I get frustrated with the world, a lot. The stupid, selfish, and short sighted decisions you can see any time you tune into the news, browse the ‘net, or listen to the conversations going on around you.
I’m not saying that everything everywhere is terrible, there is a lot of good you can find if you do any of the those things as well.
But there is a lot of negativity and a lot of anger out there, and worse, there are people going about commentating and attempting to change things in ways that I feel are not as productive as something else might be. Gasp, not people who move and live in this world in a way that differs from my own!
Obviously, not only can we not doing anything about such things, but furthermore, we shouldn’t do anything about them. Certain kinds of very aggressive appellations to change don’t appeal to me (Magneto-style activism), but that doesn’t mean it is not engaging in an important way with the things we strive to change.
But a lot of the news we see: the continued hostilities between Israel and Hamas and the mounting death toll, the ways in which our highest court continues to stymie women’s access to birth control measures, the treatment of the death of black people in the media, the way northern European countries are using Greece’s debt to force the country to auction off it’s environmental and cultural resources… It leaves you feeling grumpy.
Grumpy is… Grumpy is frustrated, grumpy is outraged, grumpy is itching to make people pay attention. Grumpy is a dissatisfaction with the way the world around you works. Grumpy is, sometimes, the desire to fly off into outer space and leave the whole planet to rot, because obviously this is a waste of time.
And that’s where the second part comes in:
You can’t just ragequit life.
You have to get up every morning and keep trying.
Absurdist philosophy dictates that life has no meaning, that no part of the universe has any meaning, and that much of humanity’s existential struggle comes from screaming our desire for meaning, narrative, purpose into the cold, unfeeling void of the universe. But absurdist philosophy says, you can be unhappy because life has no meaning, but equally you can be happy because life has no meaning. There is nothing stopping you.
Like all humanists, the function of my personal philosophies fall more in the realm of existential philosophy: life has no meaning but that which you create for yourself.
When I first started in journalism at UMass, I was told to find a journalist and interview them about what it means to be a journalist, and what it is like, and why they do it. I interviewed an old friend of my fathers, Constantine Von Hoffman, he told me two things which I think about every day:
1. You become a journalist because you can’t do anything else.
2. You can’t become a cynic, cynicism will kill you.
Number one confuses people: no it’s not that journalists are unfit for any other type of work. Journalist are driven to bring light into dark places, to give voice of the voiceless, to speak truth to power, or to keep people in the loop, and nothing else will satisfy them.
Number two, I keep close to my heart every time we have to do a news show where the 7 stories out of the 8 we do covering national and international news relate to massive death, violence, suffering and human misery. Whether it’s earthquakes, suicide bombings, the situation in the Central African Republic, or a school shooting… It can feel like there’s no point in doing anything, not getting out of bed, not going to work, not feeding your children, because irreversible damage will have been done to the planet by 2020 if we don’t take action now, and no one is taking action.
But, in the end, it doesn’t matter how awful the world seems today, or tomorrow, or the next day, because you have to keep going forward, working towards the goals you have set out for yourself, trying to leave the world in a better place than you found it:
To grumpy to live, too stubborn to die.