Getting Our Perspective In Perspective

I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.

—Kenny Rogers

So what’s important?

A plane goes missing, and the search is bungled, with contradictory reports as to what’s going on. Somehow this grabs a lot of people’s attention, maybe because anything with airplanes raises the spectre* of terrorism and 9/11. Other people are fascinated by large mechanical disasters with largish body counts. Exploding buildings and mudslides pique interest, but less so.

I can’t get sucked into disaster stories. They’re awful things that happen that we can do nothing about. Of course we feel for the relatives when we see them, but it seems like a waste watching newsmen speculate wildly and fill up time with some horrible event.

What isn’t a waste of time? Something that will affect us, and things we can affect. Let’s break it down and build it up: By determining what will affect us and then what we can affect, we can determine what to focus on in a distracting world.

By “affect us,” I mean endanger us. A great play can affect our emotions, and art can ennoble our soul, which is important, but I always say get out of danger, then build. What’s the greatest danger?

Is it possible you will be tortured in a pit of fire for eternity? That would suck. I have no direct evidence that this is going to happen, but I’ve heard tales. If you believe this might happen to you, you should live your life in such a way that you avoid this possibility. The usual responses are prayer, repentance, and/or good deeds.

The good news is that a lot of churches are now saying there’s no such place as hell. Another piece of good news is that in much of the developed world, people are free to worship as they see fit, so long as they don’t impose their decision on anyone else. So live the life you think is going to keep you out of hell, just don’t think you can make my religious choices for me because you hired me as a stock clerk.

That’s a whole life plan, not something immediate, unless you’re immediately about to die. That’s a big deal! Is someone or something trying to kill you? Stop reading! Grab something sharp and run! Wait, is it something, and not someone? And it’s not some kind of monster? Then it’s probably something amorphous like cancer. If you’ve got cancer, or some other terminal disease, take the proper medicine and see if you can get better. If some company is dumping stuff into your water supply that’s going to make you sick, stop them.

For most of us, we can’t have an immediate effect on either our immortal souls or our impending mortality. What we can do is ennoble the soul we have and enjoy the life we live. For the soul, you need poetry, in the sense of engaging in the universe with a sense of wonder and ecstasy. It requires spiritual reflection, arts that make you feel more and see wider vistas within and without, and sex toys. To enjoy life, you need money.

Below the eternal soul and the mortality issues, money usually comes in third. It’s a big deal. You should definitely come up with a strategy to become independently wealthy. Or you could do what I do, which is trudge at a thankless job for crappy wages, submerged in near-constant denial about your prospects. Or you could find your dream job, where you get paid nicely for doing what you love. Any news that pertains to your wallet or your dream job seems important.

Most people don’t want the money for themselves, actually. Because in our search for ecstasy in our lives, we often tumble into each other, and briefly rhapsodic encounters occur, and someone gets pregnant. The rest of us get nieces and nephews, and act smug about how poorly they’re being raised.

The kids! What about the children! What about their immortal souls? Or if you don’t go in for that, is someone or something trying to kill them? Go on down the checklist, applying it to the weeuns. You’ll get to money again quickly. Funny thing, money. Some people have more of it than others, and better access to the stuff that gets them money. Maybe we should try to make a world that doesn’t screw them so badly.

Because future! Because kids! Now we’ve stopped checking the things that affect us, and we want to affect the future. Don’t say we can’t; we can. Empty cynicism in the face of daunting challenges is pointless in a world we collectively change all the time. For good and ill, revolutions are happening all the time. More slowly, these elections and leaders we choose do have an impact, every now and then.

Does the future have an immortal soul? That’s a weird question, so I’m not going to answer it, though religion comes into play when dealing with the future. The religious people will mention that the future involves some kind of Armageddon, which explains a lot of their priorities. Someone a long time ago had a vision of the end of the world with horses and dragons. You know who else had a vision? Gene Roddenberry, and his goes at least until the twenty-third century, so we’ve got to keep it together until Spock arrives.

Then is someone or something trying to kill the future? YES. Some company is dumping chemicals into the water that are going to give the future cancer. We’re cooking our planet. The equator will be riddled with drought, islands will disappear. There will be mass exoduses, widespread social disruption, and floods, and our already zany weather patterns will be replaced by crazy monsoons, hurricanes, and tornadoes. It will suck, and it will ruin our children’s lives and their money.

That’s what’s important. That’s the story we’ve got to follow. That’s the thing we’ve got to affect. Over all the airplane stories, all the mudslides, the wars, the celebrity sideboobs (which are good for the whole ecstatic engagement with life, so pay attention to those too), and even money, we’ve got to do something (and by “something” I mean a imposing a carbon tax as well as massively revamping our energy plans) about the problem of global warming. That’s the most important thing we can affect.

The next question is, how?

*Bill Gates wants me to spell this word “specter.” I’ve taken some anglophilic ** stands on how to spell things in the past, but I swear I’m not an anglophile. In this case, “spectre” has a more eerie ring to it, while “specter” looks like some part of the large intestine. Also, James Bond.

**Bill Gates is telling me that’s not a word. I say it is.