The notion that we live in a culture of excess is neither shocking nor even the slightest bit startling. We know this, accept it dryly, and furthermore, we enjoy it in various personal degrees of abuse. However, the culture of excess also has an unforeseen effect: it changes the context of humanity as well and allows us to view human nature from a different angle. Because we are culture of excess and are so completely, blindly devoted to cultivating and multiplying this excess at all levels in our life, it is also a culture of ambition and action and voraciousness. Ours is a culture of “make it happen.” Excess, spoils. But excess does not fall from the sky. This we’ve integrated into our Western outlook. Excess is yours if exert yourself and thus life is not a void but an engorgement. Our arrow is positive, it moves forward, and up. Living in a culture of excess, we are not retiring.
The natural inclination in this culture is to gauge people by what they do, what they act forcefully on, how many voids they fill with effort and vanity and manic ambition. However, when you think about it, despite the excessive nature of Western civilization, it would be most insightful to judge its inhabitants by something that is not materialistically romantic: deficiencies. On the way home I was struck by just how much we can be defined and propelled not by ambition or drive, or even greed, but by deficiencies.
Deficiencies define us from the bottom up. Deficiencies expose our weaknesses and thus, inherent limitations that subdue our ravenous hungers. Deficiencies prevent us from ruling the planet. Everything pertaining to individual limitations can be illustrated in terms of deficiencies.
There are minor, major, serious, harmless deficiencies.
I have deficiencies in height. I have deficiencies in ambition and I have deficiencies in conformity. I have deficiencies in benevolence and feelings of brotherhood. I have serious deficiencies in seriousness and concern. I have deficiencies in responsibility.
There are “positive deficiencies” and there are “negative deficiencies.”
I use “positive” and “negative” in purely objective terms. Positive as in a trait denoting fullness and engagement; negative as a trait of the opposite, of emptiness, space and disengagement, or indifference.
My height deficiency which might, on the surface, seem like a negative deficiency, is actually a positive deficiency because my height is a fixed element. There is not height there that is not me. If I could conclude that I am walking around 6 inches taller than I appear but that it is not physically visible or verifiable, then perhaps that might be a negative deficiency since it describes that which is not but potential.
A man who I can describe as having a deficiency in sex is mired in a negative deficiency because sex is fluid and susceptible to variations in luck, timing, happenstance. But the fact the man is sex deficient now does not speak to an immutable inability, but to a lack of fulfillment of his drive and nature.
Deficiencies shape who we are and what we aren’t. They are valueless descriptions for they only tell us our place within the broader societal scheme. It’s other’s valuation of specific deficiencies which defines their worth or lack of worth which is all relative anyways. It is our own opinion of our deficiencies which defines our self-worth and autonomy from popular opinion. In fact, everyone I see now is a waking, breathing deficiency. Many deficiencies are physical, many more are emotional, social and intellectual. Still, even if you don’t know someone, many times they wear their inner deficiencies as loudly as they wear their external ones.
We are the sum of our deficiencies. One is your value.