2016-06-13

Life Is Difficult, Short, And Unfair

It's a fine line.

Life is difficult, short, and unfair.

Today, that fact is often obscured by how wonderful life is in the developed world. We don't have to struggle so hard to obtain food. Even the poor can afford some version of every basic necessity and most of life's pleasantries - perhaps not the state-of-the-art or must-current brands and designs, but they do have access to some version of pretty much everything. That's astounding. As if that weren't enough, things are getting better all the time.

As a result of all this, it's tempting to develop expectations about what life should be like. It's tempting to forget that life is difficult, short and unfair.

But then tragedy strikes, and we remember. To choose an example "at random," we might be nearing the crest of our marathon-running career and then suddenly develop a broken pancreas and a shorter lifespan. That might render our lives even more difficult, shorter-still, and frankly unfair. But such is life.

Or, we might go to work one day and never come home, leaving our families to grieve and then to struggle on without us. We might go out for a night of fun and get gunned-down or raped. We might take our perpetrators to court and lose the case, or win only to watch the judge hand down a token sentence. We might have set out the best-laid plans, only to have them thwarted by an act of nature or a competitor with stronger ambitions.

We can cry foul, we can call for change, we can draft new laws and invade new countries, we can elect new officials and scream at each other in social media. thump our Bibles or pound our pulpits. We can point accusingly at the world and shout, "You see? This proves everything I've been saying all along! If you had listened to me earlier, things would have been different!"

But that won't change the simple fact that life is difficult, short, and unfair. If you want to know why people shoot each other, rape each other, make bad mistakes, terrorize  each other, and so on, the answer is simply that life is difficult, short, and unfair. Changing the laws, sharpening our battle-axes, putting each other to the guillotine, will not solve anything; it won't even make anything better.

You cannot solve an individual problem by resorting to collective action. Each of us, individually, must assess our shortcomings, find the root of the problems within us, overcome them, and help our children learn from the mistakes we made. They, too, must overcome their own set of mistakes.

We can make the world a better place by being better people; but we have to try. I ask you, please, do not take the lazy way out. Resist the illusion that swift, collective action will somehow make life easy, long, and just - it won't. Let's be grown-ups; grown-ups solve their problems by doing the mental work of change. Let's do that, instead.