The Torturous Inner Life of the Man Who Seems to Have it All

How many people whose lives we admire actually maintain a torturous inner life? How many ideal men and women — and I don't mean perfect, I mean ideal, which is to say perfectly flawed — actually are consumed by insecurity or anxiety or guilt?

In American Pastoral, the character Swede is perceived as an ideal man in every respect. But his outer life is

accompanied by an inner life, a gruesome inner life of tyrannical obsessions, stifled inclinations, superstitious expectations, horrible imaginings, fantasy conversations, unanswerable questions. Sleeplessness and self-castigation night after night. Enormous loneliness. Unflagging remorse… And in the everyday world, nothing to be done but respectably carry on the huge pretense of living as himself, with all the shame of masquerading as the ideal man.

Was this Tiger Woods' inner life the past few years? Could it be the private mind of a close friend who's duping you with his charade? Has a journalist done her job if she does not know what keeps her subject up late at night, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling?

By the way, fiction addresses these type of issues the best. Unrelated: Philip Roth is a fucking genius.


Wise and poetic advice for the exceptional from the same text:

As with any exaggerated trait that sets you apart and makes you exceptional — and enviable, and hateable — to accept your beauty, to accept its effect on others, to play with it, to make the best of it, you're well-advised to develop a sense of humor.

Otherwise, I'm told people will just hate you. This is not the only reason to try to develop a sense of humor…

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