There was a time, in my youth, when I believed life had meaning. I was blasted into this reality with my limited set of capacities. They were singular and not very practical – an inherent appreciation for the arts, some talent for music and writing. Of course, when you’re a kid, all of it seems overblown. I think most people, when they start out, believe they have something unique to contribute to the world – that they are destined to make an impact. It doesn’t take long before insecurity and anxiety subsume those aspirations. Don’t get me wrong, I still gave it a go. In my twenties, I took my shot as a musician, got signed to a major label and released an album. It was a decent album, if a bit compromised by its too-slick production. Ultimately, it didn’t fly. It was the beginning of the end of the music business by then, anyway. We were only one of many bands that drifted on the churlish current to grey obscurity.
When I hit my thirties, I gave up the fight. I understood that it was all an illusion. There was no point to any of it, of this I was sure. I got a middling job and settled into it. My world began to shrink. Little by little, I began to isolate myself – retreat from the quotidian burdens of being human…connection, fellowship, love. An oddly counterintuitive attitude, no? I mean, if it’s all meaningless, then why not live as if you’ve got nothing to lose? Revel in an unfettered existence. Love with abandon…sink your canines into each new day ‘til the blood flows.
Instead, my impulses, proclivities and desires, like amber, slowed and hardened, trapping me inside like a Mesozoic mosquito.
For years, I thought my caution was a result of the anxieties I felt during my days as a working musician…the instability, the uncertainty…it was taxing, to say the least. Now, I realize that was a rationalization. The truth is, I’m just a prudent nihilist. My steps have been tentative, they’ve kept me from harm. A seemingly absurd, joyless existence, but mine own.
I am now in my forties.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, I began to feel something again. Not hope or excitement…but anger — anger at the Bernie or busters, the media, and of course the congenitally confused Trumpists. When Donald was elected, I knew my decision to retreat from the world had been the right one. Every day, I see our country slipping away into abstraction. There is no connection, fellowship…love. I’ve known it all along. People are stupid, so let them be stupid. They made their decisions, let them marinate in their ignorance. After all, aside from the aggravation of watching that talking yam play the fool, his reign really doesn’t affect me much. Unless, of course, he chooses to push the big red button and blow it all up. If that happens, so be it. I’ll go out with humanity — a conclusive end.
For now, I’ve got a ringside seat in the final round.
The news is full of knives and chisels, chipping away at the edifice. There is no order – no purpose. I think humanity has begun to realize it…here at the end. We are all retreating from the meaninglessness… cautiously. We plug safely into our devices, stumble about like zombies…spit into the wind on social media – lock ourselves in our echo chambers. We have all become prudent nihilists. We shelter ourselves in the familiar, eschew new perspectives. It keeps us from harm. This country was founded on blood and effort – people partook. We built America on the backs of the oppressed, killed millions along the way. Was it worth it? Now, we can’t even motivate ourselves to get out and vote for our own self-interests. We are petty, small minded – we’ve let the poison creep up through the cracks in the foundation. Yet we feel secure, entrenched in our ideology or lack thereof. We see ourselves as separate, individual — but our similitude is manifest. We are all bugs — insignificant and disgusting.
It didn’t have to be this way…or did it? I suppose, everything put together ultimately falls apart.
I can say one thing with complete certitude – we will not bounce back after Trump. Even if he winds up impeached, there will be no return to our abject worship of symbols, icons and edifice. The curtain has been drawn back. We have seen the craven, stainless mechanism, snapping, grinding…further separating the one percent from the dregs, like wheat from chaff. So, how do we move forward? Or more to the point, what exactly are we moving forward into?
Oblivion? Understanding? Something in between?
Something in between…cold but possibly real, at least more real than the dream. When it finally all lies in pieces at our feet, we’ll proceed cautiously…prudently into that future – together.