Jealousy is the most unrewarding of human emotions — no one wins anything from it. Noted American philosopher-humorist Ambrose Bierce defined jealousy as, “The state of being unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.” (Think that one over!)
When I was a little kid going to the Baby Grand Theater on Winter Park’s Park Avenue I didn’t want to be Gary Cooper — I just wanted a horse like his.
My grandmother spoke much wisdom to me, not the least of which was, “Avoid jealousy like the plague!” She assured me that jealousy does no one any good, and in fact, eats up the jealous person like a poison acid.
Anyone who has done things to make his name known to the public finds himself the target of pot-shots from jealous rivals, bothersome nobodies and critics.
An old saying goes: “Man wants but little here on earth, but that little is too often what another man has.”
I have had idols in my life, such as great tenor Enrico Caruso — I have aspired to “emulate” them, but never to “replace” them.
“The green-eyed monster” was Shakespeare’s name for jealousy in the great play “Othello.”
At 91 and legally blind, I envy no man — his youth or his sight. And I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams that any sane person can find anything in what’s left of me to arouse his jealousy. Harvard College’s motto contains but one word: “Veritas” — Truth.
The “eternal verities” prove throughout our lives to be sometimes embarrassing but nevertheless remain undeniable. I learned that the same “truth” that can set you free may, while doing so, scare the hell out of you!
Some people, unhappily, are condemned to live in a false inferior climate of their own invention.
We must, of course, take the time to prepare ourselves for reality — for truth and its freedom. This process can best be described as “growing up.”
To me, the incontrovertible demonstration of education is:
1) The acceptance of the truth in a given situation.
2) Making a decision based upon that truth.
3) Implementing that decision with grace and skill.
Truth hightails it when we fail to accept the consequences of our own actions. The verifiable proof of jealousy’s invidiousness is nowhere better exhibited than in Shakespeare’s “Othello,” in the character of the jealous Iago.
Giuseppe Verdi’s “Otello” provided me with the greatest operatic singing role of my life. Otello is dooped by Iago into believing the lie that Otello’s young wife, Desdemona, is “carrying on” with Cassio. Otello ends up strangling Desdemona, then stabbing himself to death. All this because of jealousy without any real provocation! There is one point in this Verdi opera where Otello could notice a handkerchief that Desdemona drops. Unseen by Otello, Iago’s wife, Emilia, snatches it up, and Iago takes it as a useful tool for his heinous scheme. Had Otello noted this little incident, the story would end then and there without any tragedy.
Monstrous jealousies often motivate us on the stage — as well as on the world stage. Obvious picayune jealousies are easy to spot in the behavior of ordinary people. There seems to be no adequate answer to jealousy, except to avoid it like the pest, and go on to better things, and, we hope, to better people.
Harvard’42—Distinguished Prof, Em.—UCF
2004 Fla. Alliance for the Arts award
(Assisted by beautiful wife Joy Roney)