Urban Lucubration

Observations on misanthropy, anonymity, and the value of silence.

January 1, 2011

On Fresh Starts

I have never understood the jubilation surrounding January 1st.  For most individuals, New Years Day is a moment of renewal; of new years and new starts.  Of course, one can endeavor to seek new beginnings - shedding those extra pounds, quitting smoking, applying themselves more rigorously to their studies and so forth - but people do not change.  Change is a steep, guttural, uphill climb which, even when conquered, is not a moment of freedom.  You see this demonstrated quite aptly, for example, in ex-addicts.  Even after he has triumphed over his demons and put down the needle, once he has succeeded in climbing the hill, he can never really get off.  It is a paradoxical but established fact that ex-addicts can never really use again, recreational or otherwise.  He dares not.  It has taken him every fibre of strength to reach the top, and he dares not descend lest he be confronted with another hill steeper than its predecessor.  Despite his triumph, he is perpetually confined to the peak of his successes and will never move forward.

My friends have been regaling me with tales of their New Years resolutions lately.  They have all taken pacts to better themselves somehow.  When they then inquired about my own resolutions, I replied that I had none.  Many of them were taken aback at this.  "Is there really nothing about yourself that you wish to change?"

There are several things I wish to change about myself, none of them attainable.  If they were attainable then this question would be useless, considering that I would not be the person I am now.  There is no meaning in asking myself such questions.  It would accomplish nothing.  I do admit that this perspective is rather cynical, but then again, I am a cynic.  I have always been and most likely will always be.

Most individuals within my social/professional circles think that I am silent because I am a misanthrope.  This could not be farther from the truth.  A genuine, organic misanthrope would either retreat from humanity in disgust or, conversely, be exceedingly vocal in his distaste toward people.  I am silent because there was a point when I did believe in people.  There was a time when I did not see the world through a lens of rage and fire - both figuratively and literally.  There was a time when I wanted to be a moral person because it was what everyone around me was doing.  After I discovered however, that there was a layer of human experience from which I would always be excluded, I devolved into apathy.  Having struggled to understand morality and conscience for years, it was revealed to me that the world of youth and strawberries and ice cream at the park had always been closed to me.  The world of unconditional love and friendship and intimacy and attachment and family warmth were merely words thrown around by people - abstractions at best.  These were simply not things I would ever be capable of understanding as I see them experienced by others.  Why not, then?  Why not let the world burn?  Why should I keep fighting and struggling tooth and nail for an ideal I could never appreciate even if it was attainable?

Moral action is not in my nature.  Morality for me takes immense, painful effort and self-restraint.  Most individuals in my social circle believe that while I may profess to dislike people, there is compassion underneath the chill.  They observe me as I smile at a young child, as I pay for my goods like every other citizen, as I tell white lies to protect others, as I commit my time to charity and supporting my fellow human beings to the best of my ability, and they assume.  They assume and will never cease assuming humanity in others.  It is a projection of their own goodwill.  Few would understand how it feels to have to constantly restrain one's own nature.  Every individual should be able to live as he is.  Few people see the strain behind every unnecessary kind word, every averted lie, every act of mercy, every modicum of grace.  To resist using my understanding of people to manipulate and hurt and destroy is an uphill climb whose peak I have never seen.  I am beginning to wonder if this effort will ever be worth it.     

Fresh starts are mythical things.  For the past few years I have given quite a lot of thought to the idea of flight.  Changing my name, severing all social connections to pursue a life of anonymity in some other city.  I used to think that it would make me happier.  To more contemporary self-analysis however, I am beginning to realize that the burden I carry is not one localized to geographical location.  It is something that will follow me wherever I may flee.

During these brief moments of doubt, I recall my younger days.  While I have never believed in the value of humanity, there was once that I believed in redemption.  In my youth I did believe that individuals can change themselves if the motivation is genuine; if their will is strong.  I believed that if I behaved morally, that these morals would eventually be internalized.  That I would eventually be rewarded for being a person against which every shred of my nature rebels.  I saw the smiles and happiness in those who profess to be good people, and I sought to emulate their goodwill.

Now at 22, older and more secure in myself, I have long since made peace with this moral void.  The silence I observe today is one not of passion but of resignment.  I hypothesize that most individuals find moral action rewarding because such selfless and prosocial behavior is a reward in itself.  This magnitude of positive reinforcement within the larger system of moral conditioning is not to be underestimated.  That being said, while I may be ruthless I am also a scientist.  I am by nature manipulative and predatory; sadistic, cruel, destructive, predisposed to callousness, emotionally stagnant, and unmoved by the emotional pleas and misery of others, but I am also open to the possibility that, in the long run, my persistence may be worthwhile.

At this point however, I can only hope that by simulating my goal, I can achieve it.  I can only hope that by acting as if I am moral, I may eventually derive some small measure of moral understanding.  Should I fail in this, should I fail to develop some small measure of concern, then speculation as to a major decision in my approaching future may disturbingly progress from thought to pursuit; from will to action.


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