Sometimes, when I’m reading, I’ll come across a profound insight into human nature, one that allows me to understand or even notice something that I’d never seen before.
Sometimes, too, I find that more than one person has described a similar insight, and in that case, I love to compare how different people wrote about it.
Years ago, I remembered being stunned by reading a line in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (Amazon, Bookshop). That novel is full of profound observations, but the one that struck me most deeply is: “There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up.”
I often reflected on this line—what did it mean? How did I see it exemplified in my own life?
Then, years later, I came across a similar observation in a book by another one of my favorite writers, Andy Warhol. (I don’t love Andy Warhol’s visual art, but I love his writing.) In The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (Amazon, Bookshop) Warhol observed: “A lot of times I do things I don’t want to do at all, just because I’m on stand-by jealousy that somebody else will get to do it instead.”
I can think of examples in my own life where I did something or wanted something, just because I knew that other people wanted them. But ever since I read those lines from Wilde and Warhol, I’ve been better able to ask myself, “Is this what I want? Is this the right decision for me?”
How about you?