[All] those who value reason, liberty, and justice… are captivated by Russell’s vision of “the world that we must seek,”
a world in which the creative spirit is alive, in which life is an adventure full of joy and hope, based rather upon the impulse to construct rather than the desire to retain what we possess or to seize what is possessed by others. It must be a world in which affection has free play, in which love is purged of the instinct for domination, in which cruelty and envy have been dispelled by happiness and the unfettered development of all the instincts that build up life and fill it with mental delights.
-Noam Chomsky quoting Bertrand Russell’s Proposed Roads to Freedom
As if to illustrate the tentative, half-sketched nature of my last post, as I left the hospital I informed a woman that she’d dropped her spreading knife on the way to the elevator, and the woman, who seemed to be thirty-some years old, frowned at me as if I was deliberately interrupting or declaring her uncool in front of her friends. Being non-judgmental is probably the easiest part, and you have to maintain that under attack from differing philosophies and withering scorn. Who knows what Byzantine social relationships and backwards personalities flower amidst the tandem bureaucratic and professional classes of the hospital? I’ve seen my fair share of bizarre.
A week or two ago I came into the hospital under the dying power of an electronic door. I did not push the button, though I have many times in the past. Likewise I’ve had many opportunities to hold the door open myself, physically, for those who might have had to use the electronic door otherwise. So I probably should have felt more secure when I was attacked on my way in, slipping through the receding crack, panting and clothed in my bicycle gear. The attack came from a middle-aged, angry man: tall, taut, and bundled up into premature wrinkles, carrying a lunchbox in his left hand. I do not know if he was a parent to a patient, or a doctor.
“Handicap use only,” he scowled, as if I had pushed someone out of the way, as if I was gloating about it. As if I smiled and high-fived an intern on the way in. He was moving fast, escaping retaliation, possibly escaping his own vehemence, and the only answer I had time to give him was a perturbed and sarcastic “Thanks”.
Though very quickly I was told by several sources not to worry about it, that the man was probably just having a terrible day that had nothing to do with me, I still felt disturbed. It knawed and chewed at my neurosis. Briefly, and several times throughout the day, I re-enacted the episode in my head and chased the man down, confronting him as if that was any kind of solution. As if it would do anything but add another mean or lonely chapter to the tale. Realistically, what more could I have done? I let the man know that what he’d said was insulting, was there really room for anything else?
The reality of the situation is that I was feeling a little under-the-weather myself, dragged down by various things: a bland, repetitive job; unpromising responses from the writing program; an apartment in desperate need of at least a weekend of cleaning. Those situations have all since improved, and it’s probably no surprise that I feel markedly better.
I don’t know exactly what I’m proposing. It might be an attempt at a kind of insurance for frustration. Maybe it’s just a tool for climbing out of a pit or a rut and deciding: this is how I feel, this is why I feel, this is what I have to do. I am not in pits often, or as often, as I have in the past. I am extremely fortunate to have found Lisa, and one of the things I am most grateful for is our open communication… and maybe this alone is more important than some of the things I am “proposing”. I am not really proposing anything. I’m exploring methods of reacting more causally to life.