A grim comfort

Things are getting darkly intense, folks. Certain evils are now becoming commonplace in America: denial of provable facts, bigoted attacks on people just trying to live their lives, widespread disinformation literally killing people, the alarming rise of religious nationalism in our government, the weaponization of religion to oppress and control, the increasing popularity of dangerous authoritarian figureheads, the worsening attacks on elections and the rule of law… I don’t do politics on this blog, but if you read factual reporting, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

This stuff is not new, but it’s accelerated in the last decade to a terrifying boiling point. It makes me anxious about the dark times I can clearly see on the horizon, but I also know that anxiety is useless — all we can do is use our voices and our votes to try and slow the bleeding.

This also comes at a time when I’m trying to make peace with the transitory nature of life and decide for myself what really matters — and what I’m willing to obsess about — here at my half-century mark. Existential crisis, ahoy!

Which brings me to this morning as I was lying in bed, trying to motivate myself to get up and begin working. Out of my sleepy mind sprang this thought: sure, my time here is brief and I will eventually be the proverbial dust in the wind, but there’s something I seem to have forgotten.

So will they.

These enemies of truth and compassion will also die. The evil they spread isn’t permanent, and it can be pushed back. We’ve seen it happen! However bad things may seem, there are ebbs and flows to this stuff. We may not live to know the full story, but in the long game I think they’re losing. And their desperation is glaring.

It really irks me that once I’m dead I won’t be around to continue watching this absurd show, because I really, really want to see where we are in 50 years. But I’ve decided that after seeing the impermanence of some of the good things in this country, I choose to take some comfort in the impermanence of the bad.

Is pointlessness the point?

I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.

Robert Anton Wilson

I vaguely remember when death used to be this abstract, far-in-the-future thing that I didn’t need to think or worry about. These days, at age 50, I think about it quite a bit. People I know and love are dying with more and more frequency (I actually just learned of one today), and eventually it’ll be my turn. I keep having grim thoughts like: “Will I go before my husband? Will he be OK without me? What if he goes before me? We don’t have kids and we don’t live close to family — am I gonna die alone? Will I go peacefully in my sleep, or after weeks/months of pain? Who will remember me 10-15 years after I’m gone? It’ll be like I was never here at all! Like, death is unfair, you guyyyyyys!” (That was my best whiny teenage voice. You’re welcome.)

At the same time, I feel a stab of guilt for even having the audacity to expect my memory to live on. I haven’t done anything great or noteworthy to earn that. And what a privilege it is to be able to contemplate this stuff when so many are suffering in the world, struggling to even survive. Just who do I think I am, anyway? Bad Dobby, bad!! *slap*

But honestly, I think most of us have these thoughts at some point. Contemplating your death can be healthy, or so they say, because nobody escapes it…but if you dwell on it too much, life can turn into a nihilistic “What’s the point in doing anything??” slog. And the past few years I’ve been feeling that way a lot. Probably more than I should. Hell, it’s taken me six months of stopping/starting/rewriting this post to finally finish it, because I keep hearing Bette Midler’s voice whining: “Why bother?” (She really nailed it with that bit, folks! It’s hilariously apathetic.)

It can get more complicated when you don’t believe in God or things like Heaven and Hell, as in my case, because sometimes it feels like your existence boils down to “I’m a bag of meat on a rock hurtling through space.” Which itself may not be 100% terrible, depending on your attitude… But I need more than that. And looking back at the books I’ve been reading the past few years, it’s pretty obvious that I’m searching for a more optimistic view of The End™.

So here are some thoughts I’ve been having on all this stuff. I’ve come to believe that being atheist or agnostic on religious topics doesn’t mean your mind must be also closed to…other things. Just like there are 500 varieties of vegetarians, there are 500 varieties of nonbelievers. Sorry, that’s probably a crappy comparison but you know what I mean.

My philosophizing is armchair-level at best, so maybe expect kiddie pool wading vs. deep dives…

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