Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year in Paradise

Every New Year, I hear pandemic complaints about how lousy, obviously, the previous year was. I've been through 57 of these things now, each of them unanimously considered an absolute turd. Man, how do we even get out of bed in the morning?

But wait. In terms of personal safety, comfort, miraculous life-saving healthcare, freedom, tolerance, and infinite cheap-or-free information, communications, education, entertainment, transportation, food, and water - in other words, every benchmark that counts - our lives are vastly superior to anything ever imagined by any previous generation. Even if you're paycheck-to-paycheck in the First World, Julius Caesar would eagerly swap places with you (for the antibiotics alone!).

Consider that two of the most pressing problems for most people (including for what we call our "poor") are 1. too MUCH food and 2. too MANY possessions.

Consider that the current crop of young radicals have their dander up not over starvation and suffering (extreme poverty is swiftly evaporating worldwide), but over more equitable distribution of the trappings of extreme wealth; our human right to beamers and Apple watches.

That's not rain. It's your ancestors spitting down at you for your appalling ingratitude.

Your life is so good that having a president who's a corrupt racist buffoon (corrupt racist buffoons ran everything for millennia, and, in fact, delivered us to this Utopia) curdles your pampered life experience. We can't bear a president who's less than a wise, honorable statesman (this one’s a "5", but comes after we've been spoiled by a long run of "7"s and "8"s, and I almost perversely hope we get a truly bad one just for the glee of watching everyone reframe to concede that Trump was comparatively sufferable...by which point George W Bush will have been retconned into Abraham freaking Lincoln). Everyone's like Mrs. Howell distraught on the sofa because one of the servants nicked a priceless vase, or raving about life’s intolerability because the champagne's a bit warm.

"How DARE you call this "paradise," Leff, when we are clearly suffering here? Do you even read Twitter? The volume of pain, misery and melancholy is off the charts, and that can only mean these are awful, awful times. How else could one explain this pandemic despair?"

Easy one. FRAMING.

Happy New Year, if you can manage it. Stiff upper lip, coddled sparkly princes and princesses. Try to despise just a bit less your continued enthronement on the only speck of color, of action, in a vast cold, dark, tight, empty, lethal universe, swathed in warmth and life-giving sunlight, water, and oxygen - and devastatingly beautiful trees - where even strangers will make sacrifices to help you not die, for yet another insufferable year.

With clarity at an all-time low, all I can say is "nice touch!" to the cosmic show runner....though, come to think of it, maybe “2020” was a bit on-the-nose.

Followup #1, "Half Empty or Half Full?"
Followup #2, "Daddy Knows Truth"

If we live in Paradise, why doesn't it feel like it?

Two reasons. First, humans require a rich array of dramatic stories, so if we lack violence, heartbreak, pain, etc., we conjure them up via our imagination and entertainments. We get, in other words, bored with Paradise. Second, we have a natural compulsion to expel ourselves from Paradise via petty shifts of mental framing, hence Paradise Lost.

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