On the Good Ship Misanthrope

Here’s a little trick you can try at home: When you’re in bed late at night and wish you could sleep but can’t, don’t do your usual fretting about tomorrow’s workday or agonize over some past transgression you committed. Instead, clear your head of these distractions and pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Don’t expect to hear anything all that interesting. Your appendix isn’t to let you know why it’s even there any more than your pancreas is going to gently remind you that it would have a much easier time meeting its insulin quota if you cut down on the crullers, fatty. And just forget about that tumor spilling the beans about its metastasization plans.

The messages you receive are from the parts of your body in contact with the mattress or bedsheet and whether you feel too warm or too cold. Assuming you’re not developing bed sores and the temperature isn’t extreme, these are signals that the situation is normal so you tend to ignore them.

Try paying attention to those signals. Not to their content, there is nothing there of any significance. Rather, concentrate on where they’re coming from. They all emenate from your largest organ, your skin, and each of them are dispatches from the frontier between you and not you. Plot the points in your head and conclude that everything inside is yours. It is your vessel and you are its captain. You may be a Captain Kirk or a Captain Queeg, but you are definitely in command.

You may decide to retire to your quarters with orders not to be disturbed so you can dream about going to school or work with no pants on, but I’m hoping you’ll continue to play along with my little game all the way to the end. OK brave captain, what I’d like you to do is to grab your phone and start reading recent feed updates on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever is your social-media cup of tea. What’s that? I should have figured as much. It has come to my attention that some of you don’t take your smartphone to bed with you. That is a completely foreign concept to me, but I guess it takes all kinds. All right, I’ll stand by while you get them. For those of you who already have your phones at the ready, I appreciate your patience and please enjoy this musical interlude while you’re waiting.

“…you want to be me, yeah, you want to be me, you want to be someone, ruin someone…”

All set? Before we proceed, let’s recap. Your body is not you, but rather a meat ship with you at the helm. You’re about to order your eyeballs to stare at a miracle of modern consumer technology. There you will witness what your fellow human beings will say when technology has bestowed upon them the ability to say it to the world. Maybe they’re captains of their own meat ships, but try not to think about that. Such considerations bring empathy into the equation and that will spoil the effect.

It’s not fair to expect a flash flood of profundity coming through the feed. Most people have pretty mundane thoughts most of the time. I know I do so I’m willing to cut them some slack. Oh, that’s a very nice photo of a cheeseburger you just posted. It sure does look yummy. I hope eating it brings you joy.

So brace yourself for a deluge of people speaking their mind. For when people do that, you get the good and the bad, the meaningful and the banal, the sublime and ridiculous. The world is a messy place, the human spirit even more so.

Now unbrace yourself because that isn’t going to happen. Instead of the cacophony of individual voices, what you will get is dull thuds from people jumping on bandwagons and the shrill whines urging you to do the same.

See the picture of the kid living in abject poverty, his cleft palate twisting his mouth into a permanent Billy Idol sneer. Heartbreaking stuff to be sure. A  like and a share alone won’t save him. You have to type “Amen” because that’s the only way to get your loving, all-powerful God to give a shit. This God, if you believe in such things, was instrumental in fucking the kid up in the first place.

If you’re playing this game on 9/11, you’ll be in for a real treat. Your feed will chockablock with chest-thumping patriots demanding that we “never forget.” OK, let’s have a show of hands. Who here has forgotten 9/11? I figured as much. Guess what? Nobody has. Also, remembering it doesn’t seem to be good enough. You need to have it front and center eclipsing everything else because we have such a spotless record of foreign-policy decisions with this mindset. These are the same people who tent their trousers with hawkwood on Memorial Day, fetishizing ear dead in the guise of honoring them while embracing political stances to ensure they are never in short supply.

 In case you were wondering, I’m not giving progressives a pass. Oh yes, you’ll have to deal with those sanctimonious assholes as well. How dare that abrasive pundit, who makes his or her living being saying offensive things, say something offensive? You’ll be called upon to sign the petition, join the boycott, and generally shoulder your share of the outrage burden. If you decline on the grounds that you think people should be able to say what they want even if it’s wrongheaded and hateful, you will get a learned-by-rote lecture on how free speech just means the government can’t punish you for what you say. All other means of stifling someone are not only allowed but totally awesome. Any further objections on your part will be dismissed as unchecked privilege.

When you’re not getting bombarded by zealotry, you’ll get bombarded by rehashed jokes and memes that used up whatever funny they had a long time ago. “May the Fourth be with you.” Ha ha, very funny. Can’t wait to hear it again next year.

Maybe you don’t see the things the same way from the bridge of your meat ship. Perhaps you do possess real empathy and you can find common ground with these people by looking within yourself. Unfortunately, my introspection gives me deafening silence as far as empathy goes. So this is how I see the world.




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