Accepting the Status Quote

There’s a lot going on in the world that can make us want to hide, or run, or fight, or freeze, or faint. Every day there’s a new story on your Facebook newsfeed in the actual news that you just don’t want to hear. What to do? How to deal?

What we need is a philosophy of life that steers us through the bad times.

refugees
Those strangers look an awful lot like actual people in a bad situation. I gotta do something. Imma look away.

Instead of such a philosophy, it seems that the disappointments of life drive us to find comfort and absolution in meaningless cliches. When, you ask?

When it is what it is.

Aaaaaagggghhh.

it-is-what-it-is-hanging
When you find thought inconvenient, please try this phrase.

What does that even mean? Shut up? Give up? Don’t talk about it anymore? Or is it just the sound we make when our brains are shifting into neutral?

headdesk
Desk is what desk is. Is hard is desk. Head is bam.

We have actual problems that are looking for solutions. The world keeps spinning, and bunches of us keep flying off into space. Earthquakes strike in Oklahoma; tornadoes hit Bangladesh; water levels rise in Florida; the middle class declines; homelessness rises; rain stops falling in California; pesticides show up in mothers’ milk; little kids cry when their school goes on lockdown.

lock-downs
Bite me, old man. Show me a badge or I’m not coming out.

Our joint response to events beyond, or apparently beyond, our control, is to turn to this philosophy of futility.

it_is_what_it_is_bumper_bumper_bumper_sticker
Remember, you can’t spell futility without f you!

Helpfully, we have a hundred other ways to express the same blithe impotence. Here are some of my favorites, placed in elucidating context:

Flat tire?

Shit happens! [Shrug shoulders.]

Wife bailed?

Oh, well! [Shrug shoulders.]

Your job description is now whatever the hell they say it is, and includes a demeaning pile of crap?

Suck it up, buttercup! [Shrug shoulders.]

Can’t make the house payment?

Don’t sweat the small stuff! [Shrug shoulders.]

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are threatening the nation and our way of life?

Whatevs! [Shrug shoulders.]

Your water supply is now polluted?

Whaddaya gonna do? [Shrug shoulders.]

Insane clown muppet won the election?

Cowboy up! [Shrug shoulders.]

The winner?

A thermonuclear device is descending on your location?

It is what it is!  [Shrug brain.]

Is resignation in the face of life’s trials really the pinnacle of personal ethical development? Is that the best we can do?

whatever
Ahem. This is where you accept the inevitability of your current situation, and resign yourself to it. Excuse me, young lady! You’re doing it wrong!

Albert Schweitzer once said that shit happens, but oh, well, whatever, whaddaya gonna do? Except he said it this way:

True resignation is this: that man, feeling his subordination to the course of world events, makes his way toward inward freedom from the fate that shapes his external existence. Inward freedom gives him the strength to triumph over the difficulties of everyday life and to become a deeper and more inward person, calm and peaceful. Resignation, therefore, is the spiritual and ethical affirmation of one’s own existence. Only he who has gone through the trial of resignation is capable of accepting the world.

schweitzer
What it is is inward freedom, mofos! (Seriously, it sounds more elevated in the original German.)

I can’t argue with that mustache. You win, Albert. I’ll totally affirm my own existence by accepting my subordination to the matrix world that shapes my external existence. That sounds liberating…

Of course, this is more progressive than some philosophies. Doris Day used to sing to us, “Que sera sera”: whatever will be, will be. Grammarians are quick to recognize the future tense. This is an unusually proactive form of submission and capitulation in which our doughty heroine is surrendering to stuff that hasn’t even attacked her yet. Not for beginners. Degree of difficulty: religion.

Portrait Of doris Day
A TV show will be will be.

I’m gonna stick to the present, and I know just how to go about it. Famed ironist* and deep-voiced skinny guy Steve Taylor gave his take on this almost 30 years ago:

While the world winds down to a final prayer
Nothing soothes quicker than complete despair
I predict by dinner I won’t even care
Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better

Lose hope now! Ask me how!

Or maybe…. we can ditch the whole “It is what it is” thing. How about replacing it with, I dunno, “It is bullshit, and I will fight it tooth and nail.

hippo
These guys know what I’m talking about.

Better, right?

You’re welcome.

 

*How ironic? As a Christian artist, he got in trouble for his song “I blew up the clinic real good.” Irony about 6 inches off the ground flew over the heads of many seriously religious people.

 

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The Wisdom to Know the Difference

serenity-card01
And if you’re in a giving mood, how about a coupla bucks for gas…

Okay, let’s see how this works:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… How do you know you can’t change it?

That’s what the wisdom’s for.

Maybe “wisdom” is just an excuse for giving up too soon. Ever think of that? Ha!

wise-man
Sometimes, giving up IS wisdom…

Mind. Blown.

Okay, I get it. There are some unchangeable things. Especially stuff in the past.

DOCTOR WHO
Present and past is a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. That’s just science.

Except for a few Dr. Who-type scenarios, you can’t change the past, and you’ve just gotta learn to accept it. What’s done is done, and all that. It’s all over but the shouting. Katie bar the door. The generous-lunged professional female singer has performed the final aria.

bugs
Everything I know about opera. And Vikings. And rabbits, come to that.

Live with the outcome. Accept that you cannot change it. Your team lost? Bummer. Hey, wanna watch Supernatural?

suns
Come on, Al McCoy. Tell us what’s happening. I need a shazam or two.

I remember when I was like that, sort of. Through most of the 90s, I lived and breathed Phoenix Suns. The best possible thing available on TV was a Suns game. Watching it live, as it happened, commercial breaks and all. Charles Barkley. Dan Majerle. KJ. And since they were good back then, they usually ended the night on a good note. Suns win. Suns win. The next morning, my whole reason for opening the newspaper was to read the recap and enjoy the win again.

But even if it was a loss, I would read the paper to find like-minded souls to commiserate with. It didn’t wipe me out if they lost. I knew they’d bounce back, and I was like all chill and stuff.

chill-dog
No worries, dude! They’ll win the next one. Or two or three.

Until that got harder and harder. A loss would put me in a funk. I took it badly, and it got worse all the time.

My solution? Stop watching the NBA. And then all sports, completely. (And Grey’s Anatomy, and other shows that deal too much in tragedy. Yes, I know it’s all fake. Shut up. I still can’t watch it.)

Ignorance is bliss. Avoid seeing it. I can’t feel bad about a game I am paying no attention to.

regan
Go, squadron.

I couldn’t/still can’t bear the tension involved in watching the back-and-forth of basketball, football, baseball. Unless I don’t care who wins. And why would I watch if I don’t care?

(I envy those fans who care but don’t really really care. Know what I mean?)

But maybe that’s cheating–trying to find serenity that way. Avoiding the issue. Not by actually accepting difficult things, but instead by putting my fingers in my ears and chanting, “La la la la la!!! I can’t hear you!!!” I suspect I’m not the only one using this strategy, however. (I’m looking at you, climate change deniers.)

fingers-in-ears
“La la la… snow means there’s no climate change… la la la…”

But what about things that haven’t happened yet? Stuff waiting to happen? Anxiety is mostly about things on the horizon, things yet to be, pain waiting to hurt. How much of that do we have to accept as inevitable?

train
The future. Coming at ya.

Like in politics–a vile, reprehensible, crude bigot won a very important election. And now he wants to do horrible things that hurt a lot of people. Wisdom, whaddaya say? Isn’t accepting this what sheep do? Isn’t this how they control us? Teach us to go to our happy place while men without conscience steal and corrupt and destroy?

Same thing in our individual lives–how much of the shit coming down the track do we have to accept?

The courage to change the things I can…

If the door is closed, and wisdom says it’s probably locked, doesn’t courage say, “Try it anyway”? Give it a rattle. Maybe it’ll open.

locked-door
Could be Narnia back there. You don’t know.

I’m up for trying a few doors, seeing what opens. What did Janis Joplin say? “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…” So is courage, I think. And at my age, courage also looks a lot like doing something stupid.

I’m okay with that. What have I got to lose?

Nobody answer. Seriously.

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