Wislawa Szymborska’s poem “In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself” is a critique of the idealistic views individuals have of themselves. That we often fail to live up to expectations and that we often experience failures is not a sign of our own inadequacy, but rather a mark of that, which makes us most human.
The death of Whitney Houston is a recent tragic event. As is well known, Houston was troubled with problems of addiction. The causes for her addiction can be speculated to no end. Her deteriorating marriage is often cited as one reason. Although from another perspective this suggests that Houston was a profound thinker, always reflecting on life and the mistakes she made. This reflection and constant meditation ultimately overwhelmed her, leading her to addiction as a mechanism with which to cope with such traumas.
Yet such an inclination to self-reflection is the mark of a profound soul. It is, according to Szymborska, a sign of our utmost humanity. For Szymborka, the greatest sign of bestiality or of inhumanity is a clear conscience. Only a profound egomaniac or sociopath has a clear conscience, finding no faults with what he or she has done in his or her life. Whitney Houston, troubled by the events of her life, troubled by what happened to her as an individual and troubled by her own personal choices, is as distanced from this mark of bestiality as possible. It was arguably her lack of a clear conscience that made her unhappy, that caused her to experience such despair. Her life was one of regrets: she attempted to minimize these regrets and the pain they caused her through substances that make it easier to forget. But in forgetting these pains, she fell out of harmony her own humanity.