Do we define ourselves against THE OTHER?

grendle

I send this to you so all my experience is not sucked into the black hole that is me alone. We are all reflections of each other and we all exist to prove to ourselves, and the other, that we exist. This is Grendle before The Dragon:

***
“You said ‘Fiddlesticks,'” I said. “Why is it fiddlesticks if I stop giving people heart attacks over nothing? Why shouldn’t one change one’s ways, improve one’s character?” I must have been an interesting sight, that instant, big shaggy monster intent and earnest, bent like a priest at his prayers.

He shrugged. “Whatever you like. Do as you think best.”

“But why?”

“Why. Why. Ridiculous question! Why anything? My advice to you-”

I clenched my fists, though it was absurd, of course. One does not swing at dragons. “No, why?”

The dragon tipped up his great tusked head, stretched his neck, sighed fire. “Ah Grendle!” he said. He seemed that instant almost to rise to pity. “You improve them, my boy! Can’t you see that yourself? You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme. You drive them to poetry, science, religion, and all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves. The exile, captivity, death they shrink from – the blunt facts of their mortality, their abandonment – that’s what you make them recognize, embrace! You are mankind, or man’s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain. If you withdraw, you’ll instantly be replaced. Brute existents, you know, are a dime a dozen. No sentimental trash, then. If man’s the irrelevance that interests you, stick with him! Scare him to glory! It’s all the same in the end, matter and motion, simple or complex. No difference, finally. Death, Transfiguration. Ashes to ashes and slime to slime, amen.”

I was sure he was lying.

– pg 61-62, Grendle, John Gardner, 1971

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