Zeno’s Conscience, by Italo Svevo, is a masterfully rendered novel, developing the essence of our self-obsession with expertise and wit:
An idea came to me. I told how, for those dizzy spells that had caused me such suffering in the past, I had discovered a remedy. When I saw a gymnast performing his feats at too great a height, or when I witnessed the descent from a tram of a person too elderly or too awkward, I freed myself from all anxiety by wishing them harm. I actually came out and said in so many words that I wished they would fall and be shattered. This had an enormously calming effect on me and enabled me to observe the threat of an accident with total detachment. If my wish then didn’t come true, I could consider myself even more satisfied.