October 2016


Why do we think life is supposed to be easy and carefree? We do. But I don’t know why. Are we so far removed from our history as to be completely unaware of what a risky thing life is? It is fraught with danger.

I’m almost 64 years old. That means I’m over 23,300 days old. That’s a lot of days. And on all of those days – except one – any car in my possession or my immediate family’s possession did not blow an engine. However, just once, a little more than a week ago, one of my cars did blow an engine and I was furious at the universe for being so capriciously unkind.

For 23,299 days I did not thank the universe for not blowing up one of my car’s engines. I was not thankful that my cars kept running. I expect my cars to keep running. Always. Regardless of the number of miles on them. They are supposed to be running. That’s what cars do.

They also break down. And I was affronted in a universe where that happened. I was not at all amazed for the tens of thousands of days when it didn’t happen.

And that explains us. When it all goes well, which is most of the time, we take it for granted. Things are supposed to go well, we think. I don’t really know why we think that.

I have watched all the BBC nature series with David Attenborough. There are lots of confrontations between predator and prey and each and every single one of them ends in sadness. Sometimes that sadness is that the prey is caught and killed. Sometimes it is that the predator did not manage to capture any prey and expended all that energy for no dinner at all, making death that much more imminent. Sadness. Every. Single. Time.

And somehow, we have built societies and civilization and mitigated many of the dangers of the wild kingdoms. By banding together, we have a surplus of food and don’t have to know how to do everything ourselves. Specialization comes with the freedom of mutual support.

With this greater society, with civilization, we have told ourselves that life is supposed to be wonderful. We may, in fact, build a perfectly wonderful life. But it isn’t a given and it isn’t just supposed to happen. And you don’t deserve a damn thing. The world owes you nothing; it was here first.

We don’t have to hunt for dinner which used to take up a large portion of our ancestors’ lives. Dinner can be picked up at the grocery store or through the drive-in. And with all this security and surplus, we aren’t ecstatic every day of our lives. Instead, we think we deserve more. We tell ourselves that our lives are in a mess far too often when all our lives are is the human existence.

We aren’t supposed to skate through life unscathed. We are supposed to push the limits and test the waters and have things happen. When our normal routine is upset, we notice what we don’t have available. But when it all works – which is most of the time – we assume that is the way life is supposed to be.

Life really is one damn thing after another. The respite in between catastrophes is there for us to catch our breath and prepare for the next one. For there will always be a next one.

Take a moment today to think about your car and it’s engine.

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An example of a blown engine, since I don’t have a picture of my own. 

Hurricane Matthew is heading towards us. Are we going to pack up and leave or are we going to stay and what makes either decision better?

I am, in fact, supposed to leave. The governor has made it a mandatory evacuation for my area. I’m twenty miles inland and I should go another 80 miles west. To where?

There isn’t any place there to actually go to. There is an order to leave, but then live in my car for the next few days. There aren’t a quarter million (figuring four people per room and the one million ordered to leave) hotel rooms available at least 100 miles from the ocean. The ocean is what people come to see and most of the hotel rooms in South Carolina are oceanside from Myrtle Beach to Charleston to Hilton Head Island. All places that have been ordered to evacuate.

So the first issue is where to go.

The second issue is why to go.

There is a fable about a Little Boy Who Cried “Wolf” where after screaming for help several times out of boredom or loneliness, there is finally a real wolf but no one comes when he calls because they figure it’s just another prank.

The news, the social media, the clickbait have all taught us that everyone is “shocked” and “couldn’t believe” and are generally amazed that life happens. The catastrophizing of everyday events has left us all jaded and unwilling to click on the 5 foods that can kill you or even the 5 foods that will save your life. It’s all just clickbait and we are tired of clicking for nothing (or worse, a slideshow). So we scroll past.

So the outlets crank things up even higher in the hopes of getting our eyes on the ads, something we have assiduously trained ourselves to not do.

And the spiral goes ever upwards. “This is bad” used to get our notice. Then it didn’t. “This is worse” used to get our notice. Then it didn’t. “This is disastrous” used to get our notice. Then it didn’t. So they keep trying and we keep not listening even when it may be in our best interest to heed the warning.

I’m torn. I’ve looked at NOAA’s maps. The storm is supposed to stay off the coast. I’m twenty miles inland. I’m not on the water. But … I’ve lived through a Cat 2 making landfall right here and it wasn’t that bad. But …  I’ve listened, as nauseum, to the tales of Hurricane Hugo. I saw what happened with Hurricane Katrina. I realize that hurricanes are monstrous storms.

But there is no place to actually go and I am twenty miles inland. The order to evacuate is because no one wants to come and rescue me. But will I really need rescuing? Am I safer in my built to hurricane standards house or my crappy little car someplace farther inland?

Is this evacuation for me or for the protection of the state against lawsuits? Everyone sues everything for any untoward event. Is this just to keep a lawsuit from happening regardless of how inconvenient or unhelpful it is for the evacuees or is this for my safety?

All this is running through my head. I know I can’t trust my government to help me. I can only trust my government to cover its own ass. So I am left without enough information to make a good decision. I don’t like being in a position of so much doubt. I know a hurricane is coming. I don’t know the best place for my ass to be when it hits.

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