Posted by: scintillatingspeck | July 20, 2013

Laughing at myself. No entitlement.

I had a plan, you see.  I was going to have some time to myself at a cafe with some iced coffee, alone, to write, to roll some little gems of wit and insight out of the palm of my hand.  I would excavate my heart and post it here, and I would feel good, even elated.  It took me a long while to kick myself off of Facebook, and eventually I closed my laptop entirely, switching to writing with pen and paper, furrowing my face with focus and scratching away intently, and still, still, I felt so dissatisfied with what I wrote.

I was attempting to write down some thoughts about how we’re not entitled to anything, not even being alive, and how this outlook has felt like a welcome attitude adjustment.  These are the thoughts that swamped me, though, after I closed my little notebook:

You didn’t do a good enough job of explaining what this means to you.  Nobody is going to understand.  You are going to be easily misconstrued and some people will be peevish.

Your thoughts are all over the place.  You’re not sufficiently organized.

You are lacking in eloquence.

The sorts of things you’re writing about have been covered by many others in a much more meaningful and evocative way.

These thoughts were piling on, and I was feeling more and more discouraged, when it came to me, and I started to laugh at myself.  Oh, right!  No entitlement!  This is what I can do!  This is how I can respond!

I’m not entitled to anyone’s understanding.  There’s simply no guarantee that I will ever be understood to the degree that I wish.  Any shred of understanding is a bonus.  I can release everyone from the expectation of understanding me.

I’m not entitled to an organized brain, or house, or life.  There’s been no promise that I can ever pull things together coherently.  Any semblance of organization is to be cherished.  I can release myself from the expectation of being organized, even as I continue to attempt it.  I can accept my scattered brain.  Of course it’s scattered.

I’m not entitled to eloquence, or brilliance of any sort.  If I ever manage to be eloquent, it would be a gift, and it might never happen again.  I can release myself from the grasping, achievement-oriented stance of seeking approval and recognition; it’s a storyline I don’t have to enact.

I’m not entitled to compare myself with other writers and thinkers.  I mean, sure, comparisons can be made, but what sense is there in it?  I wasn’t born to aspire, to compete, to run verbal marathons, to outsmart and outwit sages and masters.  If I write anything that brings meaning to another, again, it’s a gift, it’s a moment to be cherished, but I can release myself from the inevitably-crippling idea that I need to be a genius.

With all that, I can move ahead and transcribe what I wrote from longhand earlier, and if nobody gets it and it falls flat, well, so what?   Oh, it’s good to be alive, and I’m so grateful I could scream, because everything I see and think and experience is an outrageous, stunning gift.

Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve been dwelling quite a bit lately on the thought that none of us are entitled to anything.  I’m not just talking about “entitlements” as they’re bandied about in political discussions (e.g. Social Security)– no, I’m talking about everything, literally.  We’re not entitled to be housed.  We’re not entitled to food.  We’re not entitled to receive love.  We’re not entitled to be free of pain.  We’re not even entitled to be alive.

From the perspective of the narrative of human (or other species’) rights, this feels outrageous and intolerable.  What?  Doesn’t everyone deserve to have their needs met?  Do we not have a responsibility to take care of each other?  What does it mean if we’re not entitled to these things?  Isn’t this what slews of people are working towards, the bedrock morality of their lives, this belief that we should all have what we need, as the starting point for justice?  What kind of heresies are traveling through my mind now?

I should make it clear from the start that I’m not advocating that everyone drop their efforts to work for justice, or that I suddenly believe in deliberately hurting anyone.

What I’m suggesting, pondering, turning over slowly in my hands, is the idea that entitlement is a quirky human concept that isn’t based in reality, and could maybe lead to quite a bit more suffering than is necessary.  If we believe we’re entitled to love, or a long life, or food, or a body that functions well, or any of a long list of things that seem important and necessary, then of course we’re going to feel angry and cheated when we don’t get those things.

What if we turn it around?  What if, instead, everything we have is a bonus?  No matter how temporary, or how much we take things for granted?  How much more insanely delicious can life become when viewed in this way?

I can see that for many years, I had an unwritten list in my head of all the things that would lead me to Basic Okayness, and if I accumulated them, then and only then, would I be Okay.  I kept paring down the list over time, paring and paring, removing items like “being able to reasonably expect a long and healthy life for me and my child,” “feeling physically and emotionally comfortable,” and “having the freedom and wherewithal to change my circumstances when I choose to.”

But ever more, I feel convinced that I was never entitled to those expectations in the first place.  I’m not sure this will cause me to dramatically alter my actions, but I do feel a significant internal rearrangement which I’m experiencing as a flood of joy and relief.

Every moment is an unimaginable gift.  There’s no baseline Okayness to pursue.  It’s all a story.  We tell stories of Goodness and Badness about everything.  We believe our lives are Good or Bad rather than what they Are.

Photo on 2013-07-20 at 21.38 #2



  1. Welcome…
    to the voluntary Universe.
    Not exactly sure what i mean by that,
    but it’s what i felt like saying.

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