A Darkened World

I love the joke, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” I love it for its simplicity and elegance, that in seven words it is able to convey a catastrophic contradiction. And, as in all good writing, we the audience fill in most of what it is this (I’ll call it a humorous proverb, I think) is saying, which is as follows: The character, the one doing the beating, has two contradictory beliefs: one quite good, one terribly wrong. The first is that the morale of subordinates matters, that the work done by happy workers is always superior to those of unhappy workers. The second is that people are inherently lazy and the only way to get anyone to do anything is through the threat of physical punishment. And so belief number two creates its own reality, a reality in which belief number one will never be realized.

I have a friend who believes passionately that war is bad. He will always march against war if there’s marching to be done. However, he also believes that the oppressed, whoever they might be, must reserve the right to pick up arms against their oppressors. Which means violence is bad, unless he or someone with whom he identifies is feeling frightened and powerless, in which case he reserves the right to use it. When he marches against wars – which are always fought because one group, no matter how large and well armed, feels frightened and powerless – he is actually marching against himself.

If what we want is based on love, whether it is happy co-workers, peace, or publication, that desire will always come to be unless we hold a contradictory belief, one based on fear. Thus: I love to write, I want to share what I have written, but the publishing world is cold, uncaring, and unfair; only the lucky get to make a living at it. In this way, fear always trumps love. Except it doesn’t. Rather, fear is the only impediment to love – not fate, not luck, not “reality”, only fear – and like all impediments, it is temporary. The desire of love is everlasting, it is the light toward which we travel whenever we open our eyes. Everyone in the world is either marching toward that light, or has turned and is marching away from it, mourning all the while for a world turned dark.

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