Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Years ago I met an at-the-time older man who told me his philosophy towards life could be reduced to two sentences:
1. Don’t get your hopes up; and
2. They’re going to screw you.
He didn’t use the word ‘screw,’ preferring a stronger expletive that I, personally, rarely need to see on a written page, but please, feel free to substitute the f-word if that makes the concept clearer.
I pondered his thinking for a long time.
Sentence Number One has its virtues; it deals with expectations and the resentments caused when these don’t come through. There’s a common sense to acceptance (but not to resignation): A true fatalist by definition is never disappointed by unfortunate turns of events. He has factored them into his life calculations. He may be pleasantly surprised if things come out somewhat better than expected, but by expecting the worse, he steels himself against failure. I’ve known people like that, the Eeyores of the world. All of us have a little Eeyore somewhere in our souls, a counter-Pollyanna we use to temper unreasonable optimism. In many of us, Eeyore might be somewhat dominant; he struggles for supremacy when times are harsh. We allow him to take over on rainy days during flu season.
Sentence Number Two is more complex, implying the existence of an almost conspirational environment one must be aware of at all times. It smacks of paranoia, of deluded self-importance. Anyone who truly believes “they’re” going to get him has, among other things, a monstrously large ego, a sense of self so outsized he can believe he’s significant enough to warrant the negative will of others. People like that are incredibly, terminally, boring. And a little scary. I know a few, and I stay away from them. Their anger, frustration and vehemence are enormous, and their inability to express their fears make them borderline dangerous.
Me, I believe things simply are. We’re largely powerless over forces much greater than ourselves. Mutating cells, tiny little entities without minds or thoughts of their own, threaten my life. How odd is that, being endangered by microscopic entities that can’t even read “See Spot run”?
I do what I can to deal with the hazard they pose, but things will occur as they will, with minimal influence from me. Most things, actually, are far more potent than I am. I’m powerless but not necessarily completely helpless. I try to mitigate harm without any guarantee that my actions will in anyway alter the future in my favor.
More and more I believe in coincidences although for the past few decades I’ve been told weekly that there are no such things. I think there are. Serendipity, synchronicity, seriality–one event unconnected to another yet influencing a third or a fourth—all these make my life what it is. It’s as good a theory as any other and allows me not to think quite as hard about the vagaries of existence.
So there. Merry holidays, one and all!