The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Roach Motel of Life

Put down a couple of roach motels, and after a week, caught the big bastard I'd seen running around our bathroom. Pardon me: big bitch. As I've seen numerous times before, the roach, caught in the sticky stuff, expelled an egg case. The glue was dotted with baby roaches, also caught in the mire. Some core instinct: I am caught. I have gone as far as I can. Have and/or free my children so that they will have a chance to take my plasm a bit further.

And perversely, I thought of people I've known in ghettos and trailer parks having unprotected sex. Spewing out babies who are also caught in a cycle of poverty. And remembered the countless, reasonable criticism: "why is she sleeping with all those men?" "Why won't he use a condom?" "What the hell is wrong with these people?"

From the outside, it is easy to see how self-destructive this is. But no one who has not mastered ALL of their hungers has the right to criticize. Better to ask what we need to do to control our own diet, exercise regularly, heal our emotions, stop smoking, have a healthy and loving relationship, and balance our finances.

And what of those who HAVE mastered all those arenas? I have found them to be humble, kind, understanding of human frailty and too focused on their own growth, and attempting to lift up those around them to spew hatred and judgement at those who see so few options for their own lives that their reproductive urges overwhelm their intellect. They don't feel superior to anyone, or anything.

Look at the election season. I've stopped posting political comments (although I will comment on other people's posts: it's fun!) because it is simply too difficult to say anything that is not polarized, or polarizing, and I feel a little sick with myself when I do. But look at the distortion, the anger, the hatred, the pure VENOM spewing out and I see it all...ALL of it, as raw fear. Shutting down the intellectual circuits, compressing reality, reducing the world to two dimensions, draining the color of nuance into a black and white puppet show.

There are real issues in life to be discussed, addressed, labored and agonized over. But the sheer panic triggered by the survival drive shuts down...everything. Everything except the most basic hungers. Survive. Reproduce. Feed.

Heaven help me, I have too much work to do myself, growing and changing, and helping those who wish to be helped. Marking a path to growth as clearly and honestly as possible. Who am I to mock the frightened, sleeping children? I would not exchange my dreams for their nightmares for a world of gold.

We are all caught in our web of habits and history, our resentments and frailties. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of our full potential.

Life takes everything from everyone. Checking "In" to our own private hells is as easy as rolling downhill. Checking "out" is a muddy, uphill slog with those who want to distract themselves from their own labors hurling feces from the sidelines.

Is the most flawed and fearful who spend the most energy throwing stones from within their glass houses.



Cecil said...

That has got to be one of the most powerful things I have read all year. I am putting this up on my Facebook! So much wisdom drawn from such a mundane thing. You truly are a sage.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks. It is definitely a relief to be able to read a blog that is not talking about politics right now.

I literally ran into somebody tonight, or, to be more accurate, he ran into me: we were driving down a steep hill in the pounding rain, I was forced to stop because of pedestrians jay-wandering out into the street, and his car skidded into my car's rear bumper. I let him park, and let him look at my car while I stayed inside mine, the engine running. He said our cars both looked fine. Something about just looking at the guy made it automatically OK to trust him, so I did; I've gotten a bit better about hearing instincts and following them. We shook hands and went on our way.

I checked my car later. It was, indeed, fine.

I'm a white middle-aged guy, and not exactly left-wing; he was about 20, black, probably an Ivy League student (I now work at Cornell, and was driving just off campus), and probably not right-wing. And none of that mattered. We were just two guys relieved that we hadn't banged up one another's cars.

I drove off feeling good that we'd both been OK and had settled things easily. Then I thought about how we'd been able to do that while the country as a whole seems to be in terrible acrimony right now. I'd be very pleased if I saw the U.S. as a whole be happier than it is.

So, yes: good to let the politics go and focus on getting better oneself...

--Erich Schwarz

Steven Barnes said...

Thank you, Erich. We are all Americans. I spent five years paying attention to politics, and while it is important, I realized I was separating from the people I love, rather than knitting them together. No more politics here, if at all possible.

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