I CAN DO THAT
As I drive past these guys in yellow vests picking up garbage along the highway, I think to myself, “I can do that,” like it’s a great job opportunity. I’ve done well as an engineering technician, so why do I think “I can do that” every time I see someone performing a menial task?
Recently I was let go. That term, “let go”, cracks me up. Like I’m dangling from an airplane window, gripped at the ankles by my heroic employer, who just couldn’t hold on any longer.
In a low-level capacity I worked in land development. The “development” part always got me. In the history of life on Earth, the perennial plowing under of pristine parcels of Nature to erect strip malls certainly is an interesting “development”. What sort of hideous parasite came up with that plan?
I thought we were supposed to be the stewards of the Earth, that we’re supposed to care for the health of the land, the sea, the sky — our home. Not only was it ordained by God but it’s totally logical and rational to do so. Like duh, you don’t shit where you eat. But there’s no money in any of that goody-two-shoes caretaker stuff.
I can’t think of a single career that doesn’t contribute in some way to destruction, depletion, erosion, of the natural world. Maybe we don’t want any natural world. We can see all that on video. On our phones. In our play pens.
“Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling you a baby. You’d think everything around you is here for your personal convenience. If you are inconvenienced in even the slightest way, you make a face and roll your eyes. And then you pretend to care about Ukraine, polar bears, and The Homeless. ….Nice look, numbnuts.”
That wasn’t meant for you, gentle reader. I was looking in the mirror.
Am I bitter? When your mother throws you out the bus window before you’re two years old, then retrieves you and acts like nothing happened, you never get over the feeling that anyone might throw you out the window at any moment. No amount of therapy or prayer eradicates that fundamental understanding with the world.
The positive end of all that is I have given up trying. Total Surrender. A rather unlikely route toward self-acceptance and ultimate peace of mind. Can it be that apathy is the key to happiness? Yes! But it’s not enough to stop caring about world events and your friends and family, you must stop caring about yourself, about whether it matters if you live or die, if doing anything at all is worth the trouble. I don’t mean it in a downer way, just in a neutral assessment way.
I have escaped the Prison of Shame many times, only to be re-apprehended a short time later and reincarcerated. At this point, parole is out of the question. Shame is a life sentence.
This liability has kept me from ever considering the obvious, in any situation, large or small: What is the rational thing to do? Which strategy is most logical? My otherwise clear reflection upon the lake of Reason is blurred by Shame Wave turbulence and its counterwave, Rebellion. The interference renders me incapable of seeing clearly and making rational decisions. Bad decisions accumulate shame.
Repetition has raised callouses. I’ve been desensitized. Shame doesn’t affect me so deeply anymore. Or so I say. I just don’t care about it. I accept it. Shame is like the ugly uncle who never left but is now too old and worn out to cause any trouble. So he just sits there in front of the tube. Hard to ignore but not much in the way.
Shame morphs into humiliation only in public places, among the ‘well-adjusted’ masses who are well versed in the art of exploiting perceived weakness. Alone, in the privacy of one’s own home, shame dissembles into something that vaguely resembles humility.
There’s this old Jewish joke that takes place on the day of Atonement:
Everyone in the congregation is invited to speak in the synagogue during Yom Kippur.
The doctor is first to stand up and confess.
“I have a substantial practice, a nice home, and a lovely wife. I drive a Mercedes. The kids are in medical school, also planning to become doctors. But all this means nothing because I am nothing.”
The doctor sits and the lawyer gets up.
“I have a booming practice, a beautiful home here in town as well as a vacation villa in Tuscany. I love to drive my new Maserati. My wife is great, the kids are successful, and I’ve got six grandchildren. But all this means nothing because I am nothing.”
The lawyer humbly returns to his seat.
Next, the janitor decides to speak.
“Well, I put food on the table. My wife and I argue sometimes but we’re holding it together. The old Chevy still runs. Hopefully it will last a few more years. The kids are struggling in school a little, but they haven’t dropped out. But all this means nothing because I am nothing.”
The doctor leans over and whispers to the lawyer, “Look who thinks he’s nothing.”
Admitting powerlessness is a great relief. Call me a loser. I’ll smile and agree with you. But, eeew. Who wants to hang around a loser?
Obviously no employer does. I’ve been looking for work for many months, but I tell you, it’s hard to hide the big “L” tattooed to my forehead. I try to explain it’s short for “Loquacious” but then I’m told I talk too much; he knows what it’s short for.
So what have I surrendered to? Apathy? Meaninglessness? Failure? No, folks, I hate to break it to you, but I surrendered to God.
Yes, how pathetic. How lame. How obvious. The dumb guy surrendered to God, the almighty imaginary spaghetti monster in the sky. The way I figure it, I have next to nothing, I am next to nothing, and have all of nothing to lose. An abject failure, I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.
Dissociating from the perpetual pain of life, I am in awe of nature, of consciousness, of being alive. Any moment of life is a moment that cheats death. Death can never have that moment back. I love that. In the long run, life beats death by having existed at all.
Since I acknowledge my powerlessness, I kick back and let thy will be done. In Heaven and on Earth. At least on the parts of it that haven’t been “developed” yet.
Yeah, it makes no difference whether God exists or not, or whether He cares about us. Nature, the Earth, the Cosmos, never stop being amazing. Even more amazing is that we’re here to witness it. Positively astounding. Which makes me wonder why we are so hell-bent on poisoning our home. “I can do that.”
I think I know why. It’s because of empowerment, the whole empowerment movement in its many forms. We’re all part of some power group, aligning with our kindred spirits. We believe we can gain greater control over our lives and reinforce our delusional belief systems by banding together. When the effort exposes itself as futile, we get grumpy and point fingers. My little brother used to get into trouble a lot, then he’d wrestle with the dog and say, “It’s all your fault.”
We want success without responsibility. Observe the graph below.
If you look at the graphed rectangular hyperbola, you notice as you go further out along either curve you get closer and closer to zero, but never reach zero. That’s called an asymptote. That’s where you are, on the outskirts, next to nothing. But you’re not quite nothing, you’re a tiny something. No matter how far out you are, no matter how insignificant you feel, you’re never nothing. You never reach zero. But you dream of being something more. You aspire to be at the fat part of the curve, the furthest point away from nothing. The problem with that is, the bigger you get, the dumber you become.
The universe is a big, dumb something, whereas you are a small, smart almost nothing. Would you rather be:
A) a gigantic, comatose something that exists nearly forever? or
B) a tiny, intelligent almost nothing that lives for just a moment?
Each of us has been fed this load of garbage that we can be somebody, and if we fail to become somebody, it’s gotta be somebody else’s fault. But each of us is hardly anybody, almost nobody. You’re only onstage for but a blip of time and then you’re forgotten. In the grand scheme of things you have very little impact. “I can do that.” Sure ya can.
The shame in me has me avoid responsibility at all costs. The prospect of even the smallest failed responsibility fills me with paralyzing anxiety, an exaggerated fear of being shamed. Any momentary ambition is quickly stunted by the salt pillar of shame. You see, shame truly is like salt. A little shame seasons us with humility, keeps things balanced and in perspective, and moves us to behave decently toward one another. A pinch of shame imbues substantial flavor in our lives. But too much shame is like too much salt. It’s poisonous. It kills. It’s used to preserve dead things.
So, when you think about giving up as I have, remember “I can do that.” Just say that to yourself as many times as needed. “Quit? Stop caring? Yeah, I can do that.” The weird thing is, only when you recognize you are truly powerless are you able to surrender to God. The moment you give up your destructive, collision-prone, be-somebody ambitions, you’re free to no longer be a parasite.