Friday, December 16, 2011

Paths We Take to Now

Humanity is a funny species. It is a species that is a matching set, not one piece out of place. Whole casts of thousands make up our bedtime and Sunday snooze stories. We need hundreds of parts and hundreds of "do the voices!" and hundreds of felt puppets to animate just a few stories that might form a worldview, might maintain a glimpse at some lessons that some people, a long time ago, wanted others to remember.

We depend on each other. Need us all to split up to set the table, cook this bit, cook that bit, say the magic words, light the candles, hold the baby's hands, watch the stove for the later bit. Part of this is evil division of labor, that trick that the king's evil sorcerers made up so that the poor savage little people would take up the smell of human bowels for the hope of indoor plumbing, work all day long in the dream of working not at all, and turn a more or less stable social arrangement for not letting kids die into some kind of identity or holy plan, since God has nothing better to do than to prevent the wastage of sperm. Control, control, control. You know that part.

And part of that is another, still-older bit of our human story. We depend on each other. When the white man brings his plagues, the illiterate will fetch water for the priest. When the war's bitten off both of Daddy's legs and Mummy's still not home, somebody small will have to cook up food and set the pot to boil. Mishaps happen. Helplessness happens. Most amusingly to any cruel gods that exist, this may sometimes happen worst to those who've evaded other tragedies. The body is meant to be ill because the body is meant to exist in context. No man is an island. No body is hermetically sealed. We breathe, we consume, by nature. No company is needed for many maladies, and yet for many illnesses there is no cure the one is capable of delivering to himself.

And yet aren't we interesting packages, we humans? When an entire family can be hunted down by rapacious murderers or the indifference of other killers still and leave but a single child? When we have forgotten more than we remember and yet can find a book or two that are older than any living state, ideas and expression which are literally older than the success of all kings?

I'm interested in how we got here, for a lot of personal reasons, but in another sense I don't much care how you get here at all. Some of us--I am certain about myself, for instance--got here only because of others. Our stock would have withered, our branch would have cracked, that family wouldn't have seen the wolves coming. And others might have been lucky, or strong, or both, for there are none so fit as to escape all culls. And we might disagree and say that we might have better come this way or that. And I'll admit that being ill enough to die without assistance is a pretty fucking humbling thing. To go through it routinely in my life is impossible for me to imagine. As things are, to have come to that point--and it doesn't take cancer or hepatitis so don't delude yourself--only so often as I have has put most heroic destiny nonsense far from my brain.

Death is still close to us, monkeys. Don't fucking forget it.

Now that we're all here, we should get started. What survivors, on paths lonely and crowded, what toilers in solitude and solidarity! We should be proud of ourselves. We're the ones who made it.


  1. Despair?

    (I do not kid: veri-word is "murder".)

  2. Ha. I love it when the words work out like that.

    Not despairing so much as pondering. Illness has a way of making me philosophical. It's the way I feel powerful when utterly humble and sometimes helpless.

  3. I get that.

    The myths have it wrong. Satan wasn't prideful before the Fall. The Fall made Lucifer proud.