I wish they’d conduct a national poll to find out who feels out of place and who doesn’t. Just to get the numbers, you know? To get a feel for how many of us there are. Sometimes at work I get the feeling that it’s got to be right up against 100%. I’ll head out to the register to help out during the lunch rush and the new cashier will look so confused and lost, and then I’ll look at the customers she’s supposed to be helping, and they’ll look lost, too, and then when I sneak a glance toward the tables there’ll be all these people staring at their food or at each other with blank looks in their eyes. And I’ll think: Is this just me? Is everybody else actually fine, and I’m just trying to imagine that they’re like me? But I don’t think so. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m pretty sure that some ridiculous percentage of the population is walking around feeling like aliens.
It’s to do with knowing and being known. I remember how it stopped seeming odd that in biblical Greek knowing was used for making love. Whosit knew so-and-so. Carnal knowledge. It’s what lovers trust each other with. Knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face. Every other version of oneself is on offer to the public. We share our vivacity, grief, sulks, anger, joy… we hand it out to anybody who happens to be standing around, to friends and family with a momentary sense of indecency perhaps, to strangers without hesitation. Our lovers share us with the passing trade. But in pairs we insist that we give ourselves to each other. What selves? What’s left? What else is there that hasn’t been dealt out like a pack of cards? Carnal knowledge. Personal, final, uncompromised. Knowing, being known. I revere that. Having that is being rich, you can be generous about what’s shared – she walks, she talks, she laughs, she lends a sympathetic ear, she kicks off her shoes and dances on the tables, she’s everybody’s and it don’t mean a thing, let them eat cake; knowledge is something else, the undealt card, and while it’s held it makes you free-and-easy and nice to know, and when it’s gone everything is pain.
As an atheist, I feel very strongly about the iniquity of attaching shame to our food desires and our sexual appetites. There are only two things that we actually KNOW we’re on this planet to do: eat and fuck. Go forth and be glad.
The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.
For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.
I had been looking toward the Encouragement above the TV, a drawing of an angel with the caption Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy?
(This is an old argument in the field of Thinking About Suffering, and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries, but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate.)
There’s a Spanish proverb,” he said, “that’s always fascinated me. “Take what you want and pay for it, says God.’” “I don’t believe in God,” Daniel said, “but that principle seems, to me, to have a divinity of its own; a kind of blazing purity. What could be simpler, or more crucial? You can have anything you want, as long as you accept that there is a price and that you will have to pay it.