Vladimir and Me

M – Do you take time to be alone?
V – Sometimes. I’m a very busy man, with lots of things to do.
M – It’s a good habit to get into.
V – What’s your point?
M – It centers us. Still, we can be alone and get so busy we’re not centered.
V – What do you mean by centering?
M – Feeling close to ourselves… to our mortality… our aging… our physical degradation… the inevitability of our death… which leads to us affirming our lives… acting as if we matter.
V – We have to be busy and constructive with our lives, so we will be remembered.
M – We don’t know if we will be remembered… or how… we have no such control.
V – With all the advances in data storage, of course we will be remembered.
M – Even if we were, we won’t feel a thing from being remembered…
V – That’s different.
M – How so?

Pause as Vladimir reflects.

V – We have to trust that we will. Stalin is remembered. Hitler will never be forgotten. Ever.
M – What have you learned from them?
V – Determination. Once you set your sights on something, you never relent. Only death should keep you from your objective.
M – Did they contribute to humanity’s development?
V – Stalin saved Russia from destruction. I am here because of him.
M – You don’t think Russia would have produced another leader, if it needed to, to defend itself against German aggression?
V – Maybe… or maybe not.
M – Hitler made a horrible mistake invading Russia… but judging from the pool of talent Russia has… Russia would have pushed the Germans back… with or without Stalin. You were fighting for your life.
Just like Ukrainians are.
V – Ukrainians are fighting a proxy war… they are tools of the West… who’s trying to conquer Russia.
M – People who are tools would not fight with the determination Ukrainians are showing.
V – I am trying to save Ukrainians from the depraved West. They have lost their way. God has abandoned them.
M – God is with you?
V – Yes.
M – A modern day Crusade you’ve embarked on…?
V – Yes. For the good of humanity.


M – I think you’re filled with envy… that it has overtaken your judgment… and because you don’t allow for other people to counter your views… you do not revise your opinions.
Has anyone ever told you that you’re an envious man?
V – They wouldn’t dare.
M – That’s the disadvantage of dictatorship. I have no doubt that if Stalin had had courageous people around him objecting to his killing his adversaries… Russia would’ve been better off.
V – Stalin would have killed them, too. It was not a time to be soft.
M – You meant not a time to be fair…
V – I meant what I said.
Why do you say I’m envious?
M – Because nations smaller than you, with fewer natural resources, have developed more than Russia.
V – But they don’t have our nuclear weapons.
M – That is your curse. You hide behind them. And you hide Russia behind them.
The war you started with Ukraine is only making it harder for Russians to join in with the rest of the world. Your people could be making important contributions to the advancement of humanity… instead you’ve set your sights on the destruction of a people fighting for their freedom.
It will be hard for Russians to deal with the guilt of having embraced you in the destruction of Ukraine… like it has been hard for Germans to deal with the guilt over the killing of Jews.
V – You say I’m filled with envy… how do you get rid of it?
M – You don’t. You learn to manage it.
V – How?
M – You say to yourself, ‘I am envious. I covet what others have.’ Then you add, ‘but they have worked for it, or they have abilities I don’t have… or I have not yet developed…’ and you accept their difference… and this acceptance of the other leads you to affirm your own difference… to affirm your own talents… your own gifts. And if you are honest in doing so… then you can welcome others as they are, even if they are better than you at one thing or another… and when you truly accept that such a person or nation functions better than you or your nation… you say to them ‘thank you for striving to be your best… for all of us will benefit from it. In turn, my people and I will strive to do the same.’

Vladimir nods pensively.

M – Notice that I didn’t say anything about killing anyone. Nothing about destroying what others have achieved. Or bombing or maiming them.
The journey to conquer envy is a task for every human being, whether educated or not, rich or poor. It is a journey to self acceptance that will help us in our struggle to contribute our best effort to humanity… while we have the energy and wisdom.
V – For me to not be envious would mean accepting that the way I’ve governed has been a big mistake.
M – Yes.
V – I don’t think I can do that.
M – Then you’re choosing to not start on the journey to managing your envy.
Do you prefer instead to keep ordering the killing of Ukrainians, day after day?
All those lives you’ve ended had contributions to make… all of them… but because you’re choosing to not confront yourself and select another path… those contributions will not be made.
Every life ended in this war is a life not fulfilled… a treasure not discovered…
V – I know it will not end well… this war. Sometimes, I think I’ve created an inferno… with me tossing people into it… every day. Sometimes I even think I hear their cries… their anguish as they burn… and I fear that someone will emerge from that cauldron… come for me… and drag me into it.

Managing Envy

Tough subject. No easy answers. Much pain tied to it. Let’s try.

What is envy?

The desire to have something we believe another person has but one lacks (or perceives to lack), i.e. power, wealth, accomplishment, intelligence, beauty, athletic ability, body type, etc. and is always accompanied by a measure of resentment. Why them and not me?

When not seen objectively, the feeling of envy will likely impair our judgment and lead to poor choices. Sometimes disastrous ones, as in hostile actions, conscious or unconscious, against the envied person.

But when having some distance from the feeling, envy allows one to review how we have used our energies. We may ask, how hard have we tried?

Envy that is acknowledged is a source of wisdom.

‘What I envy is not mine but yours. I cannot be you, nor should I try, so enjoy what is yours. In turn, I will look for what nature gave me and work with it. Did I give up too soon on a choice I made and now I envy others? Did I assess properly my abilities before embarking on my quest? Should I now refocus my energies, strive at something that is not what I have loved the most?’

As with all feelings, sharing them will have a soothing effect, if temporary… till we get back to facing the pain by ourselves and working through it.

If you set out to be a writer for instance, along the way you will be comparing yourself with others committed to the task, and you will see how you measure up. That will tell you how good your chances are of reaching the higher places.

We will always be confronted with the hierarchy that forms in every field. Do we look at it objectively or do we ignore it?

Let us take the case of a writer of modest ability. Does the person persist even though the likelihood is that the higher places will never be attainable? Persist regardless of the chances of recognition from others?

How do we define success?

Is it primarily recognition from others (acknowledgment or monetary) or the satisfaction the work itself brings us?

There are two camps here.

One camp is for people in whom the satisfaction of doing what they like the most is such that they tolerate that others are more accomplished. They are willing to sacrifice recognition. Or hope eternally for it.

The second camp is for those in whom the importance of achieving the recognition of others is fundamental. They will forgo great personal satisfaction from the work as the primary reward. If their choice of field is not bringing them praise or money, why stick with it?

The first camp is where romantics live. The second where pragmatists do.

We make the choice. Or Nature makes it for us.

Either way, acknowledging envy will help us function better. Which is why we should strive to manage it.

There is consolation for both camps.

Romantics can say that giving priority to satisfying their creative desires grants them a sense of personal freedom that defies hierarchies, bringing them a sense of a life well lived.

Pragmatists can say they planted their feet on the world as it is and, choosing to satisfy the needs of others, got worldly returns for their efforts.

We need the two.

There is a third camp, of course. Fewer people live there.

They can say, ‘I love what I do, love who I am, and the world loves me for it.’

They run the world.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation and other books. Available on Amazon.