You can always trust the Germans to have a word for complex, and negative, emotional feelings. Today’s word is schadenfreude: “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.” I can’t say that I’m immune to it, of course. If the person suffering misfortune is an evil person, I certainly won’t weep for him. However, I can flatter myself that I am not one of those who wishes friends and acquaintances ill, simply so that I can feel some sense of superiority about myself and my life when compared to them.
I make this little philosophical and self-serving rumination because I’ve become aware this past year that many of the people I grew up and went to school with have gone on to have very distinguished careers. As someone who is remarkably undistinguished (suburban Mom is a good life, but doesn’t have much resume value), I think it’s awesome that people I know have done more interesting things. At a selfish level, I love the name dropping. “My friend the Colonel.” “My friend the U.S. Attorney.” “My friend the Admiral.” You know, if you can’t be important, you may as well have important friends, right?
But at a somewhat more mature level, I’m enormously pleased that people I always liked have found fulfilling and rewarding careers. I think it’s awesome that the young boys I knew, with skinny legs and squeaky voices, or the bewildered young law students I met, proved to be, not just nice people, but dedicated, committed, and self-disciplined people. It’s like seeing a little sapling grow into a magnificent tree. Although I have absolutely nothing to do with the tree’s development, I feel a sort of vicarious pride that I was in on its growth.
Our childhood friends’ distinctions are also one of the benefits of aging. If you hang around enough people for enough years, the good ones are going to rise to the top. Just for having stuck it out through life, you end up with friends who give you boasting rights.
These friends, incidentally, are part of why I haven’t been blogging, because I’ve been spending time with some of them. And since it is a rare pleasure to visit with people I’ve known for decades but see infrequently, that trumps blogging. And after all, I just didn’t feel today like writing about Obama and The View. I’m not even that surprised. Our last Democratic president, as you may recall, advertised to the world the kind of underwear he wore. We don’t expect dignity from that crowd.