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Ever see a Pygsyb?

Contrary to what might be thought, the Pygsybs are not some animal kinship pattern destined to be obliterated by the mindless sweep of technology. Nor have they anything to do with Pygmalion. The Pygsybs are, with a little verbal license, the People You're Going to Say You've Been Somewhere to. And expropriating them, and their relatives, is one of the most urgent priorities of modern man.

The widespread domination of Pygsybs over human consciousness was something that only gradually became apparent to me. It revealed itself in idly overheard snatches of conversation, as when a stranger, discussing a projected trip with a group of friends, proposed a visit to Tangiers "so I can say I've been to Africa." Or in a relative's satisfaction on hearing that a place he intended to visit was in Asia rather than Europe. Nor could I have claimed, I admit, any immunity from the syndrome. The Psgsybs are nothing if not pervasive. How many vacations have I planned at the behest of these elusive tyrants?

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And they have many relatives. There are the People Who Are Going to See You in Your New Car; the People Who Will Approve When You Work Harder; the People Who Will Notice You Have a Whiter Shirt. There is no inherent difference between them and Pygsybs, except that they are not so readily mnemonic.The process is in all instances the same: my identity is constituted by the gaze of others.

I begin by defining my identity as it is (or as I believe it to be, or as I would like it to be) in the eyes of others, and sink into thralldom to this illusory image. This "I," this web of illusion constructed of parental expectations, peer pressures and a miasma of ideologies, has been pickaxed in recent years by psychoanalysis and structuralism. And yet the criteria according to which the work of demolition is carried out are themselves relativistic determinate: the process is that of a dog chasing its tail.

There is nothing inherently wrong in a trip to Hawaii, or buying a new car, or working harder -- or even wearing a whiter shirt. The distinction is that between expressionm and definition.m To express grace, vitality, beauty is one thing; to attempt to carve out a niche in spacetime by so doing is quite another. The first is to givem , the second to take:m the difference is between freedom and bondage.

Postulating my own incompleteness, I frantically search for completeness in the outside world, either by havingm (the appropriation of material objects) or doingm (behaving in a way that is imposed from without). But because it is a search, it is axiomatically unfulfilled: as long as I search for something, I refuse to acknowledge that it is already mine.

Behind the illusory structure of the "I," so ably deconstructed on all sides; serene, unmoved, eternally impenetrable, my true identity lies. True being is bringing out this I: the giving of myself in its myriad aspects of joy. This is the opposite of that egotism which, because it refers everything to the view of others, paradoxically refers everything to itself. Only in breaking the grasp of the Pygsybs and their ilk can I find that which in its essence can never truly be lost: the hidden, eternal delight of myself


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