The Awkward Moment When Your Great WW1 Hero Sounds Like A Teenager On Tumblr

In which your blogger reaches another period of Lawrence’s introspection in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and identifies a little, but mostly feels moved to make fun of him for sounding like an angst-ridden fifteen-year-old.

It irritated me, this silly confusion of shyness, which was conduct, with modesty, which was a point of view. I was not modest, but ashamed of my awkwardness, of my physical envelope, and of my solitary unlikeness which made me no companion, but an acquaintance, complete, angular, uncomfortable, as a crystal.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence.

Lawrence here complains of being shy and awkward and of people mistaking these “vices” for the “virtue” of modesty, which I see on Tumblr every other day in the form of people belabouring the fact that just because they’re awful at socialising doesn’t mean that they’re not also horribly arrogant, usually while demonstrating entirely the opposite. The more sophisticated manipulators will sigh tragically about how they wish they were any good at something and how terribly embarrassed they are to be putting something online but … if you insist … I say “sophisticated” here and I mean the opposite; Lawrence’s pre-emptive thuggery towards his own supposed modesty is infinitely more complicated.

But wait! There’s more.

There was my craving to be liked — so strong and nervous that never could I open myself friendly to another. The terror of failure in an effort so important made me shrink from trying; besides, there was the standard; for intimacy seemed shameful unless the other could make the perfect reply, in the same language, after the same method, for the same reasons.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

Would unsettled, self-loathing teenage girls on the internet get more respect for their short-term internal miseries if they phrased “I’m just so unique and alone and it’s terrible and I can never love anyone because I might fuck it up and besides nothing will ever be perfect so why bother” – a common refrain I remember from my diaries aged 16-19 or so – in the same educated voice as Lawrence does here? Because he is communicating exactly the same sentiments.

There was a craving to be famous; and a horror of being known to like being known. Contempt for my passion for distinction made me refuse every offered honour.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

In which Lawrence manages to bruise a perfectly normal desire for recognition (hardly surprising given his upbringing and his background) with the idea that it’s somehow beneath him, which demonstrates partly the notions of religious cleanliness of the soul and correct conduct pummelled into him by his mother (A Prince of Our Disorder, John E Mack), and partly a kind of classism evident from the time. The idea that wanting to be known was uncouth, lacking in taste. Or, to put it in the critiques of teenage girls on Tumblr, he is disgusted in himself for being like those attention whoring bitches.

I liked the things underneath me and took my pleasures and adventures downward. There seemed a certainty in degradation, a final safety. Man could rise to any height, but there was an animal level beneath which he could not fall. It was a satisfaction on which to rest.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

Here Lawrence departs from giving an elevated preview of blog complaints from teenage girls, but I’m not sure it’s much of a leap in the direction of insight and praiseworthy sentiment. Rather he’s displaying a very obvious secret of his own nature, something which comes as no surprise to anyone who has read a) A Defence Of Masochism by Anita Phillips or indeed b) the rest of this same damn book. As demonstrated in several more quotes:

Always in working I had tried to serve, for the scrutiny of leading was too prominent. Subjection to order achieved economy of thought, the painful, and was a cold-storage for character and Will, leading painlessly to the oblivion of activity. It was a part of my failure never to have found a chief to use me. All of them, through incapacity or timidity or liking, allowed me too free a hand; as if they could not see that voluntary slavery was the deep pride of a morbid spirit, and vicarious pain its gladdest decoration.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

As the pressures of leading or at least finessing an entire revolt bear down on his shoulders, Lawrence finds himself fantasising more and more about not having to make difficult decisions and being able to trust his superiors to carry things, even though he has placed himself in the position he is in and keeps himself there. Besides this, he is being brutally unsubtle about things which are to follow both in his life and in his legend.

Thus we’re straying onto what I like to think of as a different part of Tumblr, the one that is being carefully segregated. But never fear, Lawrence will now return to bleating about self-hatred and the difference between his view of himself and his view of everyone else in terms which sound almost identical to my Livejournal before I pulled my head out of my own arse:

The hearing other people praised made me despair jealousy of myself, for I took it at its face value; whereas, had they spoken ten times as well of me, I would have discounted it to nothing.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

You and everyone in Year 10, Lawrence.

When a thing was in my reach, I no longer wanted it; my delight lay in the desire.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

The premise of an ungodly number of pop songs.

Indeed, the truth was I did not like the ‘myself’ I could see and hear.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence

Welcome to the internet, Ned, I hope you enjoy your stay among people who are exactly like you.


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