Y’all haven’t watched enough Jurassic Park, and it shows. What did we learn? Can man control life? Can man play god? What happens when man plays god?
If we make a quick swap between dinos and viruses, I’m feeling like my weird low-key obsession with Michael Crichton and Jeff Goldblum is coming in pretty damn handy here.
What does safe mean? What does life mean? What does liberty mean? What does the pursuit of happiness mean? (Not just the Will Smith movie, please)
How well have man’s control processes over chaos/nature/god worked? How many unsinkable ships have we watched sink? (James Cameron’s or old time-y type pictures…) Every time Man tries to play God, it hasn’t worked out well, and then you get Rose murdering Jack. You heard me, and I will not take it back.
Lately, I feel like all I read are people telling me what to think, how to feel, how afraid I should or shouldn’t be, and how to act. Right now, broad, general, sweeping definitions are being applied to words that are so deeply personal – so deeply each of our own that they cannot be defined. Our inalienable rights – not as US Citizens, as people. Inalienable means they cannot be conferred or transferred. That means no man or government can give them to you or take them away.
Is it okay for these universal terms to be pigeonholed in a dictionary that experts or governments are creating on everyone’s behalf?
By your personhood alone – you, human being sucking air in your head, you have rights. It’s like Oprah, except it’s your life plus the unwanted taxes. In the US, we have a document that calls these rights forth. It is believed to be self-evident, which means the truth is so plain that we don’t need to tell you why you have these rights. (Yet, somehow we have to figure it out a few times that it meant everyone – literally everyone. No exceptions.) This is important because these rights have been fought and died for by a lot of groups for a lot of reasons. For years, we have argued about what these rights mean and how broad these rights should be.
How can you define something that means something different to everyone? There are people who literally feel safe licking a goddamn toilet seat. Do you want them to define safe? There are people who have put aquariums on their heads to go shopping – do you want them defining safe? Who gets to define safe for everyone, what qualifies them, and on whose authority do they define? I spend my days wandering around looking for a lost cup of coffee – do you want me to tell you what you should think?
These rights cannot be defined by one person. What life means to me cannot be what life means to you. It’s our very differences – between each of us – that make life perfect, and even when it’s not perfect – at least it’s interesting.
What would this quarantine be if you didn’t have people putting pool noodles on their head to maintain social distancing? What would America be if we didn’t have Florida to all feel better about ourselves for, or Ihop to help us feel skinny? It’s the contrast that makes us great. For the noodle hatted brain star, you also have the guitarist from Blink 182 showing UFOs exist. What can be greater than the combination, melting pot, insanity that is our collective? By definition, chaos can’t be defined, and what are we if not the dance of order and chaos?
Do you actually want a perfect life? Do you want to feel completely safe at all times? Do you want everything you’ve ever wanted to happen immediately? Do you want predictable? Do you believe control is possible? (Did you watch Jurassic Park, Titanic, or Westworld? #trending)
I feel like if life was perfect, I would get bored, I would not change or grow. I can’t imagine life without chaos, because the two cannot exist independently.
Am I proud of the fact that I was once tripping on acid alone, at home, talking myself through a bad trip while ripping some Louis Armstrong while a meth head introduced my car to a telephone pole? No…
Do I still get a hell of a laugh when I tell people how on April 1st, I had to call my ex-husband and say “Don’t be mad, I’m tripping, and [Oops I did it Again] crashed my car and I don’t know what to do” then he said, “I really hope this is a joke” and I said, “Nope, my life is a joke and I am the punchline.” Yes. Absolutely yes. Emphatically yes.
On the other side of chaos, it’s a hysterical story of how dumb I was, and a shining example of how much better I’ve become. I could be ashamed. I could be “oh lord, don’t talk about the acid” but who cares? Chaos and sheer, willful ignorance and stupidity led me to this life and this order, and it is great. None of that was safe, but it was still a fun time in my life. It’s still a funny story, and I’m still alive. I got to write that story, I got to define my shitty safety words in my shitty dictionary of life, and I got to live my life, and regardless, I was in the pursuit of happiness. It just took me down a lot of chaotic, unsafe, roads. I had to be chained by a lot of my own bullshit to know how good liberty can feel.
Do I wish someone had stopped me? No. Hell no. If anything, people trying to stop me make me want to do it more. DARE was more like learning what I could try than considering what not to do. If I hadn’t screwed my life up again, I would not have ultimately moved back in with, reconciled with, and moved to Nevada with my no-longer-ex-husband. One of the worst things I ever did to myself” “one of the dumbest things I ever did” was apparently genius on the other side: I changed my life and my dreams came true.
I owe all of my success to my failures, and I feel like everyone should have the right to be stupid so they have the privilege of learning. I realize that comes at a great cost, but which cost is greater? And who gets to decide? Can’t we all decide for ourselves (so we can all just get along)?
I see so many things telling me what keeps me safe, but they don’t know me. They don’t know I spent most of my life trying to kill myself. They don’t know how I stopped that, or what I do to keep myself living Life or what my pursuit of happiness even is. And I don’t know you, and I don’ know them. And I don’t like anyone speaking on anyone’s behalf.
My old definition of happiness came in a bottle or an errant dick. Now it comes in a lot of other ways, and I feel like I earned that right. Not just by being born, but by finding what life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness means to me. By knowing what it means to me, I appreciate it all the more, and I will defend it all the more. I know how much it sucked taking it away from myself. Why should it be okay for anyone to deprive or define safety, life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness for any other? It is self evident and inalienable.
So, when I see a lot of opinions about what is or is not essential, I don’t feel safe. I do feel like my rights are being infringed. I didn’t agree to whoever wrote this dictionary. As a matter of fact, no one asked me. No one asked you.
If I am an addict, and I have overcome heroin with exercise, someone just altered my definition of life and safety for me. Now, without the gym, I find myself slipping. I find myself struggling to use the support network I’ve built for myself. I am isolated, I am afraid, I am a lot of things. I may survive Covid, but what if I am now trading my life one bag at a time again? If I am an alcoholic, and I have found Mass or going to a yoga studio have given me a way out of the bottle. I have survived Covid, but without my non-essential yoga, I started drinking my life away. Maybe they are safe from Covid, but does that make them safe? Maybe they are alive, but did they have their definition of life changed by someone else?
For many, sobriety is a synonym for life. For many, sobriety and all the means that maintain sobriety, aren’t only defined as essential, and life-sustaining, they are the same words as Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness. These examples could stretch to any mental illness and any expression that helps. Walking, Yoga, going for coffee with a friend. All of these things that seem benign and expendable may not be benign and expendable to everyone. Are life and survival synonyms in your dictionary? What does quality of life mean? Who gets to define that for you?
All of this triggers a lot of stubborn resentment in me. It drives me to want to defy, purely because someone else told me so. At the same time, I’m a deeply lazy person. Or maybe, I care very little about a lot of things and the little things I care about, I care a lot. The point is, I don’t have much interest in fighting city hall. But, I also remember “if you do not like what you are reading, write something better!” But what can I say that is different, interesting, etc? I have the attention span of a 2-year-olds and once a word count gets exceeded, I glaze over at my own writing. If I try to put on my non-existing Interwebs Expert hat, crack my knuckles and give y’all some of my Google Fu, I’m yet another noisy expert in an echo chamber of experts.
The only thing I have expertise in is myself. I can tell you what feels right for me, I can tell you what is essential for me, and I can tell you what safe means to me. I can tell you that personally, what makes most people feel safe against the virus, makes me feel unsafe about my Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness. I can say that a life that isn’t free isn’t a life for me. I’ve already lived enslaved by my mind and myself. I chose liberty. I chose sovereignty.
Does this have to do with a virus or a government? Or is this about our nature, our humanity? Where is the line, and who gets to decide? What is worth sacrificing for survival, and who gets to decide?
I think we all have the freedom to define these words for ourselves. I think that’s what freedom is – to write the dictionary of your life that you use to create the story of your life.
Has the pen been taken out of our hands? Who is the author of the dictionary of our lives? Who is the storyteller? Who is the narrator? Who is the author of each of our stories?
Is it wrong for each of us to hold different definitions of safety? Is someone wrong for feeling safer exercising and spending time with friends as opposed to fighting the inevitable depression and suicidality that happen when they do not? Haven’t we all had long journeys to find the ways to be who or where we want to be?
Is it better to have differing opinions? How do problems get solved, and how can we find understanding? How do you respond to being told what to do?
And the best part of all of this is, chaos creates these questions. It creates change. It doesn’t matter what perspective you can argue from, I’m sure any of us can find common ground if we just look. Can we Find the place where we can agree, and ask more questions?
Is it time we all stop worrying so much about writing other people’s stories, definitions, and so forth and we start really, really focusing on who is writing ours? Better yet, can each of us just write our own?
And for the people who disagree with your definitions, your story, etc. just remember