How do you decide what to do?
I want to know everything. Unfortunately, doing so is impossible because life is way too short, and by the time you’ve learned one thing, you’ve forgotten something else. Call it the Law of Futility. For example, I used to know who said, “Mankind cannot handle too much reality,” which is a great quote since it’s true, but I no longer remember. I thought it was Freud, but I think Alain de Botton wrote in The Consolations of Philosophy that it was someone else, maybe even Socrates. I’ll have to remember to look it up before I die; afterwards it will be too late.
How do you decide which news to keep up with? My dad reads The Economist, which seems to have constant new information about just about every country on earth. Since he’s a speed reader he can do it without losing his mind. I’d go nuts if I tried to do that. I tend to read about the same kinds of themes over and over again, and to ignore vast regions of the world where important developments are ensuing, guaranteeing huge stores of perpetual ignorance. At least the transition to death, when I might find out whether life means anything beyond whatever magazine clippings I’ve glued to my scrapbook before never knowing anything again, won’t seem quite so abrupt if I’m already dumb as shit about what’s going on all over the place here on the other side of the cuckoo clock.
When it comes to nonfiction, I also tend to focus almost exclusively on the work of writers I know I’ll agree with, instead of venturing into the unknown and reading someone who’ll challenge my calcified viewpoint. The reason for this is simple: I presume that anyone whose opinions or ideologies diverge too sharply from mine must be full of shit, the certainty of which presumption suggests that I am too. Heck, at least we’re even.
And yet, I’ve known otherwise intelligent, insightful people who’ve believed in the most idiotic things imaginable; for instance, I had a co-worker who believed that global warming is a hoax (but give the guy a break–he went to Bob Jones University; what kinds of things do you learn at a place called B. J. U.?), even though he laughed at my jokes–for real. He’s Korean, and unlike us WASPs, Koreans can’t fake laughs or smiles; I guess that makes them Vulcans, like God. (The other day in a place I’ll call church, even though that’s really just a euphemism for hell, I learned that “God,” the self-same dude who came up with everything in the universe, including the universe itself–I guess he must have gotten bored with wiping his ass with his own picture–cannot lie.
In other words, God is George Washington. No, I mean Denzel Washington. Make that Morgan Freeman.)
Another big dilemma for a lot of Americans these days is whom to vote for in the next presidential election: your choice between two corporate-sponsored, elitist, nihilistic, bloodthirsty warmongers.
“I think I’ll vote for that one.” (Echoes of John McCain in the 2008 U. S. presidential debates.) “One of the other one’s fangs is chipped.”
Or you could vote with your conscience and go for a third-party candidate, the Greens’ Dr. Jill Stein or Utah’s Rocky Anderson (sorry but I can’t recall which party he represents, speaking of reliable ignorance). Some say that’s throwing your vote away, but as a friend of mine said, the lesser of two evils is still evil.
Which do you you prefer, a bucket of wet shit or a plate of fresh puke?
The most important choice everyone has to make every day is how to spend your time. Do you sit down and try to re-read Anna Karenina from cover to cover, or do you see how many websites you can visit on the Internet before your brain implodes? Do you shave your head, become a vegan, and meditate on a mountaintop until the world’s transformed into something more tolerable (arguably without your having brought such a transformation about), or do you don a ski mask and blow people away in a movie theater like a prickless yutz (pardon the oxymoron)?
Of course, there are a lot more choices available to many of us than those, but if I’m not mistaken our selections may be dwindling instead of increasing as crunch time dawns on our overtaxed planet.
Before long, instead of deciding whether to buy a plastic bottle of water or a can of coke, you might find yourself standing in a desert of your own making (don’t worry–I’m pointing my finger at myself as much as I am at anyone else) faced with a variation on the same plight as Hamlet’s:
“Should I steal a new car or hijack a bus?”
Ah, the future beckons like a whirlpool of quicksand.
Or is it just the present in disguise?