Friday, June 1, 2012

Wumpick and the Right Kind of Vanity

My dear Wumpick,

So, your patient has embarrassed herself, and you are enjoying her humiliation.  I have nothing against that, of course—though [expurgated] knows why you should be enjoying yourself at all.  Your attitude in this is highly suggestive of an unhealthy absorption of human fantasies about spying.  It is clear that you consider it to be an extremely romantic activity, one more likely to be pleasurable to the practitioner than not—Bondism, if you will.  You had better not be becoming a Bondist, Wumpick.  Even the silliest humans, in their heart of hearts, know better than to romanticize undercover work.  War is war, and war is hell, as one of their generals said; and he meant no compliment to us.  If you will pick a few crumbs of pleasure while you are at it, see that you don't gorge yourself.  Even the humans know that a little hunger sharpens the brain.

I was unable to detect, in between your little crows of rapture at your patient's discomfiture, that any solid progress was made in the situation.  True, you mentioned the "small, despairing glance she threw to heaven" immediately after her mistake was made—but really, you don't think that qualifies as ground gained on your part?  I hope not.  Certainly if you are trying to build up a case for a real sin of despair on the patient's part, you have a long way to go before dark.  No, the "despairing glance" that you refer to is more likely to be a physiological and instinctive expression of the patient's wounded vanity than anything serious or lasting.

That vanity is, of course, a promising flaw—perhaps the most promising flaw that the patient has.  Women are notoriously vain; vanity is the woman's sin as pride is the man's: that tendency to think that everyone is, or ought to be, thinking about her.  That man on the street, who is really absorbed in the problem of the next hour's weather; that girl at the reception desk, who is only thinking about how to get away to lunch; that old classmate, who's worried about the weight she's put on (and not the patient's appearance); that priest in the confessional, that boy on the metro, that sibling, that friend, that stranger in church—the chances are that none of them are really thinking about the patient very much.  Most people tend to think about themselves.  But most people also forget to apply this basic concentration of self in their dealings with other people.  If they were logical creatures (we can thank Our Father Below that they are not, however much the Enemy strives to make them so), they might apply this knowledge of self more broadly.  "I," they might say, "am usually thinking about myself; therefore, so is everyone else; therefore again, everyone else cannot be thinking about me."  But the very self-absorption that ought to be their clue to understanding their fellow human beings is at the same time the greatest barrier to doing so.  We shall keep it that way, Wumpick.  It is one of our best weapons in dealing with the humans; for the moment they begin as a tribe to think of how the other man thinks—we are finished.

Now the male patient who fails to grasp how other people think is likely not to care, or at least to assert that he does not care, about their opinion of him.  In some cases this is actually true; and it proceeds from a notion of self-superiority that is paradigmatically, though not uniquely or even essentially, masculine.  But the female patient who fails to grasp how other people think is more likely to do so by distorting their thoughts.  Women are imaginative, Wumpick.  You can take a line from one of their greatest female novelists as guidance in this area.  In the mouth of a highly critical man (a man eaten up by pride, as it happens—but a man who thinks that "vanity is a weakness indeed"!), this novelist puts the following critique:

"A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment."

The case, as you can see, is about romantic matters, and is a one common enough; but the accusation of rapidity is valid across all subjects.  A lady's imagination is very rapid to anticipate both the good and the bad; and in the rapidity of her imaginative action, she is apt to make herself, her own attractions—or her own flaws—and sometimes, paradoxically, both—the lynchpin of what she imagines.

You must encourage this sort of imagination, Wumpick.  By making a habit of the right kind of vanity in a few situations, your patient will be encouraged to think in terms of herself in all situations; to the extent that the opinions of other people continue to matter to her, they will matter only as they relate to her.  Not "What does Harold think?" but "What does Harold think of what I think?"—that should be the sort of incitement for her native mode of imaginative progression.  Ideally, of course, you should be able gradually, by beginning in a few select areas (a woman's appearance is the most likely one, whether or not she is pretty) to extend this sort of imagination to nearly every situation which she encounters on a daily basis—even, eventually, to her relationship with the Enemy.  Thus, we want her prayers to Him, if she must pray, to be not "Who are You?" but "What must You think of me?!"—and again, it matters little whether the latter expression springs from embarrassment or delight, as long as the me is there.  It need not be heavily emphasized.  Indeed, it should not be, certainly not in the early stages, lest the patient's attention be drawn to it.  Once a patient is very far gone down this road, then you can risk playing up the "me-ness" of such prayers without any fear of detection.  And what great fun that is!

But this is all in the long run.  In the short run you must not expect such delightful or spectacular results from your patient's vanity.  But even a little more imagination of this kind will lead her to think more about herself than about other people, which is a great barrier to charity and humility alike.  See if you cannot get her to keep thinking about her humiliation, and about the opinions of those who witnessed it.  "What must they think of me!" is a cry that sounds a great deal like humility, but is actually nearly as far off from it as a fairly decent human can be.

Your affectionate uncle,


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