Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
I can’t sleep, even though I would really love it. My mind spins when everything is quiet, and I usually try to distract myself to get it to stop. But I’ve got Kaleo’s All the Pretty Girls stuck in my head, and I’m not sure why. It’s a sad song, a song about loneliness, I think, and waiting for things to get better when they rarely often do.
There’s something about getting older that makes the things that were once so important seem so idiotic, while also illuminating the cracks in the foundation of what we believed our lives would look like. Or feel like. Sometimes life puts our emotions on mute, and sometimes we make the conscious decision to do so, and sometimes… Whatever. It’s not important.
It’s tempting to look at a world as broken as ours and convince ourselves that if only we could get someone to listen — just one person — we could really be the change we’re looking for. It’s equally as tempting to shut the world out, shut out the hate and the anger and the unfairness of it, just build a bubble and hide. Neither of these options are feasible. Not really. One leads to disappointment, leaving us like Carlin’s disillusioned idealist, cynical and bitter. The other leaves us susceptible to tribalism and hate.
Neither of these are attractive options. So what do we do? What do we do if we find that life is full of disappointments and disillusionment, on a smaller scale? Not the world-changing, geopolitical psychodrama, because disappointment and disillusionment isn’t always about that. Sometimes it’s more intimate. It’s the loss that you could have sworn would stop the world because it stopped yours, and the reality that life went on around you. The sun rose and your heart was still ripped out. You were still left planning a funeral. You still had to drive home from the hospital with an empty car seat.
It’s the realization that, even though years have passed, you are no closer to becoming who you wanted to be, or doing what you wanted to do, or even that you are someone you don’t recognize. What then?
I should pause here and admit that I am somewhat obsessed with self-awareness. I don’t really know why — although I guess I could go through a boring, stupid, pointless history of my boring, stupid, pointless life to really put a fine point on that, but I’m not a sadist. I don’t hate you. What I’m getting at is that once we know and accept ourselves for who we really are, only then can things change. Or not change. I mean, it’s your show. But at least you’ll know who you are, right? Most people don’t have even that.
Over the last few years, I’ve also become a bit, um, absorbed with the idea of recognizing the humanity in others, even those who may be wholly unlikable. I think it started when — bear with me — I saw a picture of one of Saddam’s grown sons accompanying the headline announcing their death. (Stay with me!) I thought to myself, “Wow, that freakshow was a kid once. He played and threw tantrums and probably loved his mama. And then he learned to be horrible, and embraced being horrible and became an objectionable human. But he was still human.” This realization didn’t take away from any of the satisfaction came from knowing that the world had one less asshole in it. (Which is where self-acceptance comes in. I am totally comfortable with horrible humans being put down. We can unpack that later if you want, but I’d advise against it.)
Where was I going with that? Oh! I remember: the ability to see the humanity in others, and recognize when it has been lost, is important to keeping a society intact. But understand that losing one’s humanity is not “voting differently than I would.” Or “Not liking Trump.” You don’t get to take away someone’s humanity. They can abandon their own, but it’s not yours to take. Which is where objective morality comes in — and do you see how this becomes very complicated for three am?
But the point is that this kind of stuff is messy. It’s not black and white. Humans love being absolutists about absolutely everything. (See what I did there? I’m very clever.) Being human is complicated. It’s gross sometimes, and it’s uncomfortable. It’s sometimes beautiful, but those moments are so fleeting and often so terribly, brutally disappointing, because they don’t last. And the valley is always deeper the higher the mountain.
And sometimes, it really fucking hurts. We all end up in a place far removed from where we’d assumed we’d be, and that’s ok. And sometimes we’re lonely, even if we aren’t alone. And sometimes we assume that if we could just make a connection, could just reveal ourselves for who we are, we’d feel less alone. But it doesn’t really work like that. We’re all alone here.
Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, would you like to hear my answer to all of this brokenness? Yeah? Well, I have no answers. I have some ideas, though.
Seek truth. Not “your truth” or “your reality” — actual truth. This will require embracing an objective reality, and that’s a little trickier if you are dead set against any sort of deity, (beyond yourself, of course).
Refuse to dehumanize. The impulse to retreat to tribalism is strong in all pack animals, a group of which our species is a part. You don’t have to love other humans to recognize their humanity and reject the calls of manipulative leaders to turn everything into US vs THEM. That way madness, death, and genocide lies.
And finally, (I guess, though I don’t see myself ever shutting up about this), Don’t be afraid to hope. By this I mean, don’t be afraid to hope that things will get better, that a politician won’t lie, that the world isn’t actually falling apart around you, that humans are capable of as much beauty as they are hate. That you are worthy of love, respect, dignity, and a little gentle cajoling.
This was surprisingly coherent for 3am rambling. Should I publish it? Maybe. Possibly.
What the hell. Why not.