Lilly was horrified by the state of the Canada. She thought to herself “it is 2013 and we still are dealing with poverty, homelessness, violence against women and damage to the environment.” It was clear to her that anyone who was sane and had a conscience would realize that it was necessary to devote time and energy to the task of ending these social evils. This is why she spent nearly all of her time outside of her job as a corporate lawyer working with various organizations to end these evils.
Lilly herself had never known poverty, homelessness or violence. She came from an affluent family and had been educated at Princeton. But her lack of experience with these evils did not render her anymore unfit to fight for these causes than anyone else. She saw the evil in the world, and she was merely responding to it.
While Lilly did not have many friends because of the time she invested in her job and activism, she was still very close with a girl she had gone to high school with named Marie. Marie had been trying to set her up on a date with an acquaintance of hers that Marie thought would be compatible with Lilly. At first Lilly was very hesitant to go on this date, as she was preoccupied with working with her causes. But after Marie had put forward the offer several times Lilly began to relent and reluctantly agreed to go.
The man Marie had set her up with was a project manager for a telecommunications company who was apparently quite charming. His name was James.
Lilly spoke on the phone with James and he seemed nice enough, so they decided to meet at Starbucks to have a coffee on Saturday afternoon.
Lilly arrived at the Starbucks a good fifteen minutes before they had been set to meet. So she began to sit down and think about what she was going to get to drink. She really wanted a Caramel Macchiato, but she also was interested in having a non-fat vanilla latte with an extra shot. As she saw the sign that said Starbucks uses fair trade coffee beans she found herself wishing that other stores would be like Starbucks and try to use their wealth to change the world.
When James arrived he introduced himself to Lilly, and stood awkwardly beside Lilly in the line. Within a few minutes they were able to put their order in. James ordered a Venti Chai Latte and Lilly ordered a Venti Caramel Macchiato. James offered to pay for Lilly`s drink; she was okay with this, but made it clear that he did not have to pay.
After they had received their drinks hey then sat down at a quaint table in the corner and began to chat.
The conversation began in a quite facile fashion as James and Lilly discussed their families and occupations. But when the subject turned to personal interests Lilly went on in great deal about all of the organizations she worked with and gave money to, and why this was so important to her. After this Lilly asked James what his interests were outside of work.
“Umm, I like to play video games, watch TV, and watch sports with friends. I don`t seem to be as serious as you about how I spend my spare time.”
Lilly then asked “Do you have any desire to assist with some cause or organization in your spare time? I know I would feel like my existence was hollow if I did not volunteer.”
James responded “I have no problem with people who volunteer and have a deep passion to help change the world, but I have no interest in it. I get way more fulfillment from watching sports and playing video games, then I would from volunteering.”
At this point Lilly knew that she had no future with James. While he seemed to be nice and intelligent how could she date someone who clearly was so apathetic, vapid and without empathy?
With a look of indignation on her face Lilly stated “how can you live with yourselves when you do not spend any time helping to protect those who are most vulnerable? There are people suffering out there while you waste your life playing video games.”
At this point James became furious. “I may not help the needy, but at least I am not a hypocrite. You are a corporate lawyer, the epitome of establishment values, and yet you act as if you were merely a pious soldier fighting against the evils of our social order. More than that, you carry around a Coach purse, wear Dolce & Gabbana glasses and your dress is made by Versace.”
Lilly replied “I don`t see how my job and what I wear makes me a hypocrite. I am entitled to nice things, but I just want everyone else to be able to have them as well because I have empathy and compassion for others. There is no tension between my clothes and job and my activism.”
James snidely remarked “your lack of self-awareness runs so deep you cannot even recognize it when confronted. You clearly don`t want to see an evil person like me again, so I am going leave.”
Lilly exclaimed “you accuse me of lack self-awareness when you are wasting your life on pointless activities but cannot seem to see it? Leave if you want, as you are clearly disgusted by me.”
A young woman named Rebecca was sitting at the table adjacent to James and Lilly. She was wearing a hoodie and some tattered jeans, and had a weathered copy of Beloved in her hands. She felt guilty, as she had been listening to James and Lilly`s entire conversation. But it was just too fascinating, and she could not stop herself from listening.
It was a bizarre, but all too common situation in Rebecca`s mind. James clearly was right about Lilly as Lilly could not see how her job and taste in fashion represented the values that reinforced the very social evils that she seemed to want to eliminate. But Lilly was clearly right about James. He was clearly vacuous, and superficial, as he honestly claimed that watching TV and playing video games brought him great fulfillment. It seemed that both were able to see towards the core of the others, but neither could see themselves.
For Rebecca this reinforced how illusive self-knowledge was. But she also realized how difficult it was to participate in this society while maintaining a genuine commitment to self reflection.