One of the most common things people say to me is “at least you get to do what you love”. I’ve mentioned this before. It sticks in my head… especially when I’m doing something tedious like updating my spreadsheets or putting addresses on packages or carrying paintings to and from the car…
I do love my life, but I think it’s not because I have the right occupation. I made a decision many years ago that I was going to find a way to love my life no matter what it was.
There’s this book, The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, that I read many years ago. I found a hardback copy in an antique mall of all places, when I was about 16 and read the thing from cover to cover. Being 16, I was filled with all the usual ambition and angst and superfluous passions, and reading such abject miseries made an incredible and indelible impression on me.
One of the ideas I took away from the book was that sometimes life is just patently unfair. Some wonderful people get the most unbelievably difficult paths to walk. It happens over and over and over, assaulting the spirits of the sufferer and the bystander.
So, I think to myself, if all this unfairness is going to happen, what am I going to do about it? I have seen mixed results in the “justice system” and don’t feel like I can really help there. I’ve seen the same mixed results in the “education system” and did my time trying to help there… but even when I work as hard as I possibly can, it’s still like pouring water into a bucket with a giant hole in the bottom. The need is so exceedingly cavernous that my efforts disappear almost instantly into the void.
What is left for me to do? If I can’t save “them”, I guess I’ll have to save myself. For all the deprivation I see, I will try to appreciate what I have all the more. When I see the images of famine and genocide, I will love more. I will make my life worth it… because whether it gets better or worse for me or anyone else, if I live with joy, I’m adding more joy to the universe. If I mourn for those who suffer, I only add more suffering. That’s the best I can come up with…
Ah… the peril that befalls the English Major… A simple conversational utility like “At least you do what you love” becomes some extended, existential meditation. How silly and frivolous!
Here! Have a painting. I hope it gives you a good feeling.