The other day I read a profoundly despairing blog comment. The author wrote (and I paraphrase here, but I feel this is accurate) that he was not trying to fight against all the terrible things happening around him out of any certainty that things would get better, but only because he wanted to feel he had at least tried to say no to things getting worse. It was, as I put it to myself at the time in a borrowing of one of Harlan Ellison's lines, acceptance on the lowest possible level.
One of the brutal lessons we all have to learn is that there are no guarantees in life, and that there isn't even a guarantee of life, period. This feels like a variant of that. There is no guarantee of victory; there isn't even a guarantee of continuation. But you miss all the shots you don't take.
What bugs me, I think, is not the weight of this fact, but the fact that people seem compelled to weaponize it as their only answer to it. Because there are no guarantees in life, therefore I reserve the right to be a performatively heartless jerk. Therefore we don't need to try and make life less worse for people. (Rights are not about guaranteeing happiness, but about preventing needless misery; this is a distinction some people seem willfully unwilling to make.) Therefore I can find clever ways to deny you things you have to work to hear, whereas I can be guaranteed them without ever having to earn them. And so on.
This dichotomy has bothered me for a long time. Hard truths about life are things we all have to deal with inwardly, on our own. But now we're in the hands of people who think that's an excuse to beat everything around them with a hammer, because that's just the way things are anyway, so what's the problem?
If I knew how to make a world where we all had the inward freedom to wrangle with this stuff on our own terms, without having to worry about whether or not I'll be able to eat lunch tomorrow, I'd have told you by now. Actually, I'm going to go out on a limb and say we do know how to do those things, we've known how to do them for ages; we just keep getting clobbered every time we try to make them happen.
And the ones doing the clobbering are never any different; it's always the people who think someone else's gain is inevitably their loss. They know, too, that there are no guarantees, and so they work as hard as they can to offset that for themselves. They don't mind that it comes at the cost of everyone and everything around them. They don't even mind if it comes at their own cost, in a way they are not conscious of. You don't miss what you can't notice, and all that.
I don't know what the future holds. I'm not expecting it to be a nice place, because every sign so far has pointed to that. But I'm not about to use that as an excuse to be a jerk.
Tags: these troubled times
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