Casual reading, grim memories, and revealed truth all coincided serendipitously to produce today's installment.
Casual reading that drains the soul
I'm a big fan of writer Joe Bageant, which is not to say that I've actually ponied up and bought his latest book (Deer Hunting with Jesus), but that I enjoy his prose and (generally) his outlook. I've recommended Joe before, on this blog.
Well, a friend of mine alerted me to an essay Bageant wrote entitled The Sucker Bait Called Hope. I leave it to you, dear reader, to peruse the essay yourself, if you're interested. But I offer a synopsis of my interpretation here: Bageant believes that, due to environmental degradation and the ravages of unbridled capitalism, mankind is on the irreversible path to extinction. Irreversible.
The human condition in this civilization which revolves around the acquisition and rapacious consumption of material goods is such that we are robbed of the concept of a "common good," of compassion, of fact-based optimism (as opposed to effortless hope). Technology, our great savior, has become merely a distraction as we await the end. Or so argues Joe Bageant.
But his tone in the article conveys the strength of conviction. It is resigned, matter-of-fact. (Well, okay, there is a tinge of sadness from time to time.) To those of us who would wish to reject his conclusions, this is a frightening prospect.
Grim memories of a (perhaps portentous) conversation
Years ago, I had a discussion with a friend about his recently-deceased father-in-law. The man had died of cancer (lung cancer, if memory serves). The diagnosis had precluded any hope of survival and the family had lived with this knowledge for several months. The man's demise was a long, sad, and painful affair.
My friend recounted to me how the deceased had spent his final days. His life, at least those episodes of lucidity between morphine hazes, consisted of sitting in a chair in front of a television, doing crossword puzzles. Crossword puzzles. Crossword puzzles to run out the clock.
I remember fairly clearly that as we discussed the death, I said, "So, he was just sitting around waiting to die."
"Exactly!" my friend said. His face was distraught as he said it... as if I had confirmed a fearful suspicion.
Revealed truth exposes the illusions of the past
And then, there is another recent conversation that has thrown my world off its axis. I can't get specific here, folks. I'm bound by my word not to reveal the exact nature of the truth I have learned. Suffice it to say that I have become aware of a reality, a stark reality, involving people close to me that has changed my perceptions. A period in my past was other than I had up to now believed it to be. Cherished memories of a blissful, happy, and relatively carefree time in life are now tainted, made false, by new knowledge.
Paul Simon said that "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." And almost everyone can recognize the truth in that. Well, besides the recognition, I've had a demonstration. Armed with this new, momentous (for me, anyway) knowledge I am now destined to relive various scenes from my past, and reinterpret them in light of what I have learned.
Bah! What a bunch of drivel!
So, Dade, are you going somewhere with this? Is there something that connects these three topics? Are you making this up as you go along? What's the buzz?
Only this: If Joe Bageant is right, and humanity is on the irreversible path to extinction, then maybe that explains why we humans (those of us that are not entirely occupied with individual survival) spend our time on television and video games and... well, crosswords.
But also this: You never know when you might happen upon some truth that renders false everything you have believed up to that point.
In short, keep the faith.