——Sometimes I think I must be the nicest person who ever lived, as I watch myself in situations, conversations mostly, and see to what extremes I go, to help other people prop themselves up. Though I barely have time to stand back–it is an ongoing assignment I guess I feel I have been given, like from on high, to talk to other people, like wherever they are–well, not only just talk to them, but sometimes just sit with them and console with occasional looks. I am incredibly thoughtful, all situations hum like with potential for either the application of special kindness, or quick rescue, right around me. Whether I am talking to somebody in earnest about the their most immediate crisis in their personal life, or some guy at the bar who in twenty minutes I have inspired to talk in depth about his race car, I go from one person to another, and I juggle their problems and puff up their triumphs, one and all, I care about them all, I don’t want anybody to suffer the slightest impingement of their own self image, doubt themselves or begin to doubt the world–but I want everyone to be a hero.
——I don’t know how I can convey, really, this sense I have of myself, or rather the importance of this sense I have, that I am such an absolutely nice person–for you see, it is partly by maintaining the superior view of myself, that I empower myself to be superior–and that can only sound like I have some problem myself! In truth, I am sure, only people who have been subject to my ministrations (let’s call them that, for now) get to know how infinitely nice I am. For of course only firsthand are these miracles enacted. All I can do, though as I just said I don’t have time to just revel in my accomplishments, is marvel at the variety of situations, changing, unpredictable, requiring alertness and fast action, or deep consideration and precise tinkering, where I acrobatically display this inveterate quality of being nice to other people. I watch myself in action–I have to watch myself, for I learn from myself; and I am continually amazed at the way I act with other people; what a pulling and clinging effect they have on me, how quickly they can sort of hire me as their new best friend.
——In order to be such a nice person one cannot in fact get a reputation for such, so that others point to you and refer to you as “just the nicest guy” or something. And indeed I don’t, I have a reputation as someone who is all involved in their own ambition. Ha! This is the perfect cloak. A reputation would impede me, in the constant mission. For it would cause people to expect something different, a generic or already accepted niceness, so to speak. As opposed to what one who has a genius for being nice, like myself, can especially provide. I am not regarded as even normally considerate, much less an overt flatterer, by anyone except by those who have received my close assistance, and my building-up affections. For, such is the necessary irony–eh, the martyrdom I face, even they are caused to credit themselves with having created the good feelings that result while in my presence. For you will learn it, my students of humanity, the final nicest thing one can do is leave people with the impression that they have been generous to you. And then that spreads further, I believe, if you have found just the right, universal chord.
——On certain days opportunities flood in, all around me; it’s like there are people waiting in line. Of course I have this strong interest in helping people talk, in becoming articulate, flexing their vocal chords, brandishing words. More than half the time, really most of the time, to begin with people splutter half-baked opinions, pitiful narrations, descriptions you can’t make head or tail of, so very unadept is your average Joe, at making anything clear. Indeed they don’t expect much from the others they are hanging out with, either. So look out, here I come. In order to get interested (and like I said, I can’t stand confusion and vagueness– and take it as my personal duty to make everyone look sharp, and make sense); in order to clue into what this average Joe is saying, say, about his plans to go to the Burning Man festival, or his endless, but also current, job dilemma, I always have to express tremendous, fake interest, and tell them to back up. Say that again! I say. And then I have to quickly display expert understanding, about this niche activity, or that unfettered obsession. Like that guy who is going down to Watkins Glen with his souped up BMW, after I sacrificed forty-five minutes listening to his fundamentally boring and impenetrable obscurities . . . then, sure, he was ready to philosophise. Which you have to be ready for. People are pretty impaled on the big questions, if you can get their confidence; don’t I know that! It is probably my best trait, and greatest of talents, facilitating the speech of these always very shy people (no matter what bluster they hide behind, or smarmy personalities they wear), these people who must be quite fortunate–and feel fortunate that they ran into me on the night, say, before they went to Watkins Glen, or the night when they are all whipped up about having taken their last class at Community College, and I actually ask them about it like I cared, because I do care, I care about them all; and then they find, like it were some coincidence, for I make it sound like a coincidence, the digression to what they really want to talk about, more abstract and serious and binding me to them for that conversation, so that I am their friend, they hail me in the street and come running up like to get some news. I remember with indelible associations the topics of importance to people. I store them up, ready for use, the topics I got an inkling of the last time I talked to them. I get to know people very quickly, and can practically establish good friend status in no time–not nice guy status, mind you, but status as someone whom they can talk to; and most everyone thinks most other people simply cannot be talked to. I venture to say, I am many many people’s favorite exception!
——How’s that? Well, when I was younger the imperative was more to lay it on others, what breakthrough I had made, what rough ideas I was peddling. Now it’s like I am a medic out on the field after the day of battle. There are wounded ones I have been formerly nice to, a pimply balding fellow who gets nothing but dirty looks, who I turned into a helpmate with just a couple self-deprecating remarks, so that he gazed upon me with pity–and it brought his haughtiness into relief. He became my sidekick and defender–sometimes this is exactly the trick, you have to become a kind of pet, a kind of project, for these guys who have learned only to be bullies in life. And then what I can do is wheedle my way into their good graces, and, knowing they are in fact total weaklings, start coaching them to improve their manners, like just for the sport of it. They go around being nice to people for the sport of it! This is all about the goal which is to ladle out niceness, to the needy and the proud, like at a soup kitchen. And the thing is, if I operate on this awareness of myself, what looks like this exaggerated portrait of myself, as the absolute nicest person you have ever met, it works to make me even nicer. Not more vain, self-aggrandising, pretentious, deluded . . . But I can say this awareness functions to spur me on to greater episodes and acts even more daring and invisible, propping up those who have, like spinning tops, begun to wobble.
——This is not the behavior of a saint, far from that explicit and most admirable and rare type of person. Nor are these just acts of kindness that I achieve this niceness with–see how awkwardly I put it now! What I am talking about is the rush to engage, whomever I am talking to, whomever I sense is even slightly stranded, tentative, even as I look at them. I have tremendous sympathy for everyone, just looking at them, and it puts in motion virtual schemes to flatter their being, encourage their self-image, make them aware of themselves as people of mystery, who do not know where they are going . . . People have hidden talents, if you make them part of a plot to find the truth. I think when I get this surge of comradery, I recognize it as unique, something I must be in charge of, my own gift. So it is on a par with other excellences I have charted and mined, out of genuine faith that I was a kind of knight-errant, during my ever so long life. When you get a line on something you can do, you want to step it up, put your foot on the pedal. Let me handle this, I want to say, and I step in like a referee, when I see someone is being shafted, or impinged upon–shall I go on? I am employed, full-time in this endeavor, for what I recognize is an enormous capacity, filled with a sense of possibility, and–I shall only say one more thing now–it is precisely by maintaining this absolute confidence, this standard, that one can in fact increase in one’s ability, to do the thing they have already declared themselves exceptional at.
——Oh my God! Then the mood changes and it seems there are a raft of people in sight, to whom he bears no responsibility at all. Nor is he inclined to seek the mere acquaintance of them, and their obviously futile and vain existences. Though, on balance . . . he feels he is basically a nice person.