Everywhere you go, and no matter what you do, you will constantly run across advertising or drama in various media proclaiming how beautiful and wonderful life is. About two-thirds of the way through The Godfather, when Vito dies of a heart attack, he is heard to say that life is beautiful. Note that in this instance, I am referring to what goes on in the novel.
What certain people need to understand, I think, is that life is more than simply what a singular person makes it. Think, for a moment, about all of the children in nations like Africa (or even China or India) who will die of starvation and/or disease before their tenth birthday, probably shitting out vital parts of their own insides. How beautiful does life seem to them? And this is a vital point that social services in all of the “first world” countries outside of Scandinavia or parts of Europe seem to be losing track of. Life is only beautiful when there are beautiful things in it for the liver of that life to lose. Vito Corleone did not say “life is beautiful” because a mob boss marked him for death when he was less than ten years old, or because of all the violence he had to perpetrate in order to become the boss of the territory in which he resided. No. Vito Coreleone, upon his death from heart failure and old age, thinks of the wife that has stood by him in circumstances that you could not pay most people to stand by you in. He thinks of the four children he has with her, as well as the boy he unofficially adopted and had previously been serving as his consigliere. These are things he would reflect on when recovering from having been shot, or lying in the garden sensing that the end was near. And reflecting on those things, it should hardly come as a surprise when he tells us that his life was beautiful.
This is a point that people in the business of correcting the maladies of present-day society seem to have lost. Any person, even the most frail and spineless, can deal with adverse circumstances. Tell a billionaire that he is going to die in six months no matter how much money he throws at the problem, and he can still mask the pain with his money or things he buys with it. But when a person finds that no matter what he does, nobody will ever care for him or allow him to fulfil anything in his lifetime, that is a blow no reasonably sane person can take.
To put it simply, a lot of the bookshelf self-help philosophy we sell each other is simply bullshit. People like Ralph Waldo Emerson are, to put it bluntly, bullshit artists. He tells you that nothing can bring you peace but yourself, but he depended upon his publisher and the people who bought his work to support his lifestyle. And if you take the whole self-isolation thing too far, it can and does have noticeable deleterious effects on a person.
Therefore, the worst thing about being in poverty is not the lack of opportunities, the missed opportunities, or the difficulties that are placed in front of a person when they attempt to exercise an opportunity. No. The worst thing about being in poverty is the disconnect it creates between not only oneself and those not in poverty, but literally everybody. This is why the autistic experience varies so wildly among different people in different parts of society. When your family can send you to expensive private schools with teachers who have been taught to regard themselves as something other than drill sergeants, you end up with a different view of yourself and your place in the world. When your family just shoves you into whatever will take you and lets nature just take its course, well, chances are you will have a lesser view of yourself than would be the case in the first example. Will life seem beautiful to you then? Maybe, maybe not. But I can tell you one thing for certain. After years of being ignored by both the unknowing and those who should know better, telling me that my life is beautiful is only going to cause me to erupt in laughter.
I am also reminded of the narration in the opening scenes of the Dark Angel pilot. The escape was not her idea, Max (Jessica Alba) tells us. I mean, escape to what? We didn’t know there was anything else, she says. Prisoners in camps during World War II did not simply escape because they were told it was their duty to attempt to do so. They escaped because they knew there was something better to escape to. Although the civilisations represented by the Allies had problems, for certain, these civilisations were still an improvement upon what the Axis powers proposed. In order to motivate a person to escape when they do not know that there is anything else, one has to convince them that what they are escaping from is so bad that escaping to nothing is preferable. That, in a nutshell, is the psychology of abuse. My abusers fukked up by leading me to a point where what I was in was more horrible to me than everything else I could imagine running away to. And what I was running away to was a bit lot of nowhere, nothing, and nobody.
So, like anyone else who no longer wants to be part of a situation of abuse, I ran. I ran as fast as I could. Bear in mind that I am speaking in metaphors here. I ran, and ran, and ran until I could run no more. And what I found myself in was a world that had told me for years that it did not want me, did not want my participation, and did not want my input. Yet it expected to be able to punish me for not participating, for not offering my input, and on and on it goes. And do you think, if I make attempts to reintegrate myself with the people around me, doing what I can do, they will do something other than shove me off in a corner, expecting the cycle of abuse to begin all over again? If your answer to that question is a yes, you clearly watch too many Hollywood films with happy endings.
That, in a nutshell, is my point. If your life is beautiful, you should spend every moment of every day thanking those who have helped make it that way. If you are deluding yourself that it is entirely of your own making and that you have nobody else to thank for it, then go and shove yourself immediately. Believing this is such an immense disrespect to those around you who have built the slats and supports to your life that they should be entitled to pull them all down. And remember that if they do decide to pull all of these supports and structures away from your life, you will need quite a lot of strength and power within yourself in order to really survive that. That, in a nutshell, is what gives life any meaning or value. As Burgess Meredith said so well during one Rocky film, we lose our friends, and everything we live for, because nature is smart enough to know that life is a balance between motivations and pains. And when one exceeds the other, the point of life is lost.
That, in a nutshell, is why life is never really as valuable or beautiful as we like to kid ourselves that it is. Take enough of the things we interact with away, and all of that beauty or value goes away with it.
If you are still reading, I am not sure exactly what I have been trying to tell you. Hopefully I will not be around to answer when you come to ask.
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