Today I was listening to a podcast.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have a very mundane job that involves driving a truck all day by myself, or working in a shop all day by myself, so listening to people talk, having long form conversations, is a very effective way to break up the monotony. I used to listen to music all day long, then I tried audiobooks, which I still do from time to time but I prefer to read for myself, and eventually made my way into podcasts. I discovered that I can actually stimulate my mind, enrich my daily experience an assuage my own loneliness, by listening to people discuss and debate topics whilst I while away the days performing mindless tasks.
Today I was listening to Seth Andrews, and I was taken aback. Seth has a beautiful voice, he’s got that je ne sais quoi, like listening to the Chicago Cubs in the nineteen thirties, or watching What’s My Line in the fifties. His voice is buttery yet pleasantly craggy. His voice sounds like the way my grandpa looked. I’ll stop
Seth was going on about some interesting topic or another and his interlocutor mentioned his harrowing last couple of weeks. This caught my interest and I listened more intently, tossing aside my own reverie temporarily to hear about this man’s plight.
Seth then proceeded to share that he lost both of his dogs within the preceding week. And by lost I mean to say that they perished.
I was taken aback. I thought Seriously guys? We’re going to offer condolences for this? I was annoyed, I was spiteful, I was something approaching disgusted. I couldn’t believe that these men, this man in particular, that I look up to and respect for their intelligence and virtue and personal courage, were acting like entitled children when deprived of a privilege. I couldn’t stand that these grown men were acting like the death of a pet was such a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing that warranted grief and mourning.
Then I thought back to that one time when I had to put one of my own dogs down. I held her as she expired and cried real tears. My wife and I were genuinely distraught, our children were devastated for a whole week.
Then I realized that I was being a negative Nance. I realized that I was minimizing this human being’s pain, I was disregarding his real love and his real loss.
I realized that we all tend to do this, quite often. We act like our pain is the best pain. We trivialize other’s situations, their hopes and their dreams and their loves and their losses, their pain and their fear and their very humanity! We do this because it is easy. It is easier to focus on our own little world, to act like everyone else has it better than we do and that they couldn’t possibly understand our own pain or where we are coming from. We do this to justify our own self-centeredness, to coddle ourselves when we are feeling left out or ignored or malcontent.
This is what allows people to think Make Something Great Again is legitimate, when it has never been better than it is right now for so many people, but they happen to be in a less than ideal situation. People blame it all on someone else and act like they have it harder than everyone else they know, that everyone else is just being a baby while they fight the good fight and take on the world.
I’ve done it myself. So many times. I lost everything I owned, thirty years worth of hard work and strife and love and loss and all that, all gone overnight. I lost it all, and I guarantee that, had I felt so inclined, I could have easily found someone else who envied me for what I still had — I still had my wits and my health and a family to fall back on, I still had so much more than many others and all I could do was think about everything I lost.
We’ve got to stop doing this people. This is like solipsism-lite. It is just as untenable, just as irrational, just as fatal.
We are all in this together. No matter where you come from, what you look or sound or even smell like, no matter the language you speak or the foods that you eat, we are all human beings. With that condition, being human that is, comes so many great and amazing and wonderful things, but also so many perilous and trying and damning things. We all need to get over our self-centered tendencies and reach out to each other. Rely on someone for something, be there for someone when they need something, listen to someone you disagree with not with the intention to refute but to understand, love the person next to you, love the person a world away from you.
I’m sorry that I ridiculed your pain, Seth. I know what it feels like to lose someone you love. And yes, we anthropomorphize our pets to the point of making them members of our families, those years of companionship are real.
Thanks for dropping in folks, I have been beating my head up against a few very difficult projects and I just haven’t had the energy to post anything here. I am thankful for your time and your attention, and I challenge you to go out and make the world a better place.