“The expensive people are those who, because they are not simple, make complicated demands—people to whom we cannot respond spontaneously and simply, without anxiety. They need not be abnormal to exact these complicated responses; it is enough that they should be untruthful or touchy or hypersensitive or that they have an exaggerated idea of their own importance or that they have a pose.” (24) [My emphasis.] This is from A Child in Winter, selections from the writings of Caryll Houselander, with Thomas Hoffman doing the editing and providing commentary.
Expensive people. As you might guess, Houselander isn’t limiting this to those with extravagant tastes. They aren’t simply those who turn their nose up at a Honda Fit and insist on something like a BMW 7 Series. Nor are they those who praise to the high heavens a chocolatey, nutty microbrew, while dismissing anything with the word “Budweiser” on it as rancid swill. (Okay, maybe I have to go along with that one!)
Expensive people are those who maintain a façade, an outer image, who lack a genuine sense of humor; they have a rigid, defensive posture. Taking oneself too seriously often results in setting artificial standards for others—and for oneself. Houselander observes, “In time, our relationship with them becomes unreal.”
Still, maybe that description of unreality is closer to home than we would like. I fear that too often the mirror shows us someone who is unreal. I wonder: might this be an extreme version of what St. Paul calls the “old self”? (Rom 6:6 & Eph 4:22, among other places). It’s this appearance of the illusory self that we struggle mightily to preserve.
She goes on, “The individual who is simple, who accepts themselves as they are, makes only a minimum demand on others in their relations with them… This is an example of the truth that whatever sanctifies our own soul does, at the same time, benefit everyone who comes into our life.” (25)
There is within all of us—and some endearing souls humbly excel at giving free rein to it—a place of lightness and bliss and divine foolishness. In this place, there is no need to pose. In this place, we aren’t a weight around the necks of others. In this place, our opinions need not carry the day.
Moving, not posing, through life is just fine!
[The image is by French photographer Zacharie Gaudrillot-Roy.]