"Wow, Job. It seems that in the last three conversations I kind of made it my agenda, didn't I? Gave you the impression that this conversation was 'all about Bill,' right? You should be able to endure that, since the method you pursued throughout the book is that it was "all about Job." That was also Elihu's approach, too. My goodness. Here we are. We certainly aren't manifesting the Christian virtues of deferring to others, considering others more important than ourselves, embracing humility, are we? Life, really, is just all about us. I guess that makes us pretty "unevolved" people, doesn't it? Haven't learned to climb very high up on Kohlberg's ladder, have we?
You know, Job, I am working on this theory that I would like to share with you. I think that recent research into the brain and the nature of chemicals that course through our bodies suggests that we are not the kind of free agents that we thought we were at one time and that our political documents say we are. That is, rather than choice being the central reality of our lives, I wonder if determinism is. Oh, certainly, I can choose whether I type an X or a Y here, but what I mean is whether certain aspects of our character, our approach to the world, even our thoughts are simply part of an inheritance that we cannot do anything about. Thus, if this is true, moral exhortation to become different, and women's thoughts that they can actually change you, are really misguided.
Let's take this practical example of self-centeredness, Job. Certainly we all are self-centered to a degree, for we all prefer to have air rather than not have air over the next five minutes. And, we will go to pretty great lengths to make sure that we have a good supply of air, a supply so plentiful that we don't have to spend much time worrying about where the next breath is coming from. That is, we don't want to worry when we get up whether there will be enough air to get us through the day. We all are self-centered. You get my point.
But we get the impression, not only from sacred texts of lots of religious traditions, but also from people that are seemingly respected in our culture, that giving to others and being "other directed" really ought to be a high priority in life. Look at interviews in the paper with civic activist types. They always want to help people. They want to "give back" to the system. In Jesus words, "to whom much is given, much is required." And they always say the same thing...that they receive far more than they gave, even if they gave a lot.
But what if that doesn't work for everyone, Job? It seemed to work for you for a while, but then your distress came and you wanted to throw the entire system overboard. What if this new self-centered reality of yours is truly the reality that defines your life? What if it became so much a part of you that even after your so-called restoration in 42:10 you still were self-centered. The text never says whether you were blameless and upright after your restoration; it never says whether you narrated your distress every day to all comers after the restoration. It never says you went back to your judging. You just were restored.
So, what if pain makes you self-centered and there is nothing you can do about it? That it becomes so much a part of who you are that not only do you think everyday about the next breath but you think every day about how everything affects you and how every activity relates to your pleasure or your pain? How about if you gave all your life to people and you ended up getting screwed royally, and you just said, "Ok, tried that. That doesn't work. Time to make life 'all about Job,' 'all about Elihu,' 'all about Bill.' Other than getting vacant stares from liberals who think you should be giving of yourself all the time, what is the matter with that? Maybe life drives you to self-centeredness. Maybe life and the genes do it. That is, maybe you chose to be other directed early in life because you thought you should have done so--maybe you heard preaching that said you should, but in middle age you wake up to the notion-- 'no, I would rather kick ass than kiss ass; I would rather define the world in my own terms rather than always try to defer to another's definition; I will act when and where I want to act and not because some rule or person or expectation says I should be humble or concerned about others.' Of course the liberals will patronizingly look at you as if you are a lesser creature, and the conservatives (if they are other-directed) will put you on their prayer list (which is really similar to their shit list, as WS Coffin has remarked), but that is the reality.
So, Job, I conclude that what really lies at the heart of your brilliance is your discovery of self-centeredness. Pain helped you do that. It is all about Job. We benefit from you because you finally see life as all about you. Why shouldn't we imitate that?