simpler

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It can be a horrible thing to get what you want, or maybe just what you’ve wanted is a horrible thing. Either way, it’s hard not to feel like it’s a reflection of your soul, which is transmigratory, and not mere feelings, which we are told come and go like so much air. That this feeling, too, shall pass.

What to do then, about feelings that stay with you from one incarnation of yourself to the next, feelings that, no matter how much you’ve grown, remain small and hard?

If we were neurologically simpler organisms, does it follow that we’d live simpler, happier lives? When I was younger, I had fantasies about a mystical people, people whose desires weren’t so complicated, people who were unbothered by the uneasy implications of ethics or moral dilemmas. People who didn’t look at the homeless and see a fellow human being. People unfettered by self-awareness or compassion. People who think in absolutes. People who don’t worry about others’ feelings. I imagined that people like that were happier than people like me. I can’t turn it off. I absorb everything. I thought I could never be happy.

Now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize – admit – that I know people with the characteristics I’ve described. Some of them have been in my life a long time, some of them come and go. Some of them run for president. On balance, their ambitions are ascendant, and everyone else is just in their way. And none of them are happy. I know now that when you think only of yourself, you can never know true happiness. You can only want and take and take and take.

Christmas Day is as good a day as any to ask this question: do people like that – deliberate assholes – deserve compassion? I know what Jesus would say, but I’m not swinging for the fences like he did. I’m just trying to hold on.

 

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