We’ve all been hoodwinked since the day we were born. To varying degrees, I think we all understand this. Perhaps it’s in our nature to do what we can to ensure the bullshit continues to get passed on so that future generations are forced to wade through the same quagmire of self-important nonsense with which we’ve had to contend. Or maybe we’re helpless to behave otherwise. It’s just the kind of animal we are.
I’ve adopted and discarded all sorts of personas in the hopes that I’d eventually stumble upon the perfect diversionary role to play on my little corner of the world stage. The alcoholic misanthrope of my twenties eventually gave way to the purveyor of metaphysical trash whose words you are reading at this moment. Is there really a difference?
My parents told me to respect authority because their parents told them the same thing. They told me that God is perfect and loving and merciful. If I wanted to stay in his good graces, they said, I had to receive the sacraments of the Church and abide by its rules. They told me to work hard, be frugal and do everything in moderation. They told me to meet a good woman, get married and raise a family. Their parents told them the same things, and they unfailingly adhered to the life template they’d inherited. So they passed the decades working hard for large corporations that peddled questionable commodities and saved every spare penny for retirement. Now they are retired. They’ve reached the Golden Years for which they slogged daily, 8 to 5 and back again. Their health is failing, their friends have died, their worldviews long ago cemented into unchangeable loop programs that deny them the wonder of discovery or the ability to analyze what it was all for. “We’ve had very good lives,” they say to me. Like a good son, I say, “I know, Mom. I know, Dad. You sure did.” And the bullshit comes full circle.
Everything we know is wrong. The history we’re taught in school is fiction. The values with which we’re instilled are tailor-made to support a system devised to serve the greedy. Patriotism is the lifeblood of war and carnage. A flag is a piece of cloth and a nation is a collective chimera. Money is the soul of slavery and religion is the soul of the soulless. Romance is a dual-purpose soap opera that plays on every channel: it entertains us enough to divert our attention from the futility of our ambitions and it creates the next generation of automated flesh.
The flag we salute will fly over the charred remains of a decimated planet in short order due to the actions of those who claim to honor it through political treachery and corporate theft. Divide us they have and divide us they will; as we fight in the streets over race and ethnicity and gender and football, they continue to divvy up the lion’s share of wealth, though even they don’t know why they do this. Maybe they’re helpless to behave otherwise. It’s just the kind of animal they are.
My dog doesn’t suffer existential crises like we do for one very simple reason: he has no words. Like all dogs, he cannot speak nor does he think in linguistic concepts. If something catches his eye, he chases it. If he’s hungry, he eats. When he’s tired, he curls up on his bed and instantly falls asleep, his mind unassailed by worry or regret. And when it’s time for him to die, he will do so with the dignity of a wise elder. He is helpless to behave otherwise. It’s just the kind of animal he is. And the kind I’d like to be. Though I’d prefer to retain the discipline to avoid snacking out of the cat box.