How Do I Wear My Pants? — Sartorial Insights from the 17th Century

Every day the news brings fresh reports of bad behavior. We are outraged, saddened, horrified, depressed … you can insert the word that best suits your frame of mind. Other people don’t think. Other people know no boundaries. Other people weren’t raised right.

Do you hear the subtext? If only everyone were like me.

Jupiter said one day, all who breathe, come and compare yourselves at the feet of my grandeur. If among you there are some who find personal attributes wanting, they can tell me without fear. I will remedy the problem. Come here, Monkey. You speak first, and for good reason. Look at these other animals. Compare their beauty with yours. Are you satisfied?

Me? Said the Monkey. And why not? Don’t I have four feet just as well as any other? My portrait has been, until now, beyond reproach. For my brother Bear though, he’s barely been sketched. Never, if he will believe me, will he be fully painted.

The Bear stepped forward at these words. Everyone thought the hulk of fur was going to complain about his raw deal. Not at all: for his good looks, the Bear congratulated himself heartily. Criticized the Elephant. Said the pachyderm could add a little to his tail, take a little off his ears. Really, that the Elephant was nothing more than an unformed mass, and without beauty.

The Elephant listened, wise as he is. Only to then say the same sorts of things. Judged that to his taste Lady Whale was too big.

Lady Ant found the Dust Mite too small, believing herself to be a colossus.

After everyone had censured someone else, Jupes sent the whole lot on their way. All felt very pleased with themselves.

But among the craziest, our species excels. Because everything that we are: lynx toward our fellow humans and moles toward ourselves, we forgive. We forgive ourselves everything and others nothing. We see ourselves with a different eye than the one with which we see others.

The universe creates a pair of cargo pants for each of us following the same design. So it has been since the distant past right up until today.

For our faults, there’s a hard-to-reach back pocket. And for the faults of others, there’s the front pocket.

It’s not enough that others’ sins may be more serious, because everyone can point a finger at someone worse. And I’m not suggesting that we all engage in a Maoist struggle session to purge ourselves of our wrong thoughts. But a pause, the length of a breath, to consider our own imperfections might do us some good. Where have I fallen down? Where can I do better?

Someone sent me a link to a disparaging article in The National Review about the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton. Sure, Mnuchin and Linton are not savory people, but the article was petty, mean spirited and, worst of all, sloppy about complex facts. It seemed to me the journalist was partaking of the same crude, small-mindedness he was accusing his subjects of. But this type of ad hominem attack is all too frequent now, and is itself the flowering of a longer tradition of pointing out the faults of others, to the exclusion of our own. And this time of year is a hothouse for such reflections.

For ’tis the season in which we may spend more time than usual with our family and friends; a good thing, of course, but also a time when we have more occasion to note the shortcomings of others.

The noise of other people’s faults drowns out any peeps that might emanate from our own limitations. I fill the cracks in my own glass house, with the shards of others’ broken panes.

Some days I list to the front and could use to wear my pants backwards for a while, so that my own shortcomings are not tucked away out of my sight. Other days I tilt backward, trawling to the depths of that hard to reach rear pocket in search of further reasons to hate myself.

We all have our personal Philippe Petit high-wire act of finding the balance between front and back (remember him? — he walked the wire between the twin towers in the 70s, in an early act of guerrilla art). More discernment. Less judgment.

In a word: Compassion.

For everything in all our pockets.

What are these Fableogs?


Originally published at on November 28, 2017.

Tagged in Compassion, Self Help, Fable

By Mina Samuels on November 28, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on March 17, 2018.



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