Young writers sometimes wonder where the line is between attempted self-therapy and writing that others will find worth reading. It is a worthwhile question to ponder, though there is sometimes no bright line between writing to work out your own issues and writing to engage others. It has a test, though, whether what you write interests somebody else in reading it. Is there enough here, and in my own life, for me to identify with what the writer is writing about? Does this thing I’m reading engage me enough to read on?
You are always the judge of that, reader.
At the moment I’m writing to meditate, to calm my roiled mind. I spent fifty-one minutes an hour ago talking to a frenetic moral tap-dancer. He could not allow, without condition, that what I was saying, though he told me he agreed with it, was actually correct because perhaps I was overlooking that other thing, you know, the thing? Maddening, but thankfully the last conversation with this particular poor devil. His wife apparently told him in no uncertain terms that only a “pussy” would continue trying to be friends with someone who suggested he was a “pussy”. Thank god all that got resolved.
My next call was to the office of the urologist who cancelled my appointment on November 8 and has been silent since, in spite of my three calls, repeated promises from his receptionist that he’d call me, and a detailed email from me. I was told, after a very short hold, by the director of urologic bureaucracy at the well regarded medical corporation, that she could not forward the email I’d sent for her to forward to the doctor, since he was not physically in the building until Thursday. You can understand, I imagine, why this would be so. My deep breathing facade cracked for only a moment, as I told her to keep in mind that this ongoing failure to respond to a patient’s legitimate concerns was approaching a medical ethics complaint. She told me she’d keep it in mind.
There are many battles in this life that you cannot win. They should not be battles in the first place, but they are. It should not be a matter of winning or losing, but it is. If there was a fair arbiter somewhere (there pretty much isn’t for most things) the fact that you are in the right would be weighed in your favor. In many cases the fact that you are right, maintain your position and keep insisting on being heard, makes you a goddamned stubborn troublemaking loudmouth, a problem, a challenge, an adversary.
A Saudi prince imprisons his rivals for power, kills a few, makes himself heir to the throne, promises liberal changes in his medieval religious fundamentalist kingdom. Suddenly an upstart Saudi writing for a prestigious American newspaper is criticizing him! Bring him to the consulate, put a bag over his head. Of course he will say “I’m suffocating. … Take this bag off my head, I’m claustrophobic.” (as reported by Al Jazeera, citing a Turkish reporter who allegedly heard the recording). Suffocating, you say? Oh, so sorry. Here, let me chop off a few fingers for you, that should make you feel better. We want you to be comfortable, your business is very important to us, please continue to suffocate.
How do we recover our humanity in the face of brutality? My best bet is by sitting still, hands on the keyboard, and combing through my thoughts, setting them down as clearly as I can while I breathe. It is not for everybody, I know, but it seems to help me. I recommend it. It is certainly better than smashing furniture or being mean to people.
It helps to think of justice and basic fairness, though they are both increasingly endangered in our world of alternative fact, xenophobia, race hatred and blame. When people are in a rage, or defensive, they are not at their best. They are, sad to say, probably at their worst. They are capable of justifying every terrible thing and throwing the entire blame on you. Look at the president insisting in a pre-dawn tweet that the Florida elections, though too close to call by Florida’s own laws, should be done, done now, stop counting ballots, infected ballots, while his candidates are still winning, clinging to statistically tenuous margins of victory.
Yet, there is a sense of justice, and fairness, always alive in the hearts of people who are not enraged. If you look at a situation fairly, and calmly, the answer is usually pretty clear. Fair means looking at things from various angles, deciding which is the most just course to take in light of everybody’s needs and concerns. It’s not that hard.
Unless you are an institution, with a corporate reputation to defend, or someone benefiting from a very unfair arrangement, or someone so aggrieved that you want to bash so-called fairness in its fucking face. Blow the whole thing up. Take explosives and make everything shred into oblivion, or do it with a gun, yeah, I said a gun! These types often have the last incoherent word, then turn the gun on themselves. Winners, don’t you know?
Don’t be like that, friend. We are all better than that.
“Do you feel a little better now, El?”
ah, shut the fuck up…