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Monday, December 12, 2011

How hard is it to see the world as it really is? And I'm not talking about the grand geopolitical reality cobbled together by people we never actually see in person, done for their own benefit and without giving much thought to the rest of us. They only reason they take us into account at all is the suspicion that if they go too far, we will suddenly realize it and rise up and occupy them.

That is a suspicion that is being tested these days, but my own suspicion is that they are more than equal to the task of surviving whatever we throw at them. Not that we should stop flinging everything we can get out hands on, because after all, you never know. Maybe something somehow, some way, will stick.

It's wise to keep tabs on the movers and shakers in the big world beyond the back yard, but it takes plenty of clear thinking just to keep the back yard from being invaded by gophers and overrun with weeds.

You know, I'm going to be honest here for a minute. When I started writing this, I'm pretty sure I had a point, but whatever it was got lost in a morass of metaphors. What I think I wanted to say was this: How do you know how to live the best life you can when so much of living depends on others, and it's just so darned hard to know other people well enough to see into their hearts?

Believe it or not, there are huge chunks of humanity, billions of people probably, who don't care about that question. Some of them expend all their energy getting through the day, while others live solely by reacting to what happens to them. They're either selfish, which is easy for them but hard on the people around them, or consumed by negative emotion, which is hard on everybody. Much of the world as we know it is fueled by hate, and the only way to escape it is by staying out of the way. Sometimes that doesn't even work.

So now we've dealt with the front page, where something called Newt is suddenly and irrationally important, and the metro section, where you find the names of the nameless people who randomly blow themselves and each other up. Figuratively and literally.

For a thinking person, so much of life is lived internally that you kind of envy the folks in the metro section. It's much easier to react with only self-interest in mind than it is to try to do what's best for everyone, including sometimes people you don't even know. You know what's hard? Empathy is hard. It takes thought. It takes the work of trying to see the world from outside your own head.

Sometimes you're going to be wrong, make the wrong decision or do the wrong thing. Unknowable, unforeseeable factors get in the way, and you have to retrace your steps and try to find where you veered off the right path. It's exhausting to live this way, but it's the only way to keep your back yard, or whatever tiny patch of ground you inhabit, from being nothing more than a bunch of weeds and gopher holes.

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