You can’t fight on all fronts all the time. Decide what’s important to you and then focus on what you can do about that. Everything else is simply a distraction.
Time spent scrolling through social media is largely wasted. You might as well flip through the pages of a catalog hoping to find some bauble to buy that will make you feel less like a loser. Any effect shopping might have will prove highly transitory.
Especially with the advent of the Internet and cellphones, focused attention is at a premium. Without the ability to concentrate, we can’t expect to accomplish much. The only times during the day when I feel the benefits of one-mindedness are when I’m swimming laps at the pool, practicing the piano, and writing. I wish I could add reading to that list, but most of what I read is skimming, to see if I can find something worth my time to slow down and actually peruse.
My opinions don’t matter much. Not even to me, but I can’t imagine anyone else taking them seriously enough to consider their merits. Who cares about my opinions if I don’t?
Things are the way they are, probably for a reason, but even if not, why should that be a matter of debate? Why is our opinion about what actually exists newsworthy? Only the most narcissistic of us would imagine that to be the way things should be.
How infantile. How vain. How completely lacking in proportion. A volcano explodes. How do you feel about that? Would you like to share your feelings with others? Speak directly into the microphone. Meanwhile hot lava runs down the side of the mountain and fans out into the streets. The sky turns back from pumice. “I’m not sure I approve.”
“We’ll be back in a moment with the opinions of other people, some of whom might have understood our question. Others will simply talk to hear the sound of their own voice. Hopefully, they will ultimately feel shame for wasting out time with their nonsense, but even prattle has its place in contemporary discourse, because nobody’s really paying attention. We’re overwhelmed with uninformed opinions. So, in order to further distract you and for your viewing pleasure, here’s a picture of a moose mating with a picnic table.”
The world is ending, but I forgot to notice that fact until it was too late for me to do anything about it. Not that there’s much that I could have done. Forces are at work that are greater than my power to affect them. Like chicken little, I could have sounded an alarm, but nobody pays much attention to my Facebook posts. If I show a picture of a cute kitten, I can get a few “likes.”
The good news is that it’s not my fault the world is ending. Lots of things are my fault, like my lack of gumption, get-up-and-go, and the fact that I had to retire early to a third-world country because I forgot to make much money when I was working. I could look at that as a “bad thing,” but I could just as easily count myself fortunate that I ended up here in Thailand. If I had been any more of a “success” this might not have been a logical choice. I could have ended up in a big house in the suburbs of a Midwestern city, polishing one of my many vintage cars and watching my wife vacuum our vast expanse of indoor carpeting.
My life here might not be perfect, but it doesn’t involve bondage to too many items that need constant maintenance. I remember talking to an Iowa farmer and he told me that he finally realized that he had to maintain over nine hundred tires on multiple machines, cars, tractors, motorcycles, trucks, lawn mowers, etc. And that wasn’t counting all the engines that demanded frequent maintenance, all the blades that needed to be sharpened. No, compared to him I’ve got it easy.
OK, so I’m getting fat. I can’t stop eating donuts, cookies, drinking sodas and it shows. As much as force myself to exercise, I can’t work off all those extra calories. Yes, I’m obviously bored. I need a challenge.
Maybe I don’t need to do more, but rather less. Relax and let things unfold as they are. Nothing really stays the same, but my fears of boredom make it seem that way. Nothing much is required of me. Acceptance is my job now.
Just ordinary people came, the kind you see all the time. Not especially smart or good looking, they came in droves and stood waiting for something to happen. Only nothing happened. No one told them what to do and eventually they drifted away, going back where they came from.
There was nothing you could say about them that would paint a clear picture. Some were fat, some thin, some young, some old. I got the impression they didn’t think they were “special” in any way. They just wanted to show up in case somebody was giving away something for free, or there was a party of some kind going on. Some fun to be had.
Garden-variety people, the kind who don’t make enormous waves as they wade through the waters of life, are still good for something. They form an audience, if not actors. They’re the customer base for business, voters for politicians, what the Germans called the “lumpenproletariat.” Despise them at your own risk.
I am one of them. In fact, I have hopes of being elected their leader, not because of any special qualities I might posses, but rather because I am so hopelessly ordinary. My subjects are made of the same stuff as is their King.
And as a King, I will not have to wait long for a Queen to appear. Ambitious women abound. One will soon sit at my right hand and if, for some reason, I should falter, fail or sicken, she will be the power behind the throne. This is the way it has always been done, and this method has stood the test of time.
But please, don’t tell anyone. Don’t spill the beans. For my plan to be effective, it must remain a secret.
I promise to rule wisely, and fairness will be by motto. Fairness and enlightened self-interest. You will always know why I do what I do, because my motives will be transparent. I’m in it for me. Simple. Obvious. No deception needed.
I was correct, it didn’t take long for my Queen to appear. Her name was Tiffany, and she was enrolled in pre-dental hygiene at our local community college. Her sister Brandi was already a practicing hygienist and encourage her younger sister to take the leap. Their family was as common as families around here get to be. Mom was a licensed practical nurse, and Dad sold used cars. They lived in a new-ish double wide trailer and kept two dogs that barked a lot.
Tiffany latched onto me and wouldn’t let go. When I told her my plans for us, she got “super excited” and started planning our elaborate coronation ceremony. I cautioned her that we had to pretend to be a bit like England, where the royalty part was merely window dressing to a typical democracy, but she didn’t let that slow her down.
Every time I came up with a manifesto or proclamation, she would protest that it was too complicated. We needed to appeal to a third-grade level and this was strictly junior high. We couldn’t expect to garner popular support by going highbrow. I decided to trust her instincts. She and her family had their finger on the pulse of the nation more than I.
The royalty part would make it easier for our subjects to think of us as the mother and father of the nation. From now on Father’s Day would be my birthday, and Mother’s Day, hers. In an ostentatious display of compassion, we would hand out Christmas presents to be poor, presents that were paid for by taxpayers of our nation. In this way, we were inspired by many of the actions of Juan and Eva Peron, of Argentina.
Eventually, a few academic consultants persuaded us to drop the royalty aspect. Prime Minister or President would have to suffice. Titles like “Father and Mother of the Nation” were acceptable, but nothing more royal than that. We were free, of course, to devise our own ceremonies, rituals, ranks and honors. These would ensure loyalty and give the common man and woman something to admire.
Sure enough, we began to feel the first pangs of royal intrigue when her family members wanted to be venerated by royal rank. So we bailed on the royal thing just in time. Instead, we appointed them cabinet members, advisers, ambassadors. Dad became the Minister of Transportation. Brandy, the Minister of Health. The list increased daily.
The nation had not yet confirmed their desire for us to rule, but we could feel it all around us. Oh, it was hard for us to wait for that wave of popular will that would soon propel us into the “Beige Bunker” as we called the cement fortress that had always housed our executive family. We were not impatient, just eager to be of service. We were overwhelmed with patriotic fervor.
There was, however, a dark side to all this. Even though they kept their sentiments secret, there were those who were not on our side. We had enemies. They manipulated the minds of the elite. Even though their writings could not be understood by the common man, they were surprisingly effective in painting a picture of us as ambitious dimwits. The rumors found their way into print and onto social media. They mocked us!
The arrests came like lightning. Suddenly, we were hauled before a court of people we had never seen before and found guilty of sedition. All I remember is the “may God have mercy on your souls” part.
Our country still used the guillotine, and one was assembled in the main square. As the patriarch of our movement, I was to be beheaded last. From my cell I heard the vast crowd roar several times before I was escorted, blinking from the gloom of the Beige Bunker and into the sunlight.
As I stood on the platform where I was read the official charges against me by a hooded man, I glanced down to see the box that would momentarily receive my severed head. There were the heads of my family members staring up at me in wide-eyed disbelief. Brandi’s mouth was open, as if she were trying to say something. Too late, I’m afraid.
I knelt, and accepted my fate with as much dignity as I could muster. For I was a common man surrounded by my peers who had already decided my fate for me. My garden-variety head would soon join the others in that box. I heard crows calling to one another, and in the distance, a lawn mower. Someone was enjoying this autumn morning. I held my breath.
I still have a few years left to live, and I fully intend to become a ballet dancer, a jet fighter pilot, an astronaut, and an opera singer while I still breathe. It’s going to take some real efforts at time management for me to fulfill my remaining potential. No more wasting time on social media. Nose to the grindstone.
Will I be good at any of these occupations? I suppose the only one that really matters is fighter pilot. Others could be killed if I over-estimate my abilities. If I prove to be a mediocre astronaut, I will disappoint Mission Control, but drifting off into the endless void will not cause others to suffer. As a clumsy ballet and opera performer, I can bore an audience, but such an outcome would hardly be newsworthy.
Are you aware of which celebrities have had the same disease from which you are now suffering? To learn how they handled it might prove instructive, if not inspirational. Sure, unlike you they might have been able to afford the best medical treatment, but even super doctoring is no guarantee against a virulent pathogen. If they survived it, you can do. Maybe.
In fact, maybe you’re already on the same lifestyle page. They worry about negative publicity, while you fret away nary a second on possible bad press. So if you’re not having the life sucked out of you by a virus or bacteria, you can probably breathe easy about the rest of your problems. You’re a winner today!
Nobody said it would be easy. The world around us is hardly foolproof. Scoundrels and knaves abound. To pretend otherwise is to invite disaster.
The ones who desire power above all else are the ones you should not trust, but it takes effort and diligence to root them out. They are, above all else, as sneaky and they are persistent. They’re not playing games here. For them, staying in power is serious business. Their only business.
We can pretend not to care, to float above the fray, but the fray will find a way to drag us down. We will be devoured, and the part they find inedible they will spit out. After all, we were simply in their way. What else could we expect them to do?