The esteemed philosopher, philanthropist, political commentator, and observer of the human condition, W.C. Fields, is reputed to have said this:
There comes a time in every man’s life when he must take the bull by the horns and throw it.
And that recalls something written by Frederick Exley, in his novel, A Fan’s Notes, which I take to be of equivalently suggestive meaning:
If … one is unable to do the world’s work, sell its murderous missiles or cigarettes, as a poised, mute, and motionless man, one need not propagate the world’s lies.
I don’t know if it’s a matter of aging, but I find myself more concerned about the world and less concerned with those who would ignore its ugliness, much of which is attributable to the uglier aspects of human nature. The reality of those uglier aspects is also ignored by many, regardless of the fact that egotism, greed, lust for power, ruthlessness, cowardice, paranoia, homicidal lunacy, and appetites for destruction have done humanity few favors. But those uglier aspects and the people in whom they’ve manifested have packed human history with lessons we seem determined not to learn and signals we seem determined not to heed.
What Are We Doing?
It’s been suggested that my writing has taken on an edginess of late. While all of my writing isn’t deliberately edgy, it’s a fair suggestion and an accurate characterization for some it. And it leads me to wonder if there’s something wrong with edginess. It might be uncomfortable or displeasing to some. But is it wrong? Am I wrong? Frequently dark, yes. But wrong?
Edginess seems to be called for (at least at times) in a world that is most definitely on the edge, almost all the time, for one reason or another. As my brilliant friend, Jonathan Ross, commented in a recent LinkedIn thread:
Sometimes, one can only look at the state of the world and think that it’s by some miracle we haven’t yet completely destroyed ourselves, despite some pretty good starts in that direction. It is hard not to conclude that being decent, informed, and honorable is often a fool’s errand, as many who do not exhibit such traits seem to rise to lofty heights in their professions and social interactions.
He’s right. We haven’t yet completely destroyed ourselves. But it’s certainly not for lack of trying.
Totalitarian schemes and utopian dreams are frequently indistinguishable from each other. One is often justified as the means to the other. Live and let live is never a tenet of either. Concomitant damage is the product of both. And we learn nothing from the carnage. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
What the hell are we doing?