Sunday, March 7, 2010

Repeating Ourselves (With Tongue in Cheek)

Really it turns out that we're starting from scratch every single day. Continuity is illusory. This is why we settle into the same grooves, repeating ourselves. Our grandchildren, by the time we have grandchildren, think we're broken records (or maybe outdated, low-capacity mp3 players set on shuffle). Our children, if we're not careful, think the same thing. (But by the time we get to the grandchildren it's hopess.)

This is why a preacher, after a certain number of sermons, doesn't even have to prepare them any more.

This is why you can hand a salesman any product and he'll make it a success. The product is irrelevant, so long as it's better than yesterday's product. If people had memories that stored more than 24 hours of experience, they'd realize this. Maybe they'd wait a few more days, until the product grew into something really remarkable, or maybe they'd wait until the one they already had broke down.

But progress spins through town on shiny chrome wheels, those spinny ones tricked out with neon, and there's bass pounding out of the trunk to rattle the neighborhood's windopanes, and a custom paint-job sponsored by sponsors, and there's so much money wrapped up in all that kit that we didn't have enough left for the brakes. So we're not slowing down.

Which is just fine, because, you know, the economy. It needs us to keep forgetting, now that we've swapped the gold standard for credit and chrome.

* * *

Really we're starting from scratch every single day. Last semester, last fiscal year, last night at the bar: we've got grades and spreadsheets and regrettable text messages to show for them, but they're best left for the machines to analyze. What matters to US are the things we're going to do TODAY. Yesterday is in the can, tomorrow out of reach. Today is all we have.

There's a group of alcoholics out there (I'm sure they have a chapter near you) who have this serenity prayer what talks about knowing the difference between the things you can control and the things you can't. Once, I despaired when I saw this prayer tattooed across a beautiful young mother's shoulders, but that's just because I can't abide tattoos. They're too hard to forget. They stretch today out into too long.

This is the bit everyone knows, that fits on a tattoo:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
And then there's the rest, that you have to go to meetings (or use Google) to find:
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
The prayer's got a good point. Life hands you garbage, might as well sit back and take it. Can't do much about that. See, what you can control is your wallet, so just throw out all that old garbage and go shopping. Join a support group, trade up to an eco-friendly car, call the cable company and add a few more channels to your plan. All you really got control of is THIS MOMENT RIGHT NOW, so by golly you better EARN and BUY and CHANNEL SURF like there's no this afternoon, because by now I think we can all agree that there isn't.

Some might argue that that serenity prayer's lowered the bar too far, that "accepting the things I cannot change" doesn't preclude us taking responsibility for our future or force us to forget our past. Well, maybe not. But when a nation lets a bunch of drunks and drug addicts dominate the national mood with bumper stickers, meetings in every town, tee-shirts, seminars, and tattoos on beautiful young mothers, it's gotten beyond arguing the finer points, and deserves whatever's coming to it.

So why worry? It's time better spent stocking up on canned goods and ammunition. Not because you want to use it tomorrow. Because it looks shiny in the closet, today! (And doesn't it just make you feel good, knowing it's there?)

* * *

We start from scratch every day. The brain boots up from whatever it's doing at night (Running stress-test simulations? Installing antivirus software?) and you see sun in the windows and maybe there's a woman next to you.

Hello, world!

You may feel the compulsion to take notes. It's better to resist it. Consider: if you spend this moment taking notes, you're missing your one chance to control the one thing you have control over, which is this moment right now. And you're condemning your future self to spend time down the line reviewing the notes about the woman and the window and the sun out there way back right now, if he's unfortunate enough to go through your notebook, which I think we can agree, at this point (and I'm not just flattering you here) he'll be clever enough to avoid. Wouldn't you rather switch on the TV, or go shopping? There are things TO DO, fer heavenssakes!

And as for sharing those notes, well, doesn't it seem like an awful imposition to expect anyone else to read them?

I mean, really, who the hell do you think you are?


  1. I am not in the right state of mind to read this, and comment, but I will anyhow.

    What do we do with the garbage? Throw it out, right? We don't have to live with it, do we? How much do we have to actively participate in the life of the world when it doesn't have much to offer?

    Don't get me wrong, I love my life, and I do feel that "Life is Good", according to the choices one makes for their own life. I can accept that there are many things in this world that I cannot change, and I'll definitely let God take care of things because it's all MUCH more than I can take on.

    My struggle is, where do I fit in? How much do I have to put up with? To tell you the truth, the older I get, the less I want, or am willing, to put up with. I don't mean to sound negative, I'm just honestly asking where does one draw that line where they simply say, "I don't want to be a part of this anymore.", not because of having a chip on one's shoulder, but accepting what is, and if what is is not what you want, you simply go on your own way? For me, it's not a matter of giving up on the world, but rather a matter of accepting that the world, as it is, and I just don't mesh. Much like a couple who realizes they aren't a good fit. If they are mature, they don't need to part hating each other, but go their own ways recognizing that they just weren't a good match, and that's okay. Poor analogy, I'm sure. Oh well, I'm just rambling, and I don't expect to actually get an answer from anyone.

  2. "...and the wisdom to know the difference..."

    That's the key right there. Accepting the things one cannot change does not mean failure to take responsibility or be accountable for one's actions, quite the opposite. It's more of an owning up to it all (past mistakes) and accepting that there's no way to go back in a time machine and change it all, but one can move forward with the knowledge that the same mistakes don't have to be repeated, if one chooses not to.

    A nice new twist to the tired "if life hands you lemons...": If life hands you crap, make fertilizer!

  3. I'm not really sure how I got started on this post, but I hope it's clear the voice is not sincere. Please take it in the spirit of Jonathan Swift's "A Reasonable Proposal" and not simply assume that I have gone mad.

    Mostly I'm just frustrated with a nation that seems to have no cultural memory, and so seems unable to build on the achievements of its forefathers or consider the consequences of its actions for its children. The whole economic debacle of 2008 came from an inability to look past the next fiscal month. How can a board of directors tell its shareholders that they need to take some losses in the short term in order to build something great? They can't, any more. The numbers have to be made to go up, up, and up, whether or not they have any correlation with reality. Corporations don't exist to build products any more, but to publish reports.

    And the whole A.A. prayer just pisses me off. No disrespect to the struggle addicts go through; I've known a few and it can be heartbreaking to watch. But the whole message of "It's ok, I used to mess up and hurt myself and others but I didn't have any control over it, so now I just take it one day at a time and put all that bad stuff I did down to God's will," strikes me as toxic to any civilisation that hopes to provide for it's children.

    And it plays right into the marketers' hands. "Don't worry about paying the bill. That's tomorrow. Today you deserve to treat yourself to that new car/new house/overpriced latte. As for the interest you'll be paying on it, that's tomorrow's business, and in God's hands."

  4. "If life hands you crap, make fertilizer!"

    Oh, Gingerella, that's great! When given the choice though, I'd prefer to avoid the line of fire. When that's not possible, lemonade and fertilizer are great alternatives.

    Winston, I get what you're saying. There are things that we don't have control over. I think the attitude of people in general of not caring, whether it's not caring about other people, or not caring about being responsible in how they live their lives and how it affects others, just gets to me. People just don't seem to care. It all seems to boil down to me, myself, and I, "looking out for number one", what do I get out of this?, what's the bottom dollar regardless of how it affects society as a whole? I just get tired of all of it. I really appreciated what you had to say because it fits right in with how I feel, and lately it's been especially hard for me to sort out how I feel about all of it. And you're correct, it is not right for people to use God as a scapegoat.

  5. Good job, dear. Pl-It is hard is it not? It's funny how once you open Pandora's box, once you know that you can take the red or the blue pill, you have to keep realizing it. You begin to see how something as simple as what and where you buy a thing DOES matter. It can seem like a heavy burden, but once we can also see the power in knowledge the strenght in knowing, even when it seems there is no solution, that at least YOU are aware that there could have been a possible solution at one time, there may not be one now, but how can there maybe be one in the future if we just stumbled on in complete and happy ignorance. I feel for you.