Richer Than A King, He Put A Bullet Through His Brain
These words seem to strike a nerve among men:
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.…
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
These are a few lines from “Richard Corey” by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The poem has inspired music by Simon & Garfunkel, Paul McCartney & Wings, Them, Van Morrison, Cuby + Blizzards, The Chicago Loop, 3Ds, Ken Boothe, John Duke, American Oi, Youngblood, and The Menzingers. It also inspired a play by A. R. Gurney and a poem by American humorist Garrison Keillor.
Rich musician sees he has little of worth
I remembered that poem one day as I listened to Mike Posner’s, “I took a pill in Ibiza.” The song tells of a rich and famous musician who had it all, and then realized that he didn’t really have much of anything.
A few lines:
I drive a sports car just to prove
I’m a real big baller
Cause I made a million dollars
But you don’t wanna be high like me
Never really knowing why like me
You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster
And be all alone
An artist from another generation made a similar realization. “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty is slow and uneventful, but the lyrics are meaningful. I played saxophone in middle school but never played this song even though I really wanted to learn it. It’s honest about how depression and hopelessness can affect anyone:
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul…
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re cryin’ you’re cryin’ now
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he’ll settle down, it’s a quiet little town
And forget about everything
But you know he’ll always keep movin’
The song expresses the human contradiction of trying to be optimistic, or even fooling yourself that it will be better, yet feeling helpless and hopeless.
“You know he’s never gonna stop movin’”
The words reflect “Ibiza”:
And I can’t keep a girl, no
‘Cause as soon as the sun comes up
I cut ’em all loose
And work’s my excuse
But the truth is
I can’t open up
Guys try to rack up points by bedding girls. And sure, they get some status. But are they happier?
Most guys say they are happier in relationships.
So maybe it just seems like guys who are getting girls are “living the life.”
This masculine facade
It makes me think of this masculine facade. Guys outwardly show a confident, even cocky “man face.” But it’s rooted perhaps in insecurity.
You look successful and fulfilled. But maybe that face is more like compensation for not being happy.
Because really you are chasing after meaningless nightlife happiness which doesn’t have soul or meaning. It’s superficial. Vacuous.
What’s really important?
It seems like human nature to be competitive — at least I am.
Or maybe our culture just emphasizes hierarchy and being on “top,” glamorizing fortune and status — especially for men.
So you join the ego-centered competition, “proving yourself” by getting hot girls and being a high status “baller” man.
But things aren’t always what they seem.
Maybe what’s really important are the small things — or things that can seem small but which are actually really significant: family, friends and partnership.
It’s really the simple, meaningful things, that are less about ego — yourself — and more about what’s beyond just “you.”
It’s easy to lose sight of such things, and think the grass is greener on the other side, leaving us envying others who only seem to be living the highlife.
By one of my readers, “Bob.”
Posted on February 6, 2017, in men, psychology and tagged masculine façade, Pressures of manhood, proving manhood, Richard Cory. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.
Wow, that poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson was SO powerful. I think this could easily be related to women as well. Women and men alike put on these facades to try and prove to others and themselves that they are happy. People (myself sometimes even) think if they get that next new IPhone or buy that expensive car, then they will be happy. But for the most part, it doesn’t work that way, and the sadness could easily consume someone.
Suicides in colleges have become a really big issue, and in most of the articles about the student there is always a quote from a friend or family member that says, “they were always so happy and smiling.” This really scares me. The excerpt from this poem is so relatable to what I see happen around me. I appreciate that I see lots of mental health clubs and mental health events and easily accessible counseling around my school’s campus.
Thank you for your thoughts on this. It’s a heavy topic.
I think Bob’s article was very well presented, and it really hit home with me. In the poem titled “Richard Corey,” two lines were especially significant to me:
“ In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place”
Many years ago, I went to Washington High School in Fremont, California. One of the students there was the star athlete of the school (football, wrestling, and baseball). He was so good that when he graduated they retired his jersey, and placed it behind glass in the trophy case for the school.
I was so in awe of his athletic ability that several times I privately wished that I could trade places with him (which I would have done in an instant).
After high school he continued his athletic career at Foothill College.
The point of this story is that he died at the age of 20 from throat cancer. Many times since then I’ve thought about how I wanted to trade places with him, and how thankful I am that my wish did not come true, and how thankful I should be with my own life.
Bob wrote several lines which really stand out for me:
“But things aren’t always what they seem.
It’s really the simple, meaningful things, that are less about ego – yourself – and more about what’s beyond just ‘you’.”
A girl named Linda, who went to our high school was mentally handicapped. Some of the other students would tease her and make her life miserable (only boys would tease her, never girls). One day at lunchtime, another girl, Cathy, went up to Linda and made friends with her, and spent the whole lunchtime walking with her, and making her feel comfortable. I’ll always remember what Cathy did that day. Her motives were completely unselfish. She simply had compassion for Linda, and wanted to make her feel better. This is what I thought about when I read in the previous paragraph, “… meaningful things, that are less about … yourself – and more about what’s beyond just ‘you’.”
Doing acts of kindness the way that Cathy did during that lunchtime is certainly a way to bring happiness to yourself and to others.
Thank you for sharing these touching stories.
And I believe that humans were designed to want and seek out love and affection — maybe because children due seem to do better when they have devoted parents. So it’s denying a part of one’s humanity to just constantly go after a bunch of anonymous people. It doesn’t seem to be especially satisfying in a long run. It seems like it’s more about keeping score. And as I sometimes say: winning, but are you happy?”
Isn’t it interesting to know this, but yet still be stuck on want to do things that just give a brief thrill? Even if knowing it won’t make one happy in the long term. Some of these things relate to me, even though knowing there’s more to things. It seems like a very human problem, and many people knowing what’s best, but still go the other way. That’s why people can feel like or seem like hypocrites when giving advice. The term comes to mind “do what I say, not what I do”. You see this in every like form. Temptation or stubborness overriding the better way. I mean you see this with food and eating bad things even though knowing it can be bad for you health especially if keep on doing. It’s had for people to break habits even if they know better and it’s not what’s best for you or what will make you happy. But still find oneself going that direction.
I think it’s very common for people to know what is healthy and best for them yet still not do it because in the short-term they get something out of it even if it hurts them in the long-term. I know that I have done that many times.
Ha ha! I’m glad the good guy gets the girl in the end.
That stuck out to me though how he’s “we’ll hook up with girls and be free and happy.” And in the movie it seemed like his friend liked his lifestyle and never lead on, probably like how other guys. But then he revealed, he’s not happy and it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. And just wants to be held and told everything will be alright. Which cue in the old guy lol. The old man was funny in the clip.
Yeah, when he said that he just wanted someone to hug him I’m sure that’s not what he had in mind.
And I believe that humans were designed to want and seek out love and affection — maybe because children due seem to do better when they have devoted parents. So it’s denying a part of one’s humanity to just constantly go after a bunch of anonymous people. It doesn’t seem to be especially satisfying in a long run. It seems like it’s more about keeping score. And as I sometimes say: winning, but are you happy?
I know this isn’t too deep and an education article like I’ve used before, but sometimes movie clips even funny one’s can make you realize things in relation to such things in real life. There is a movie clip that came to my mind when seeing this post and thinking of the mike posner song I mentioned before.
Read this before seeing the clip though.
But anyway, Adam Sandler’s character plays a hopeless romantic guy who is a wedding singer. And always wanted a loving relationship and to be married. He had his heart broken at the altar to be married and his to be wife never showed up. He met a woman he liked who worked at one of the places he sang at played by Drew Barrymore. She likes him and he falls in love with her, but she’s to be engaged with another guy who he met from a double date with her friend.
And he learns what a d bag he is. The guy tells him how being married won’t change things, because he works nights late, thus implying he can still be the womanizer he was and cheat on Drew Barrymore’s character. Adam knows this but can’t tell her as he doesn’t want to break up a to be marriage as they are engaged even though the fiance plays a guy who treats women like possessions. Anyway way so Adam being the hopeless romantic has a best friend in it who is the womanizer. He’s always implied to be single and hooking up and says comments early in movie at a wedding reception of being able to take some woman home, etc. So this leads to the scene in the clip later in the movie where Adam’s character is disheartened and feels like giving up and talks with his single womanizing buddy at the bar. Through the humor, I found interesting as far as what Adam Sandler’s friend, the womanizer had to say. It is funny though too so I thought that’s a plus, and will give you a laugh which is always good. The old man is funny in it and I knew even the first time that the old man was gonna do what he did lol. It is a funny scene ha
You have a great talent with words, congratulations!
Yes find happiness in small things around. Grass will always seem greener on the other side, but might be the person on the other side would wish to have a life like yours. One should be happy with what they have and find happiness around them. If you have a family to count on, friends for lifetime, a relation that gives you peace and happiness and a job that you had dreamed than you have everything in your life as for me happiness is not owning a big house, branded car or anything.
I think most people don’t have jobs they actually like though. It’s rare and hard to have a dream job no matter how educated one is. Sometimes the “more success” and higher positions actually bring in more misery because so much responsibility and expectation is placed on a person and huge stress. Sometimes people sacrifice their happiness because they feel, they must be successful or that’s everything in life. Women can be caught up in that as much as men in the work force and sometimes more so because I feel women may feel they have more to prove because of how women have had not felt respected in the past. So women feeling they are breaking the glass ceiling being the store manager or top executive of a company. But it’s not executives, but I see so many managers, men and women at companies I’ve worked at, stressed out of their mind. And I think to myself is it worth it? It’s not about if you can do the job, but what should the priorities be? Success or the impression of success.
I think it’s often the “title” people chase. Like managers for instance, they get paid more and higher up the chain the more $. But more often than not, while they get paid more than supervisors, the pay is not so much where it seems worth just being the “smaller” supervisor and with that title comes all the hours and away from family and stress. You’re “successful” on paper but are you really? Are you happy? Life it tough and nobody is going to be perfectly happy, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked at success in the workforce differently. I’m a person that’s always been interested in succeeding, but it’s a tough balance. They always say time is the most valuable thing in life, because you can’t take it back, it’s fleeing and short as well as finite for us as living beings. Our lives our short. But I also believe as valuable as our time is happiness. Cool, you are top executive of your company, but are you happy?
You think you are, but are you really with this burden, away from the family, doing 60 or maybe 80 hours like some companies expect of people in management roles. Or are you just fooling yourself thinking you are, because it’s been ingrained in us that success equals happiness? Good for people who do well and are fine as managers, but I could have been one, but didn’t want to because I knew of the stress and hours. I could do well….but I don’t think I’d be happy. I’d be miserable and to me, life is too damn short to be miserable. $ doesn’t do shit in the deeper meaning. It’s time and memories and if those future memories are unhappiness, what does that extra $ really do? When we die, we don’t take that $ with us right? But when we are alive, it’s the memories, which we want to try to have as many good memories with us, as those are priceless while we are still here on earth. I just went all philosophical on you again ha
I think you are right. People who are less educated often have routine jobs that they find boring and people who are more educated may have high powered jobs but they don’t have time for anything else. Maybe you saw an article that came out, I think in the last year, about how all these millionaires hate their lives because they spend it working in the way you describe, chasing status but not feeling happy.
“a job that you had dreamed ”
Well unfortunately, I believe most people don’t have that. Many people even one’s with degrees and find the career they want. It’s one they feel they are suited for, but doesn’t mean they like it a ton and just a job for them. Many people though are just working the 9 to 5 like and the job and pay needed to get by or feed their family. Not one that’s a dream job or one they dreamed of. That’s life though. But despite that. It doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate life or what one has and not be too caught up or consumed with the flashy things in life.
Perhaps, men are taught to wear a mask of confidence mixed with arrogance from their childhood. they fail to express their emotions in a real manner fearing that would make them ‘vulnerable’ like their female counterparts.
A nice post by Bob, I’ve read his comments earlier on your blog… 🙂
Yeah, many men, including Bob, have talked about the mask that men are supposed to wear.
Probably flamboyant and hedonistic living is all about consumption and hardly anything about the immanent happiness in a life of giving. One goes on consuming, eventually getting consumed in a consumptive frenzy. To be able to give, a person needs to develop his potential to the fullest extent to scale up to a plane of richness of a wealth of capabilities. It does not mean parting with material possessions, though it may form part of the larger giving. The motto ought to be to receive minimally and give maximally. The grapes received must ideally be returned as wine.
What we don’t really need won’t satisfy. And illusion (often times, cultural illusions) can blind us to our true needs – what is actually satisfying.
Well written and good job. It’s flattering to know, my thoughts and posts sometimes inspire or impress you enough to write a blog post from my thoughts or what I’ve written.
I really appreciated the comments you wrote on this topic, Bob. My contribution is mostly just editing. Thank you for being so thoughtful 🙂
I almost feeling watching a adventure theater, this is great and productive…