Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Sound and Fury of Human Shadows

Sometimes I have a month of work and personal interaction with people whom only Shakespeare can sum up:
For these people, "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Ah yes, so Shakespeare had idiots! "Sound and fury, signifying nothing." Yummy.
Three weeks ago I had to fire a relative who lied to our customers and didn't do his job -- and then he yelled at ME! HE was upset! Why? Who the fuck knows. He was innocent, by damn. He went into a litany of furious charges against me (none true) in which he simply transformed reality to his own liking -- and then he BELIEVED the new reality he'd just created.
It was almost like a thief, caught red-handed, saying: "Hey, dude, why are you looking at me like that. I just put my hand in your back pocket, but I didn't steal your wallet. Yeah, your wallet's in my hand, but I didn't do it. I don't know how it got there. Oh, yeah, I remember, YOU put it in my hand. Why the fuck did you put your wallet in my hand?!"
Surreal. Sound. Fury. Shadows.
Reading Shakespeare, I realize that altering reality to one's own purposes is nothing new, and the sound and fury are nothing new.
Two weeks ago, a friend called me up and accused me of not being friendly anymore at a business meeting we were at that morning. I didn't know what he was talking about. He said that when he saw me, when we hugged, the hug wasn't real. Told him I had no idea what he was talking about. He wouldn't have it. He started yelling on the phone, out of nowhere. When I asked him for facts, he said, "Oh, facts, yeah, David, you're all about the facts. You ALWAYS have to be right!"
I said bye and hung up. He tried to call back with more sound and fury and more of his reality-altering monologues. I finally answered the phone and said, "Look, if "bye" is too short of a goodbye for you, let's try this: Fuck you."
He hung up. I drank a glass of wine.
Four days ago, my almost-11-year-old daughter was at her friends' house. A babysitter was at the house for the 3 year old who was there, but the babysitter was not sitting for my daughter. The babysitter starts telling my daughter and two other older kids what to do and not do, out of nowhere. My daughter told the babysitter she wasn't doing anything the sitter said. Sitter got furious and told the parents of the 3 year old that if my daughter came to their house, the sitter wouldn't sit for them when that happened. (That babysitter got fired the next day by my friends.)
When I called the sitter and asked for her view of the events that happened, she changed her story several times and got so furious at my calm questions that she screamed, "I don't want to talk about this anymore! If your daughter comes over, I won't be around! She makes me nervous!"
The sitter is 19 years old, an idiot telling tales, full of sound and fury.
Yesterday, in a big conference meeting, I had to fire my company's marketing group in New York City for lack of performance. The group's CEO denied the lack of performance, despite my laying out the facts of the nonperformance. She then went on a several-minute tirade accusing everyone in my company and outside my company for the faults that were hers. At several points, she blatantly lied in front of several people whom she should've known knew the truth, but it didn't stop her from lying anyway. Reality was what she made it. She threatened a lawsuit against our company for alleged breach of contract, while I was firing her for breach of contract. She demanded payment for nonperformance.
Sound, fury, shadow, tales.
All the above reminds me of a quote by Ayn Rand in her 1974 essay, Selfishness Without the Self, in which she says that the person who has no solid sense of self "finds ... reality a meaningless term. His metaphysics consists in the chronic feeling that life, somehow, is a conspiracy of people and things against him, and he will walk over corpses -- in order to assert himself? No, in order to hide (or fill) the nagging inner vacuum left by his aborted self."
Shakespeare gives us his singular images, and Rand explains it.
The popular metaphor for such people is zombies, but I like Shakespeare's shadows. They are empty, dark, even ominous in their unpredictability.
And they are loud!

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