After a night of unpacking boxes in the new home, I hit the internet to engage in every word-nerd's favorite pastime--perusing quotes on goodreads.com. I typed in the word "home," and forty-five minutes later, what had started as a fun diversion had turned into a full-blown waste of time. There were quotes by Woody Allen, L. Frank Baum, Sylvia Plath, and a whole host of unfamiliar authors whom I can only assume wrote something worth reading in some erstwhile work. As I pored over the quotes word-by-word, I noticed the sprouting of a seed of a thought. Once watered with a bit of vanity and fertilized with pelletized self-aggrandizement, the seed grew into wholehearted desire. The desire is simple: I'd rather like to make the "quotes" section of goodreads.com.
Certainly, this is an exercise in vanity (if not futility). However, in considering the vast accomplishments of mankind over the scope of human history, it is apparent that many good and worthy works began in the recesses of a decent man's vanity. This is not to say, of course, that vanity is virtuous, admirable, or even a thing to be desired. Instead, I offer this only as an honest examination of the nature of human conquests.
Certainly, vanity sometimes masquerades as something other. Consider Mr. Vanderbilt, who by stamping his name upon a Nashville university, came to be less associated with the "robber barons" and more associated with educational excellence. Consider the foundation bearing the name of its founder, the one that fights malaria, or AIDS, or breast cancer. Consider the church that hoists three crosses over the meeting house as a witness. Consider Amerigo Vespucci. No really, consider Amerigo Vespucci.
Consider everything other than the lilies of the fields and the sparrows.
Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
I have written a short novel that I'd like you to read one day. In part, this is because I labored over it, tried to string good words into good sentences, good sentences into good paragraphs, and good paragraphs into good chapters. Hopefully, all of those good chapters come together to make something resembling a good read, and maybe there's a sentence or two worthy of the goodreads.com quote page. No doubt, there is a fair amount of vanity in these hopes (and no doubt the literary odds are stacked against me), but in mulling over my motivations I've come to at least one conclusion.
Perhaps the difference between the vain and the humble is the honesty to identify one's own motivations, and then, to confess them and act (or not) accordingly.