I'm drawn to a lovely quote by St. Augustine in "The City of God," where he says, "It's a sin to judge any man by his post."
In modern English that would mean it's a sin to come to any view of who you should talk to, dependent on their business card.
It's not the post that should count.
According to St. Augustine, only God can really put everybody in their place;
he's going to do that on the Day of Judgment, with angels and trumpets, and the skies will open.
Insane idea, if you're a secularist person, like me.
But something very valuable in that idea, nevertheless.
In other words, hold your horses when you're coming to judge people.
You don't necessarily know what someone's true value is.
That is an unknown part of them, and we shouldn't behave as though it is known.
There is another source of solace and comfort for all this.
When we think about failing in life, when we think about failure,
one of the reasons why we fear failing is not just a loss of income, a loss of status.
What we fear is the judgment and ridicule of others. And it exists.
The number one organ of ridicule, nowadays, is the newspaper.
If you open the newspaper any day of the week, it's full of people who've messed up their lives.
They've slept with the wrong person, taken the wrong substance, passed the wrong piece of legislation
whatever it is, and then are fit for ridicule.
In other words, they have failed. And they are described as "losers."
Now, is there any alternative to this?
I think the Western tradition shows us one glorious alternative, which is tragedy.
Tragic art, as it developed in the theaters of ancient Greece, in the fifth century B.C.,
was essentially an art form devoted to tracing how people fail, and also according them a level of sympathy,
which ordinary life would not necessarily accord them.
A few years ago, I was thinking about this, and I went to "The Sunday Sport,"
a tabloid newspaper I don't recommend you start reading if you're not familiar with it already.