(N.B.: Datestamp is overly precise; I only know this was written sometime during first semester of senior year.)

You asked me today why I derive pleasure from the shortcomings of other people. It was a good question to ask. Only a few people would have thought of it, and only you had the nerve to ask it. (This is a compliment, if you weren't sure.)

It is true that I often point my intellectual finger at mistakes. Aside from the sometimes interesting centerspread, I read the Shoreline for the purpose of noting its many errors in grammar and usage. I read the books of the linguist Richard Lederer, who stifles his desire to criticize in order to let poor English speak for itself. I find myself laughing, aloud or silently, at stupidity in English and in other classes. I poke fun at people. All the evidence shows that my mental radar seeks out mistakes, that I am a nitpicker and a fault-finder and a person-hater.

But to pretend that these mistakes do not exist would be pretense. To ignore their commonness would be ignorance. I can do neither of these. Errors exist and abound. If I were to sit down at a table and contemplate the vastness of human stupidity, human frailty, and human misery, I would cry. It is not joy when my red pen runs dry on the school newspaper; it is not contentment when I face the mountain of errors that people commit using their native language; it is not pleasure when I encounter idiocy in human form. It is pain, the deepest sort of pain that burns and throbs and reddens at the failure of an ideal. The laugh you see is my painkiller.