The truth is that this blog has almost turned into a part-time job for me. The kind of part-time job, I mean, where you don't get paid anything and yet you are required to carve a huge chunk out of the cheese wheel of your time trying to string together words in interesting and/or informative permutations. It ain't always easy, as I learned this month when I began to fall precariously behind in my real salaried, soul-deadening job. It's more fun, to be sure, nattering on about House Hunters or Mariah Carey's cavernous high-occupancy vagina, but it just doesn't put bread on the table. It's very strange to me that they pay me for processing invoices (which is something any motivated primate could do), but they don't pay me for my musings, which are well-nigh priceless. (I don't mean priceless as in invaluable. I mean priceless as in not having a price attached to them. Yet. If someone would like to attach a price to them, I'm willing to field any offers. This is a tag sale for my paragraphs.)
So yesterday there was another mass shooting, and I thought to myself—but not in a sleazy, opportunistic way—that I should really be writing about events like these. I place a sort of moral pressure on myself—that if I don't comment on these tragedies then it must mean that I really don't give a good goddamn about dead kids. But I do care. At least abstractly. It's difficult to care about words and numbers, and '18 children dead' doesn't quite register as a hard-and-fast reality to me. I don't have a proper sense of what that even means. Maybe it's because I don't have children myself, but I don't think that's the reason... I actually believe that my imagination refuses to travel down certain roads, sensing that they are dangerous and won't shepherd me to a desired destination. I don't really want to feel (in a full or direct way) what the deaths of eighteen kids feel like. I know what death is. I know what children are. I know what murder is. I'll just set the pieces of the crime out over there on the floor, but I won't assemble them into a whole. There's no catharsis to be had in experiencing that level of misfortune. We have to kid ourselves that we can find something—anything at all—in every negative experience to take from it: a lesson, a perspective, a memento mori... But there's really nothing there. If you aren't aware that everything can be taken from you at any moment—suddenly and irrevocably—then you're profoundly delusional. Catastrophe 'reminds' us, I suppose, but what instruction can it offer? You'll hug your children tonight, but what about next year? You can't live your whole life in a heightened state of tragic awareness; on the one hand, it probably isn't possible while retaining one's sanity, and on the other hand, that kind of life isn't really life at all.
Eventually we let down our guards again. We take things for granted. It isn't a failing of our character; it's just that natural disposition of living life. We can't be expected to incessantly confront our contingency. We can't realistically brace ourselves for disaster around every corner. A lived life is defined by its carelessness. Living is what you're doing when you're not really paying attention. That's why it happens so fast. I would tell you to enjoy it while you have it—but you'll only really enjoy it when you don't concern yourself with enjoying it.