Our Lives, Now

Our Lives, Now

You and I — the ones who rest in unvisited tombs and are on the receiving end of the screaming that comes across the sky — truly live in quiet desperation. We have no control over anything but we convince ourselves that we do; we are slaves to a rhythm that we never set and have no hope of mastering. We do things because we are "supposed" to do them, not because in them, we find any intrinsic joy. We scurry around with our brows furrowed, in a vain attempt to reign in what little slice of the universe we inhabit but deep inside, almost instinctively, we know it's all futile.

The truth of our lives comes to us not as blinding light on the road to Damascus, but as a still, small voice. Somewhere, somehow, we find ourselves locked into an existence from which there is no exit. Well, none other than death, which despite our best efforts, is the only thing that levels the playing field for all of humanity. Rich, poor and now middle class — we breathe our last with a final stab of dread and then we've passed back into the holy nothingness from whence we came.

We've gone through our lives doing what was expected, but when no one has expected anything from you, where do you wind up? All the lousy choices you made have slowly, inexplicably managed to trap you, and the ferociousness of your futile future is a shock because all these years it grew and gnawed at you from within, like a cancer. You can do very little — if anything — to avoid it once you've realized that the trap is closing in on you. There is no use fighting because like a python, the more you struggle, the tighter the vise until your heart stops beating.

We're told we have to get married and to have kids: if you're past thirty and you've done neither, you're a suspect. You're supposed to have a house and start worrying about mortgages: if you still rent, you're a suspect. You won't call yourself a saint because you know that you've lied, hurt people, and would certainly keep a satchel full of cash rather than turn it in. You quietly buy pornography but fret out loud over how mainstream it's become. You basically are a good person and you obey the rules: you pay your credit card on time as best you can; you dutifully pay the gas bill and the electric bill and the cable bill, each time complaining how the utility companies are ripping you off but you still write the check. You pay your insurance because you're supposed to, and in this state, it's the law. Your life is no longer timed to the changing seasons; it's based on one paycheck to the next, or a 30-day cycle of 19.99% interest. You're less and less concerned with what's written about you in the Book of Life, but live in mortal fear of what's in your credit report.

People like you and I, when we make a mistake or can't make our money last, we get punished for it. We skip the cable bill because the green won't stretch that far, and we get punished. We have no control over what little destiny we think we have because when we're late on a credit card payment, we are punished. We have paid our money to the insurance companies but can't fathom why they won't pay up when bad things happen. We do what we are told and we will never benefit from it.

But we are the kind of people who live in a sea of those who never follow the rules, never mind their p's and q's, chuck insurance requirements out the window or better yet, manage to cash in on million-dollar policies when they've offed their wives, while we must suffer through agents who devalue our cars or our homes and then order us to pay higher premiums. The other guy will never get in trouble for flouting the rules: he's rewarded for them. You and I are flogged for asking why.

You see, our lives are the innumerable grains of sand on the beach that matter not. We are faceless and nameless in the slow march of time. History calls us "society" or "the people", but shows no care that we will never have enough money or time. We will never own homes or be able to travel to far-off lands without the tether of how we will pay for it. Our lives slip by us because somewhere in time, we decided that it was okay to be in servitude to credit corporations or banks or insurance companies. We live in a world that tells us "the customer is always right" when the truth is that we have no power at all.

Was this the life that our holy men and prophets said we would lead? Is this the world that is the reward for obeying God's holy word? These unnatural rhythms, these phony realities, these deep fictions that lull us into accepting this life — this is God's will? Our existence is to pay a credit card bill? To be stymied by the fact that we will never truly own anything? That what makes a society truly good is not how it takes care of the poor and the sick, but how low housing interest rates will fall?

Our lives, now, do not matter, because we have chosen it to be that way.