Let’s live as if we appreciate the others in our lives, human and otherwise.
Contemporary American writer Ursula K. Le Guin profoundly points out, “When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.” We tend to shy away from darkness, thus failing to acknowledge the holistic nature of our existential reality. Along the way, our addiction to positive thinking obscures reality. Our first-world culture promotes the surreal notion of wishing upon stars even as we plunge into the abyss of human extinction.
Hopium is the drug to which we’re addicted. It’s the desire to have our problems solved by others, instead of by ourselves. It’s why we keep electing politicians while knowing they won’t keep their promises, and find ourselves too fearful to give up the much-promised future of never-ending growth on a finite planet.
Knowing we cannot occupy this finite world without adverse consequences for humans or other animals, but afraid to face that truth, we turn away. We watch the television, go to the movies, gamble at casinos, play on Facebook, and pursue similar avenues to consume our precious time. Many Americans simultaneously applaud while the world burns as we take a flame-thrower to the planet. Nietzsche nailed it: “Hope is the most evil of evils, because it prolongs man’s torment.”
Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nietzsche was right. I would add women to the tormented mix, though. I used to believe hope differed from hopium, back when I had hope. Gradually, I’ve come to see hope and hopium as one. Let’s get off the crack pipe, and onto reality. May Pandora release the final gift from her container.
This brief essay is not intended to suggest we abandon (1) resistance or (2) joy-filled lives. Life, including human life, is a gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the gift. Let’s live as if we appreciate the others in our lives, human and otherwise. Let’s live as if there is more to life than the treadmill onto which we were born.
Let’s live. While we’re at it, let’s act. After all, as iconoclastic Tucson author Edward Abbey pointed out, “action is the antidote to despair.”
I doubt acting will extend the run of our species. But it might ward off personal despair. And, if pointed in the right direction, it might extend the run of the non-human species with which we share the planet.
This essay is excerpted and modified from McPherson’s latest book, Going Dark: