It’s a most sensible way to begin an essay, especially if one has nothing substantial to say on the subject, which is usually the case. It’s also preferable to quote from a book one has never read, as awareness of the entire work could contradict one’s intended purpose. The quotation acts as aloe vera gel, soothing the gaping wounds of logic and bleeding emotion to follow. It pleads, No matter what happens, you must remember the essayist had enough comprehension to select me as your host. You must remember!
The quotation is impressively terse and intelligent; it often inspires the essayist to write “the end,” since he cannot come up with anything significant to add. It’s a mercifully soft light, making everyone look better by its glow.
“The difference between guilt and shame is very clear – in theory. We feel guilty for what we do. We feel shame for what we are.” Lewis B. Smedes, Shame and Grace
I’m trying to quantify my guilt. Undeniably the best way to do this is a scale, from 1-5…1 being Martin Scorsese (mean guilt) 3 being Alfred Hitchcock (monstrous guilt) 5 being Woody Allen (maddening guilt). Since I can’t think of any other fitting film directors, and since within the series 1-5 evens are outnumbered, 2 and 4 have been prematurely and inexplicably eliminated. Also, this scale was computed by the directors’ work, not their personal lives (would this have affected anything? don’t ask that you dumbass, we’ll never get anywhere). So. I normally function at a 3.5, but presently it’s at 9,999,999,999, approximately, which in English is “my-very-existence-is-a-burden-to-others.” I am guilty of _________
That blank has such vast potential, let’s not fill it in or foul it up.
It’s appropriate that shame starts with a “shh” because it’s a secret. -Doesn’t that sound like something a Pastor who reads Family Circus would say from the pulpit? He’d punctuate it with satisfaction, thinking he got close enough to truth to pet it before it ran away. Guilt can turn into shame and shame can turn into guilt – they’ve got a co-op. And, there’s no system of measurement for them – so I’m always thinking I don’t have enough, even though I’m always thinking about how much I have.
I am conscience-stricken over my superficiality. I’m one of those enormous sheets with pictures of athletes or forest scenes they draped over unfinished buildings in Beijing during the olympics. Someone, some day soon, will tear it away, expecting to find something. They won’t. They’ll be disappointed. They’ll walk on.