I believe in the fallibility of everything, in instability, in defeatism, in cynicism.
I believe that one way or another everything will ultimately come to an unpleasant and untimely end. To clarify I was raised with far more imagination and freedom than I presume most children experienced, so these views can’t be blamed on a neglected childhood. But I also speculate that I was inexplicably more conscience than most children of the fact that eventually Wendy left Peter alone in Neverland, and that despite Disney’s wool over our eyes, Barrie’s fate for Pan was far less pleasant than the Technicolor.
After Peter got put away in a box, life went on to vindicate beliefs that what is comfortable and necessary disappears as soon it is recognized. Middle school leads to high school which takes us on to college, each jump forcing us to attempt to deal with the new as soon as footing has been found on the old. Home morphs into a series of none too memorable apartments as separations are instituted and divorces are finalized; instability is perfect and reassuring in its consistency. Even the impermanent in its fugitive state can become dependant and logical if it persists for long enough, then solidarity becomes creepy in its stagnancy.
I’ve noticed over the years, and gloated at the fact, that total comfort and normalcy produce static characters who serve no purpose except to further global warming.
Cynicism and defeatism, however, have the wonderful effect of producing neurotic individuals who live simultaneously expecting nothing from life because whatever is given will end abruptly anyway, while maintaining that because of the eventual end, life should be lived as beautifully as possible in the moment.
I believe in cynicism and instability like some people believe in god. Cynicism frees you from the disappointments that invariably come when the cards don’t fall in your favor. If you have no faith in success or prolonged happiness to begin with and expect life to be overwhelmingly unpleasant, the fluke appearance of happiness is all the more spectacular. The unrealistic expectations of the optimists are the ones that come crashing to the ground.
Instability, similarly, creates people who, while predictably unstable themselves, weather life far more effectively then those who are sheltered. Those accustomed to instability are those who can change their lives at the drop of a hat in order to adapt to the unexpected. If Frodo hadn’t determined that a change was in order I might not have learned anything from fifth grade.
Life is not the safe place you assumed it to be as a child, but nothing is learned from safety or comfort, whereas impermanence and irregularity create world wary beings out of the very young. I believe that without the brutal ends everything that happens beforehand is worthless; actions and events are made memorable and crucial because of their fallibility and impermanence.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.