There has been a recent kerfuffle in the publishing world. Jodi Picoult accused the Literary Establishment of a bias toward white males after the New York Times gave Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel a glowing review not once but twice, while Picoult’s latest received no review.
I understand the impulse behind these complaints. Everyone in the world wants to be treated fairly; everyone in the world wants to be taken as seriously as the person to their left and right. I am not going to comment on whether the Literary Establishment, whoever they may be, hold any bias, nor whether Picoult was right or wrong in crying foul.
But the dust up did get me thinking about my own house. Oh, how tempted I have been throughout my life to believe that I would be happy if only other people would behave differently. My problem is that I still do not know how to make someone think something other than what they want to think. I can suggest, I can cry, I can scream, I can even write a weekly column, and indeed someone’s thinking might shift one direction or another as a result, but I still do not know how to consistently and definitively change someone’s mind. Infuriatingly, everyone, including me, remains free to think what they want.
Thus, I am left, as always, with myself. And what do I do? Clean house, remembering that most annoying truism of the human psyche: that which you dislike in others is that which you wish to change in yourself. If it is stubbornness I see in others, then I know I being stubborn. If it is impatience, then I am being impatient. Amazingly, after I have thoroughly cleaned house, I am no longer bothered by or even aware of the stubbornness or impatience.
Keep silent? No, no. Speak up and out and often. But remember Ghandi’s words: Be the change you want to see. He didn’t say speak the change you want to see, he said be it, and to do this, you must clean house. I do not believe that is possible to bring more peace to the world unless you are at peace, nor bring fairness if you cling to your unfairness. Once you are that which you wish to see in the world – once you are unbiased, once you are at peace – you have found the world you are seeking, and with a little luck, a little compassion, and a little voice, others might choose to follow you there.