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What’s the Point of Seeking Praise?

I would like to hike in Utah.  I worry I may not be strong enough.  I may go to someone who knows something about how hard it is to hike in Utah and how strong I am and ask him what he thinks of me — am I up to it?  If he says “Yes, you’re strong enough to hike in Utah!” I will be happy.

If he’s telling the truth!

If he’s not telling the truth — either because he’s lying or misinformed — his praise does not bring me a billionth of an inch closer to my goal of being able to hike in Utah.

What if somebody said “I don’t really want to hike in Utah!  But I enjoy having people tell me that I would be able to! And since I never want to hike in Utah it doesn’t matter to me if what they are saying is true or false!”

If somebody said that, I would not know what to say to him!  Why does he enjoy having people say he can hike in Utah if he has no interest in doing it?  Why does it matter?  Why not have people tell him that he can do those things that he can do?  I would be happy to oblige if I had the time.  I would say to this man “You can breathe! You are great at breathing!  And defecating!  That is well within your power!”  Although there will be times when I do not have the time.  But in fact I am not needed for this odd ceremony.   This man could write these phrases on on stones and look at them when he feels like  receiving these messages.  In fact he can imagine that stones or the sky or trees or animals are constantly chanting at him  “Your defecations are wonderful!  They successfully eliminate waste from your body!  Go you!”  He can do that I suppose, if he thinks it will make his days on this Earth more pleasant.

Maybe this man simply enjoys the feeling of being able to make people do things.  That is he fears people, and knowing that they say things that they say because he wants them to, not because they believe it, makes him feel more secure.

Maybe!  But although he may feel secure when greeted with insincere praise, he is not.  Praise does not mean that those who praise are less fearsome, only that they are willing to modify their behavior in this meaningless way for the time being.

I would prefer to hike in Utah.  Perhaps it will be so difficult I will be crushed and a new person will arise on the ruins of the old.   Whatever is left of me might praise this new man, or it might not — there might be too little left, or what is left of me might have other concerns.  It won’t much matter to me, I believe, in Utah.

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