Back in university (the first time I tried making it through) I worked for the school paper as a cartoonist, and the editor--a fine, frenetic fellow with Muppetesque charm--dubbed me "the least Machiavellian person I know", this epithet being the hook to a popular song on the college charts at the time.
I heard through the grapevine that another of my friends saddled me with the title of one of Douglas Adams' books: Mostly Harmless. While I'm still curious as to the context in which the last comment was made, I more or less felt honoured to be seen as a gentle, considerate "nice guy" even if that means finishing last (another concept in which context counts for everything).
But the fact is, I do have an aggressive, vindictive, vengeful, malicious and Machiavellian side, though any half-serious study of the writings of Machiavelli will show that, like the Marquis deSade, he was really not as bad as the popular press makes out.
When the weather gets too hot, as it has been lately, I start to swear. Mostly at the television, but sometimes at my housemate, at cars, mosquitos, and at the dog turds that the girl who rents out the front of our house lets lie on the lawn for days, attracting flies and the errant sneakers of hapless kids or mail deliverers.
I try to cultivate an air of detachment toward my wrath. Turds, after all, are just turds, and flies may be the spies of God. I try to laugh at myself for my folly; self-reproach just doesn't seem to be a path to freedom, though I indulge in it often enough.
Guilt, as Neitzsche pointed out, is another useless emotion. I've been feeling guilty most of my life, and when I don't have a clear reason to do so, I make one up.
Karla Homolka, the wife and accomplice of serial killer Paul Bernardo is someone who has a clear reason to feel guilty. She is being released from prison today and the media is abuzz with the story. In a television interview she said that even though she is free from jail, she will likely never be free from the prison of her own mind. She spoke in passable French, which she must have learnt in prison, and I doubt that many people will look for any kind of wisdom her words, but I found something compelling in them.
The world is full of all kinds of prisons; both physical and mental. Is there any way to be truly free? I'm so glad that in moments of wrath, delusion and confusion I have never killed anyone, or seriously harmed or injured another. I think that through carelessness, ignorance and willfull mischief I have sometimes hurt people's feelings, and I'm sure that the karmic balance will bring opportunities to make good on some of my misdeeds.
And I'm sure as well that I'll make a thousand more mistakes before the round is through. Is there a meaning to it all, some great end toward which we all must strive? To say that the journey is the meaning is a hopelessly tired cliche, but some questions are like the threshold before a void at which all words turn back.