I’d like to be less outraged by things. It’s not that I don’t want to care, but I’d like some measure of enlightenment.
To be more accepting.
Not approving, not saying it’s okay that there’s so much suffering and injustice, but accepting that it’s there. It’s part of life. Start with that.
Then do you move on, and ask what can you do about it? How can you make a difference?
Not having suffered a lot of injustice — other than that time you were refused two cookies — and accepting things will only change slowly over a long time, maybe you don’t really want to make a difference. It’s futile.
You just want to live.
Then you might look at your fingernails and remember you need to trim them. And now it bothers you. It’s all you can think about, this unresolved tension: nails that need trimming, yet are not trimmed.
Thinking about it selfishly may help. I’ve read that people are happier when they help others. I’d like to be happier. I support Habitat for Humanity with money, but maybe I need to get out there more and pound nails in walls. I love my home, and am so grateful to have a good home. It’s such a basic need, and helping people to have the same feels worthwhile to me.
Maybe pick one or two causes to focus on?
Definitely I should be less outraged by the quiet, tepid couple in front of me in line at Chipotle, when they persistently fail to move aggressively into the gaps ahead of them. That’s not worth hating over.
But look at that guy. What a square, with his short hair, standard issue Levi’s, and New Balance shoes…
He looks just like me.
Wow. Do I look that uptight? (Except that I do have this facial hair now. I can imagine I’m a little more rounded on the corners, maybe with an air of danger, a jagged side to my square.)
Less obvious is how you accept with equanimity things like this:
Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?
To some degree the rich have always secluded themselves from the gaze of the common herd; their habit for centuries has been to send their offspring to private schools. But now this habit is exacerbated by the plutocracy’s palpable animosity towards public education and public educators, as Michael Bloomberg has demonstrated. To the extent public education “reform” is popular among billionaires and their tax-exempt foundations, one suspects it is as a lever to divert the more than $500 billion dollars in annual federal, state, and local education funding into private hands—meaning themselves and their friends. What Halliburton did for U.S. Army logistics, school privatizers will do for public education. A century ago, at least we got some attractive public libraries out of Andrew Carnegie. Noblesse oblige like Carnegie’s is presently lacking among our seceding plutocracy.
—Mike Lofgren, “Revolt of the Rich”
Setting aside the question of what we can do — because we can only do so much, and there is so much outside of our control — how can we be less outraged and more accepting? We might read Marcus Aurelius, at the risk of becoming overly fatalistic, and we might read Richard Bach:
The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
Keeping in mind that the “book” ends with this note:
Everything in this book may be wrong.