A local response to Lay’s death
July 10, 2006
“Hubris” is an interesting word. Aristotle defined it as follows:”Hubris consists in doing or saying things that cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: Men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.”Read that last sentence again. It is the most important part of what Aristotle was saying. It is a compensatory mechanism for insecurity. It is the motivation behind the behavior. Aristotle was not just a philosopher but a psychologist long before such a term existed. It is this hubris behavior from others that Ken Lay and his wife Linda were forced to endure even at dinner in local restaurants. I know that the media wants to portray that Ken Lay died in a peaceful setting surrounded by Aspen’s beauty and blah, blah, blah. But he was harassed in at least one restaurant while some of the patrons used him to compensate for their own insecure egos. At least one of them was a professional health-care provider in the valley. Even in our once-pristine valley he was not immune from harassment.I met Ken Lay once and had a 10- to 15-minute conversation with him at City Market in El Jebel in December 2004. I thought I recognized a familiar face and asked if he and I were on a board together in the ’80s. He smiled and said “I am Ken Lay, the CEO of Enron.” I apologized for interrupting him. He looked me in the eye, reassured me that it was all right, and he engaged me in conversation.He was mentally preparing for his trial. He introduced me to his wife, Linda, and they both spoke with me as they had come here to spend the holiday in Old Snowmass. What struck me was his poise, his intelligence and his charm. Linda was shaken by what they were going through and Ken was reassuring her. He was gracious even while living in his own private hell. I wished both of them the best for the holiday.I was not interested in whether he was guilty of what he was accused of or not but, I was fascinated more by who this man was and how bright and socially skilled he was. How was he going to mentally prepare for his case and protect his family emotionally? It was clear to me why he was able to reach the professional and social heights he had in his life. In a short 15-minute exchange I witnessed a man expressing poise and grace while clearly under tremendous stress to a perfect stranger who had no advantageous value to him personally.What society has lost was a very bright and creative man. I wonder how he would have occupied his mind creatively while he was in prison. Was he totally guilty? I am not nor do I want to be his judge. I learned years ago that no one goes through this life unblemished. We all should be aware of that. Perhaps we would be less self-righteous.Reading various newspapers I was glad that he had supportive friends like Ivy Pabst and Phyllis Bronson here. He needed their kind of support. Like them I wish that his family would be left alone to grieve in peace. I wish only for peace for Linda, his children and grandchildren and the rest of his family. They deserve that much. Will that be the case? I doubt it. The media has no conscience.What will be Ken Lay’s legacy? The Enron scandal will never be dissociated from him, but will it always overshadow the good that he has done in his life? I hope not forever. I don’t discount the lives that were affected by the Enron demise. I don’t wish the financial destruction that many suffered on anyone. Life is difficult enough without having to face retirement in financial ruin.As for those of you whose hubris actions helped add to his stress just a day or so before his death, think about it next time before you feel compelled to open your mouth and discount a perfect stranger. Remember the phrase, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Remember also that your actions are a compensatory defense mechanism used to bolster your own insecurities. But if you must, I am sure that Martha Stewart will eventually come to town and you can act out with her. After all, she sold stock when the president of the company told her that there was going to be bad news concerning the trials of one of its drugs. I am sure that had you gotten that information you would have held your stock and not sold it taking your loss in stride, right?Dr. Kenneth J. Tutt lives in Basalt.
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