when envy metastasizes into jealousy, and they are inherently closely related. Jealousy is envy’s nasty big brother, and can do real harm done not only to one’s self, but to others, as Shakespeare amply demonstrated in Othello.
I’ve been lucky to find, at least for myself, a partial solution to the problem of rampant envy, which has worked quite well for me. As you know, I some time ago divided myself into Roger, the day-to-day, bound-by-laws-of-physics part, and Dorien, who, being noncorporeal, has no such limitations and can do or be whatever he chooses. I neither know nor care what other people think of this unusual arrangement; it works for me and that’s all that matters. An analogy I’ve used frequently in an attempt to explain the relationship is that Roger is the bulb, and Dorien the flower.
So now, when I read a book I wish I’d written, or see a younger man who posses all the things I ache to have,good looking, talented young man, and the Roger part of me is consumed with envy, Dorien steps in, shrugs, and says “We hate him,” and then moves on. There’s no malice in it; it’s just Dorien’s way of dealing with it.
A friend's nephew came to stay with him for a few days while attending a medical convention. He is 27, a doctor, and already in charge of a small hospital's Emergency Room. I don’t believe he ever received anything less than an A in his entire academic career. He loves the outdoors, riding mountain bikes, and rock-climbing. He is a type-A personality who succeeds at everything he attempts, and if that weren’t enough to induce envy in anyone with a pulse, he is strangers-stop-and-stare, cover-model handsome. (He is also irredeemably heterosexual, but no one is perfect.) If there ever was anyone to whom Dorien would have more justification in dismissing with a simple “We hate him!”, it’s this guy. But he can’t because, in addition to all the young, handsome, athletic doctor's other envy-producing attributes, he is a genuinely nice guy.
Some things just aren’t fair.