To Be or Not to Be—Arrogant

by Catherine Wells


I think we are all born arrogant. As children, once we have mastered a skill or a knowledge set, we believe we are experts and can instruct others on how they should act/think/be. That was the case for me, at any rate. I knew I was smart, I knew Right from Wrong, and I was more than happy to tell others what it was they should or shouldn’t be doing. And as a teenager—good heavens! I shudder to recall.

Fortunately, about that time, I began to grow more humble. I learned that I was not always right, that I could make dreadful mistakes, and that showing how smart I was could prove hurtful to others. As an adult with more years behind me than ahead, I still struggle with curbing my behavior to reflect this desired humility, but I’m getting better. I think.

Given this struggle, what would it be like to live for a thousand years?

If you have watched a loved one diminish with the effects of aging, you know that long life can become a burden. This is usually due to physical and/or mental decline. But what if you could turn off the aging process, defer that decline indefinitely—Would life still become burdensome? Would you reach a point at which you were willing to say “enough”? And would you ever truly become humble? Or would long life have the opposite effect?

In “Respite” [in our March/April issue, on sale now], the character Rafe is nearly a thousand years old, though his body is that of someone forty. He has accumulated the knowledge and wisdom of a dozen lifetimes, and yet he has weaknesses—and strengths—he has carried his entire life. He grieves for people and relationships he once knew; he grieves for those he has forgotten. He knows from experience what will last and what won’t, and he has acquired a deep sense of humility—yet he struggles with the arrogance of believing he knows what is best for those around him. He knows the best course of action—but is his judgment really so much better? And does he have the right to impose it on others?

I don’t expect I will ever conquer my arrogance. In some ways, it is why I keep writing: I still believe I have something worth saying. But that’s good, because it gives me purpose and brings me back to my keyboard when it would be so much easier to give up writing and do something else with my time. Arrogance is both my weakness and my inspiration, and I hope that, like Rafe, I will struggle with it to the end of my days.

Catherine Wells is the author of numerous novels and short stories of speculative fiction, including the AnLab Award-winning Best Novella of 2015, “Builders of Leaf Houses.” For more about her books and short stories, visit

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