Living Well§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: March 9, 2006; revised: August 15, 2017; readers in past month: 677

David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane

Lately I have been thinking about someone I knew in high school. He was not a friend. In fact, he positively despised me and would go out of his way to offend me in very cold ways. As an example, once he shook my hand to congratulate me about having won a position as an officer in a school club and he did so with a very limp hand and made some snide remark about how he knew I would do a terrible job. He would emotionally abuse me in this way, using my politeness and niceness against me, preying on my insecurities.

I should probably describe him. He was a fairly good looking boy — overly confident about himself in relation to girls, though. He was not an athlete, but he was a moderately rowdy spectator at school football games and liked smoking and drinking beer. We had little in common, but I do not know why he detested me so much. I did nothing against him. He just did not like me and did not like me succeeding. We were in many of the same clubs and he would occasionally try to take leadership roles, but usually was denied by a vote of the members. He was an officer in one organization that I can remember. I was in more clubs than him — nine to his four in my senior year — and was an officer in almost all of them. I suspect he didn’t like my demeanor and therefore that I exceeded him in many ways without much effort. I succeeded in achieving leadership roles because I was smart, hardworking, and well liked. He had very little of these qualities. Nevertheless, I think he felt it an injustice that I was an officer in the clubs where he was not, but wanted to be. We never ran against each other for positions, but he still seemed to have felt cheated by life and I was somehow evidence of that.

In thinking about him recently, I recalled an episode of the situation comedy, Frasier. When I was in the U.S., I liked watching this show. It was the thinking person’s mindless comedy. I have many things in common with the Frasier character, which may account for why I liked it, and as such I have been compared to him at times. But this week I was thinking about an episode in which one of the main characters, Niles (Frasier’s brother; see photograph above) is overly upset about meeting an old school-yard bully of his. In particular, I was thinking about this dialog from that episode:

Frasier: NILES! Niles, get a hold of yourself! Stop it! Stop, stop. It’s all right. You’re no longer an awkward teenager, you’re a renowned psychiatrist. [He] may have won a battle or two back in junior high school, but that’s where he peaked. You won the war. You know the expression, “Living well is the best revenge”?

Niles: It’s a wonderful expression. Just don’t know how true it is. Don’t see it turning up in a lot of opera plots. “Ludwig, maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well.”

Frasier: All right, Niles. [heads into the kitchen]

Niles: [follows him] “Whereupon Woton, upon discovering his deception, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act again by living even better than the Duke.”

Frasier: Oh, all right!

At times, when I consider the things that I have done and achieved in my life, I think about this emotional bully from my high school. I wonder what he is doing now and whether I have gotten my revenge by living well, by living better than him. I poked around on the internet today and discovered that he has been working for an oil company on the west bank of the Mississippi river near New Orleans as a waste manager. Sounds like a terrible job, but it is noble in that he is dealing with the polution that results from the refineries near New Orleans. Still, I cannot help but take some shallow and empty satisfaction in realizing that he went no further than the oil fields across the river from my old high school. I can imagine him probably working in an air-conditioned trailer, pushing papers and consorting with rough blue collar workers. Perhaps it’s synical of me, but I also suspect that he has been through a bad marriage and a few bad relationships owing to his abusive nature. But, in fairness, I can’t say much better about myself on the relationship count — except that some of my relationships have gone well at times and I was not abusive to the women I was with.

I wonder at times if this old bully thinks of me, perhaps when he is dissatisfied with his life, and wonders if I have exceeded him by living well, or better. I wonder if he has searched for my name on the web to see where I am and what I’m doing. My name in various forms produces quite a few pages of results on Google. His produces one entry. This is not proof of living well. I also know that I have done many other things: my career as a broker, a business owner, working in the Church, my national guard days, my children, and now my writing and travel all can be made to stand up against what little I know of his career at the refineries. More importantly, knowing human nature and psychology from an amateur observer’s point of view, I cannot imagine that he has been happy. They say ignorance is bliss. Based on this one might imagine that he has achieved happiness by his ignorance, but he was not a stupid boy. He knew enough to be aware of his short comings, but did not have the wisdom to see that resenting me for my successes was no solution. If he still hasn’t learned that, he probably still resents me if he does research on me through the web. In fact, if he finds my web site and reads this posting and recognizes himself in it, he probably takes some pleasure in knowing that he hurt my feelings so much in high school that over two decades later I’m still bothered by him.