How Hard It Is To See Our Own Gifts: The Peacock Complaining to Juno

The Peacock Complaining to JunoIf you never compare yourself to someone else, you can stop reading.

For the rest of us, how many times do we need to hear that hackneyed phrase — compare and despair? Psychology Today called this The Comparison Trap in a recent article. Finding the balance between admiring and envying another, between being inspired by someone else’s success and being resentful, aspiring or self-defeating — this is the work of a lifetime for many of us.

The Peacock was complaining to Juno, Goddess, the peacock said, it’s not without reason I’m complaining. Yes, I’m muttering. The song you gave me displeases all in nature. Compared to the nightingale, that scrawny weakling, whose sounds are as sweet as they are resonant; to him alone falls the honour of spring herald.

Juno responded in anger, jealous bird, who ought to hold his tongue. Is it your place to envy the nightingale’s voice? You who wear around your neck a rainbow made of a hundred kinds of silk that glorify you; who deploys a tail so rich that to our eyes it looks like a jeweler’s boutique? Is there any other bird under the sun more pleasing than you? No animal has all assets. We have given each of you diverse qualities: Some have grandeur and strength to spare. The falcon is light, the eagle courageous. The raven predicts the future. The crow warns of bad news coming. All are happy with their lot.

So stop your complaining, or …to punish you I’ll take away your plumage.

Comparing ourselves to others is lose-lose. One road leads to artificial ego inflation and the other to an equally artificial ego deflation. Neither way leads to the truth of who we are. Even comparing ourselves to our own selves on another day can be a treacherous enterprise. Yesterday, last week, last year … I was sharper, stronger, leaner, younger, had fewer lines on my face, had a longer future in front of me.

The only road to fulfillment is to appreciate what we are and what we have. Everything will be taken away sooner or later (that’s not just a Buddhist thought, it’s a hard cold fact, unless you’ve figured out some way of cheating Death and enjoying your so-called “legacy” from the beyond). We will miss what is gone, even if we did not value it at the time.

I’m writing this missive to myself. I know that what I’ve written is true. As grateful as I am for the many good things in my life, others deserve that credit. So many days I struggle with feeling the truth of my own worth, as if I am the lone exception who has nothing to offer the world.

I look at each of you and hear your beautiful voices herald springtime, but only rarely can I see the rainbow around my own neck. I hope that Juno will not strip me of my plumage before I have a chance to see its true colours.

And for a recent article about a different kind of plumage: Making Room in My Mind — Notes from the First Quarter of a No Shopping Year

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