I believe in things as they are.
I think there is a misconception out there that our lives as humans have a god-given blessing that rises them up and makes them special. There is all this talk about the “sanctity of life”. I don’t buy it.
I say life…is just life. That’s IT. That’s exactly it. It is no more and no less than exactly what it is. Which sounds so simple you’d think it was obvious. The problem lies in the human tendency to reject the idea because of that very reason. It is so simple that it scares us. Our lives are infinitely important to us, after all. Surely that must mean something in the greater scheme of things.
People jump to conclusions and fail to realize that this is not saying that there is nothing special about life—far from it, life has the potential to be teeming with meaning. But that’s all. It is up to us to take advantage of that potential and turn it into something real.
We can decide that the boatloads of Africans we enslave are inferior because… because they are different? Because they have larger noses? Because we said so? But that does not make it true. We can decide that genocide occurring halfway across the world really is just too far away to stay in the forefront of our minds. But that does not negate the atrocity. We can say, “in the end, good always overcomes evil” but that will not cause time to stop at some preordained moment so that the entirety of our earth’s history may be laid forth and a judgment made. We get so caught up in our distinct goals and accomplishments that we forget that for the universe, there is no end.
For me, this belief has led to an unconscious rejection of sentimentality. Every now and then my parents pull out an old letter opener or something and explain how it used to be my great-grandfather’s, as if that is somehow in and of itself supposed to make it interesting to me. It’s just a letter opener. It isn’t something I would have any interest in under normal circumstances. So unless there is some fascinating story about how my great-grandfather used it to stab a German soldier and escape Auschwitz, I’m still not interested. Even with the story, the letter opener is still just a letter opener. Only now it has become the launch pad for something else, something that does have meaning. Therein lies its only significance. That may sound cold. You might think I have no appreciation of my past. But you would be wrong. I do care. But what I care about are the stories and the memories that actually mean something. You can show me a thousand letter openers, but it won’t tell me a thing about my great-grandfather.
Things are what they are, and no generalization or promised meaning could ever be as beautiful.
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