I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can see something ain't right. Just look around. The population's blasting through the roof. We're drowning in our own garbage and three quarters of folks are living on less than a dollar a day, going hungry, and walking through their own shit. We're pumping poison into the air and what little clean water is left. We're cutting down the forests. The few rich ones are taking the best of everything and leaving what's left for all of us. Its a fucking house of cards. The whole thing's powered by gas and oil that's about to run out. The oceans are nearly fished out and full of trash. The whole planet is heating up. I worry, that's all. I can't see how it can go on like this. And if it does fall apart, it's going to be the worst kind of hell. Everybody says the economic health of our little planet depends on constant growth. How can that be? That's just stupid, isn't it Waldo? What do you think?
Fantastic letter. I think the biggest mistake you make is your choice to call yourself Confused. Is there any chance you'd be willing to change it to, say, The Doom Master? Or what about Doctor Gloom? No, wait, I know. How about Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss. I'm liking Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss very much, and so I hope it's ok with you if I call you that instead of Confused. Because to tell you the truth Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss, you don't seem confused at all to me. You seem clear-headed and wise about the predicament our particular animal is responsible for on our planet at this moment. We do seem to be making a beeline toward the bulls-eye of that target called Genuinely Fucked. But I'm not sure what your question is. If your question is, do I agree with you, the answer is yes. If your question is, how do we get out of this mess, you're asking the wrong fellow. But if you're asking, how did we get ourselves into such a pickle, I get all giddy because now I get to talk about Lowest Common Denominators.
I believe I was in junior high school when the concept of the Lowest Common Denominator entered my skull. A horrible math problem containing terrifyingly huge numbers would be proposed, and then the day would be saved by the fabulous white knight, The Lowest Common Denominator. Most of the time the Lowest Common Denominator would reduce gigantic, terrifying long-winded digits into friendly, manageable numbers -- perhaps a 2, or a 3, or maybe even a refreshing 5 -- with no sacrifice, no reduction in function or logic whatsoever. The only thing that changed, thanks to the determining of the Lowest Common Denominator, was that the problem became simpler and much easier to solve.
Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss, those things in your letter which you are so worried about have complex histories. What I want to do is simplify them by doing what I did in junior high: find the Lowest Common Denominator so that these complicated problems you refer to will seem less complicated. I will spare you the pages and pages of my worksheet. I'm confident I have found the lowest common denominator:
And so instead of focusing on this huge, complicated, global mess you talk about in your letter, let's focus on good old You to try to get a better understanding of the bigger problem.
The first problem you mention is population. What do you think is at the root of this? Here's my answer: Screwing is just too damn much fun, and we keep doing it no matter what. And so may I ask you this question, Mister Doomygloomypuss? Did you ever, even once, think about population control while you were hump-a-hump-a-humping away? You may be tempted to crow about your diligent use of the condom. The Lowest Common Denominator truth of a condom is, you use it not because you're so darn responsible, but so you can continue having a ball screwing.
The next larger issue you mention is the garbage problem. We humans do make a lot of garbage, there's no question about it. But isn't garbage essentially something we once found useful and cared about which we don't find useful or care about any more? Things such as couches and shoes and containers and washing machines and tires? Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss, have you left behind no trail of such things? Have you ever, even once, made a decision not to acquire something because of the garbage space it would take up when you're done with it?
And then you move on to poverty. The whole rich vs. poor thing. Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss, have you ever, even once, passed a homeless person on a sidewalk and not given to that person the quarter you know you have in your right pocket? Why did you not give the person the quarter?
Mister Doomygloomypuss, you say you worry. Have you ever had the experience of worrying about things you know you cannot change and yet you cannot stop worrying? Or recognizing that something you do all the time is not a good thing to continue doing, and yet you continue doing it day after day after day? Might that give you a glimpse into the answer to your question about our apparent stupidity, about why it is that we keep doing stupid things, knowing with clarity that what we are doing is destructive even as we do it?
Everybody is helpless against certain forms of their own stupidity, and after a while, as you have observed, it can sure add up.
You mention constant growth. Growth is really just progress, isn't it? And what is progress? I'd say it's nothing more than a measure of how much easier today is than yesterday. And so you might say that we are addicted to ease. Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss, how often have you made your life harder so that the life of someone else might become easier?
Are you catching my drift here? Yes, we're in trouble. Why? Because like every other living thing, we're works in progress. If you're a human, here is your short bio: Brilliant, greedy, passionate, selfish, loves to laugh, can be trained to do anything, short-sighted, often breath-takingly stupid. At this point in our development, like it or not, this is what humans are stuck with.
Here's my religion, Mister Gloomydoomydoomypuss: The cosmos gives not one shit about human-ness. Not only that. The cosmos makes no distinction between life and non-life. It does not give one shit about anything. It's all just Stuff doing Stuff beneath the blue sky or in the cover of night. A thought made is no more significant to the universe than a thought not made. Being young and making love in a field beneath a full moon on a summer night to the distant music of Beethoven performed by the greatest musicians ever assembled in the most acoustically perfect canyon on earth has no greater value than all of that never happening. All of us having lived has no greater value than all of us having never lived. All of our struggles, all of our passion, all of our dreams, is just Us making a fuss. All of art, all of beauty, all of hope, all of love, is a grand, and I do mean grand, illusion.
Which, Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss, should come as fantastic news. We are tethered to nothing. We are FREE. Free to choose. And so why would you choose to be Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss? What about young people in love? What about doors being held open. What about unspoken nice thoughts? What about the common, unspectacular harmony in most places most of the time.
Nothing lasts forever. We shall come and we shall go. The little ball we live on will do just fine without us. The more we all agree we're all in the same boat, the longer we'll get to hang out. At the moment, Mister Doomygloomydoomypuss, I'm with you: Things don't look so hot. But what's the big surprise? You do stupid things that make you shake your head. How can you expect any other human on the planet to behave more magnificently than you, or less stupidly?