Nature is the cure for the disease of life. The modern world has a claustrophobia all its own. Truman Burbank (as played by Jim Carrey in the movie The Truman Show) turns to his wife and says, “Hey, let’s see what’s on TV!” The news bears a wearyingly tragic feel. Elliot Rodgers, the disturbed young man who murdered seven people in Santa Barbara, California the other day and wounded several more, was an exaggerated version of a lot of men. He made the mistake of turning his own sexual frustration into a grievance he deemed important enough to warrant revenge.
Sexual frustration is the norm for many men and women. It’s just one of those things you have to get used to. It sucks when beautiful women aren’t attracted to you, but that doesn’t give you the right to kill them. Have a wank instead. It’s not exactly a cure for cancer, but when you’re cut out for a lifetime of mediocrity, what else can you expect? (If I may wax cold for a moment, he could have also been more considerate by killing himself first.)
Besides, even those who do have satisfying sex lives often find something else is missing. Buddhists call this dukkha. It’s the unsatisfactory feeling that pervades all of human life. It’s the problem with being human.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Mr. Rodgers’ video, but he comes across as an arrogant, narcissistic snob (excuse me for speaking ill of the dead–er, mass-murderer). It goes without saying that what he did was inexcusable, heartless, and cruel. I’m not going to bore you by repeating the litany of the need for stricter gun control laws in the United States. Any moron with a brain the size of a crumb and one fold in it can see that.
I’m not a shrink and I don’t know if counseling or even the sexual attention and affection he claimed to crave would have cured him of his appetite for slaughter. And yet, it’s no overstatement to say that a lot of people, both male and female, live in the same hell of unwantedness, neglect, and loneliness that he said he did. While narcissism and the feeling of entitlement to a woman’s charms (charms that must be earned) led him to his lethal shooting spree, the lion’s share of life’s rejects suffer in silence, stoically donning the mantle of loser or untouchable that society deigns to adorn them with.
In his Twitter feed, Mark Peters of Wordlust fame says something to the effect that women give life and men take it away. I’d like to add that women also give men life. I don’t mean just our mothers, who have the decency to give birth to all of us, male and female, just as their own mothers did them. I’m talking about the reason for living that a good woman gives a man. Maybe the cliche about their being a woman behind every great man is true. Elliot Rodgers seemed to be saying that behind every psycho killer is a woman-shaped void.
As we go on our merry way, slaughtering the natural world with putative impunity, blissfully refusing to change our ways, maybe figuring we can con God or Nature out of punishing us with a smiting fist or an Everest-sized tsunami made of melted Antarctic ice and Greenland glaciers, the value of women’s beauty increases as we eradicate what’s beautiful in Nature for our own convenience and comfort. In a commodity-driven world, the rich man makes the rules and all too often collects the spoils. While there are certainly plenty of women out there kind and gentle enough to settle down with humble mates and share their gifts with them, the glamorous sort sought after by the dearly departed young psycho killer tend to adhere to wealthy fellows. (Then again, didn’t the kid drive a BMW? So much for that theory.)
Perhaps his own desire was the thing that drove them away. Desire in a narcissist is at root a function of the ego. In an overpopulated world, the urge to reproduce may be obsolete. Hence the preoccupation with sex itself as the cure for the disease of life mentioned at the beginning of this post.
What I’ve seen in the past several years troubles me to no end (except my own). That we’ve initiated the Sixth Extinction is cause for alarm, to say the least. What’s even more frightening than that is the relative lack of alarm evident in the faces and actions of people going about their daily business. Maybe we’re all in a state of shock. My wife believes the End Times are near, but this is not an original observation. If we are, it will be the apocalypse minus Jesus. I’m not sure which is greater cause for concern, the people who shuffle around like zombies gazing into the eyes of their smartphones, or the chatty dictators pontificating on their phones to distant ears under surprise attack.
I’ve heard that Barnes and Noble, the great bookstore chain in the United States, may be on its last legs. If printed books die out, who’s to say that all those wonderful titles you find by chance at a used bookstore won’t disappear with them? Survival of the fittest as determined by the vagaries of the marketplace instils a note of fascism into the global culture that stamps out those quieter voices in favor of the megaphone’s blare.
Sad to say, I don’t know how much longer I’ve got. In case this is my last day of life on earth, I’d like to say that despite all the bad things I’ve said about her, I do still love my wife and wish her luck. I also love all my loved ones. Without repeating myself too conspicuously, allow me to thank those of you who’ve read, liked, or followed this blog. You’ve given me one reason for living I didn’t have before.
Unfortunately, I seem to be running out of other reasons.
Best of luck to you all. May life treat you more kindly, and may you have enough joy inside you to “be kind to one another, while there is still time” (Philip Larkin, “The Mower”).
Keep Art and Nature alive.
As Camille Paglia writes of Claude Monet: “Art was his faith, repairing the broken connection between man and nature.” (C. Paglia, Glittering Images, Chapter 17 “Melting Color: Claude Monet Irises,” page 100.)