In my previous post I didn’t mean to suggest that I have more important or more difficult problems than anyone else in the world.
My goals and my secret travails seem crucial to me, but I am aware that I have it pretty good compared to billions other people in the world. I’m not starving. My basic needs are met — shelter, clothing, high-speed internet. I have a job, even if I don’t like it very much. By an accident of birth I am a citizen of the richest and most privileged nation the world has ever seen, and I participate thoughtlessly in the feast.
But this, of course, is what happens once a human gets past those basic wants: We want more. Over the years I have reduced my expectations a hundred times, and today I think I would be happy with just the tiniest improvement in my condition. Probably the only way to keep those expectations that way, though, would be never to move ahead, never to achieve that minimal next level of happiness or success, or whatever it is that I think I am looking for.
Sometimes I have to laugh — or cry — at my foolishness and selfishness. To all those Americans who have been thrown out of their jobs, who can’t see a doctor when they or their children are sick; who can no longer afford their mortgage payments; who must choose between food and medicine; whose hope and optimism drain away while our government fiddles in endless debate and parliamentary maneuvering; to you all — I am sorry. To the rest of the world — the poor, the sick, the homeless, the hungry — I can’t even begin to express my sadness at your plight.
It’s hard for me to take all that in. The horrors of the real world are like being hit by a bullet, or a truck: You go into shock, and your mind conspires with your body not to feel the pain. When it becomes too awful even for that mechanism to work, you go to sleep.
And so, to my shame, I am sleeping. I’m just a guy, more comfortable but just as helpless as the most dispossessed of us. I used to believe that I could have some effect on the world, but now I think I was kidding myself.
This is no excuse. It’s just that all I have to work with is me. I can’t fix the world, and worrying about it drives me crazy. I’m afraid I don’t have the strength to venture much outside my own playpen these days. Once I might have had a chance to make the world a better place, but I missed it. Time is short now, and my reach is not very long.
I hope I can be forgiven my shallowness.