Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Life: So Good, They Named a Prison Sentence After It

Life on Earth, I think we can pretty much all agree, is a royal suck-fest. If you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying close enough attention. War, pestilence, disease, famine, poverty, racism, sexism, John Mayer videos… yeah, it’s pretty much an all-around open-all-night pain-rodeo. This is not to say there aren’t smatterings of pleasure and meaning to be had, like rainbow-colored sprinkles on a turd-filled cupcake. But let’s face it folks. This planet and all its inhabitants, by and large, pretty much blow.

And we really don’t know what to do about this dire situation in which we find ourselves, do we? As a result, we often catch ourselves aping the same empty platitudes and clichés that everyone else says, even though we know it’s all a crock. When was the last time you told someone, “Cheer up, it’s not so bad, things are going to get better” when you knew deep down things WERE that bad and they WEREN’T going to get better? You knew your words were empty, and yet you said it anyway because you didn’t know what else to do. Even worse, everyone knows that these expressions are just things people say and no one ever takes them to heart, which makes them even more pointless.

In this sea of human heartbreak and woe, I find myself alternately peeved and amused by the new-age-happy-bots who want me to find joy and beauty in EVERYTHING, be it the luminescent glow of the impending brake lights on the car three inches in front of me, or the enveloping feeling of warmth right before drowning, or the relief of being homeless and not having to worry about falling out of a nice, soft bed every night. These nutters genuinely believe that if the rest of us would only adopt the correct perspective (and walk around in a state of constant mental disconnect) we could really convince ourselves that the world's a pretty spiffy place afterall, where pink unicorns romp and frolic and there's a bonanza sale at Whole Foods every day. These are the same loonies who read "Real Simple" magazine, drink kiwi-flavored tea and need to de-toxify their bodies every six days.

Don’t get me wrong: I can certainly understand the value of being optimistic in certain adverse situations. Perhaps being fired from my job would be a good thing, because it would allow me to pursue my dream of playing the bongos on the streets of Pango Pango in a leather speedo for the rest of my thigh-chaffed days. On the other hand, what does it say about our existence that we feel so compelled to search for vestiges of “transcendent beauty” in everything from the ordinary to the mundane? Is reality SO sucky that we need to front-load our battered psyches with delusions of omni-present beauty and goodness in EVERYTHING? I guess we do.

And please don’t hit me with the gratitude routine. I’m extremely grateful everyday that I wasn’t born blind or deaf, among other things. But if you want me to find meaning/beauty in life by comparing my “fortune” to the misfortune of others, then count me out. If the best thing one can say about life is “At least I’m not that poor sucker” or “Thank god life didn’t kick me in the ‘nadz THIS go-round,”… well, that’s not exactly a glowing recommendation for the whole existence-hootenanny is it?

However, since existence on this planet is currently the only game in town, I guess it makes sense to hope for a couple of straights and flushes along the way until it's time to cash out. But please don’t kid yourself into thinking that somehow you’re ultimately in “control” of the game just because you’ve won a few hands. Sure, you can better your odds if you work on your strategy, but in the end the house always wins, and the game is always rigged against you.

And admiring the pretty lamination on all the pretty playing cards is never going to change that.

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