How Green Was My Envy
© 2012 Greek to Me by Michael Raysses
"Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings
instead of your own." —Harold Coffin
"I wish I had your sense of envy." —My Uncle Tasso
I've never had my color chart done, so I have no idea what shade I most embody. I know that I've been angry enough to see red, been so depressed as to feel the blackest blue, and have written more than my share of purple prose. But the color green poses an interesting dichotomy: Do I address it in its most recent incarnation as the hue du jour of those dedicated to recasting the world in its lush tones? Or do I engage it based on the level of intimacy we have shared these many years? I plead no contest.
That's because I "went green" long before it was in vogue, polishing it to a lustrous jade. That is, assuming green is the color of envy, because if it is, I arguably qualified as the original not-so-jolly Green Giant.
As a young kid I had a go-kart. Or to put it more accurately, I had some decrepit two-by-fours that were nailed together, adorned with a used vegetable-crate that I painted red and jury-rigged atop them. I affixed four wobbly lawnmower wheels to the two-by-fours, with the front two attached to a plank that swiveled from a rusty bolt; the plank had a discarded length of clothesline connected to each end, allowing me to steer by pulling to one side or the other. It was powered by whomever I could entice to push me in exchange for returning the favor.
Some time after I put my go-kart together, though, a close friend of mine got a real one, a motorized midget-racer with a fiberglass body. It became all I could think about. After just one ride on his, mine became nothing more than a termite's wet dream. I remember literally aching as I gazed longingly at the object of my desire, wondering if I would have my very own. I never did, leaving me to wrestle with an unquenchable impulse—the bottomless thirst left in Envy's wake.
As I got older my affection for physical objects waned,
replaced by a desire for things that other people had—had accomplished, that is.
When I started acting, I had a friend who was a struggling stand-up comedian. We used to commiserate over the frustrations of being poor, jockeying for chances to perform, and the attendant insecurity those things posed. He fell on some hard times, had his car repossessed, and needed money. I hired him for an acting gig at a local high school in which we performed. It wasn't much, but it was something to keep the dogs at bay.
Years later, after we had both moved to Los Angeles, his career began to take off. And very quickly, he began getting opportunities that I had no access to because of his status as a stand-up comedian. It was around that time that Envy re-entered my life; the green-eyed serpent had now become a vine that had twined itself from within, choking me from understanding myself.
Things spiraled in both directions. As my friend's career soared, mine floundered. Not surprisingly, anything I achieved during this time felt puny and inconsequential; even when I booked a role on the show
that he starred in and produced, it felt resoundingly lacking.Some time after that, I began to shift my focus to writing. A couple of years later, though we had fallen out of touch, I interviewed him for a newspaper regarding a movie that he had starred in and was promoting. Now you might think that scenario would have weaned me from my pas de deux with Envy, but I had occasion to find out otherwise. While cruising through a local bookstore, there among the latest offerings, I came across a book my friend had written. It was put out by a big publishing house and was doing very well. I was pulled under in a riptide of resentment, drowning in waves of Envy.
Thankfully, my involvement with "going green" ran its course when I hit rock bottom that day. I realized that there was a way out of Envy's toxic thrall—and the answer, ironically enough, was to be found in the principles of genuine green living. Author David Allen, in his book, "Getting Things Done," espouses the following tenets for living a verdant life: strive for simplicity; be fair; establish a relationship with your community; aspire to sustainability; assert a plan for your life; and conduct it with transparency.
Thinking back on my old go-kart, I realize it coincidentally embodied more than a few of those principles. It was a study in simplicity, fairness, and transparency: It cost virtually nothing to put together, moved whenever anyone wanted to swap a turn pushing for one driving, and was exactly what it held itself out to be—unalloyed, albeit bumpy, fun. Obviously, it didn't deter me from my marathon with Envy. Too bad Envy didn't combat male pattern baldness, didn't give me a flat stomach, or at least make me seem more worldly. At least now, though, I know a healthy green lifestyle is a viable option. I see people all around me creating it for themselves. My problem? I envy them, which is decidedly Greek to me.
Michael Raysses is a writer/NPR commentator/actor living in Los Angeles. E-mail him at MichaelRaysses@hotmail.com.