Melancholy thoughts

Have you not looked down … at a city and seen how much it resembles an ant heap, full of blind creatures who think their mundane little world is real? You see the lighted windows and what you want to think is that there must be many interesting stories behind them. But what you know is that really there are just dull, dull souls, mere consumers of food, who think their instincts are emotions and their tiny lives of more account than a whisper of wind. (from Soul Music by Terry Pratchett.)

Sometimes, as I’m driving down the road, I wonder about the other people I see and where they are going, how it might be interesting to follow a random person and see what they were doing. But the reality is that if I did pick a person to follow at random, they’d probably be going to work or home. They’d get out of their car, walk in a building, and wouldn’t emerge again for several hours. And whatever fantasy I entertain about how exciting someone else’s life might be would only be met by the reality of how depressing my own vicarious skulking was. Life is never as interesting as we think it should be. Life is never as exciting as we wish it were. There are bright spots, glimpses of excitement, but these are not the norm. I suspect that by the time they reach 35, most people have given up on whatever they thought life was supposed to be when they were 16, 17, or 18 and resigned themselves to the mundane and everyday. Perhaps this isn’t true for everyone, but this is how I’ve experienced life.

What is there to show for all of our hard work here on this earth? People come, and people go, but still the world never changes. The sun comes up, the sun goes down; it hurries right back to where it started from. The wind blows south, the wind blows north; round and round it blows over and over again. All rivers empty into the sea, but it never spills over; one by one the rivers return to their source. All of life is far more boring than words could ever say. (Eccl 1:3-8 CEV)

We can, as I think I have done, manage to find a great deal of satisfaction, even joy, in our mundane little lives. Once we understand how little the world cares of us, the love we share with those closest to us becomes incredibly precious. Amongst the black backdrop of life, we find that our accomplishments, our family, our friends are valuable precisely because of what they mean right now, not because we’ve managed to change the world forever. Our friends and children will carry on without us. Even most people who couldn’t imagine life without us now will manage to create a new, mundane routine without us after we move on. We can realize all this and still, while we’re here, savor the love of our wife, rejoice in our child’s accomplishments, and enjoy the company of a good friend. There is no such thing as a legacy except in our imagination. There is only now. We cannot change the world, no matter how hard we try. As Moses wrote, and Jesus later affirmed: There will always be poor people. Someone will always be in need. Still, this is not an excuse to do nothing. There is no utopia, and Sisyphean our task may be, but doing nothing will only lead to depression, despair and despondency. Hope can only live in action. Hope and Love are all we have. We cannot save the world or accomplish world peace, but we enjoy this brief little spark that is our life before it fades.