Small Wonders: Isn't that us in a nutshell?

October 21, 2011|By Patrick Caneday

It is 4 a.m. as I write this. Awakened by God knows what at 3:30 a.m. Such is my designated writing time now.

Coffee and keyboard before me, I scan the headlines in hopes of finding something with which to coerce 800 moderately engaging words from my misty brain. And here's what I see:

Racism, bigotry, social injustice. Economic instability and disparity. Vicious, spiteful political sniping and gamesmanship. Tanking moral values. Laziness. The rich and poor both taking advantage of “the system.” War. Famine. “Fill in the blank” addictions and disorders. Child and elder abuse. Divorce and horrific custody battles. Rage.


When I tell people I write a newspaper column, their first response is usually, “I've heard of newspapers, but I had no idea they still existed.”

Then they ask what I write about. I tell them I like to find a subject, any subject, and expose some shred of hope, some kernel of goodness in it. But this gets hard during campaign, war and pestilence seasons, which are year-round now.

There is something wrong with us, something deeper than what we are seeing on the surface. I've known addicts in my life, self-destructive souls who can't stop taking others down with them. And always, every single time, the addiction is just a symptom of something else; the sign of grease belying the grime creature behind the stove after so many years of neglect.

That’s what I see when I scan the news.

The ills of society, and add what you want to my list, are just a symptom, a tragic warning of something buried so much farther down in our collective and individual DNA. It’s a species-level anomaly that goes by many names: greed, avarice, covetousness, selfishness, self-centeredness, self-absorption.

In broad strokes, it is our inability to think of others before ourselves; our all-consuming craving to get what I want first and at all costs. All of the world's ills are driven by this.

Our lives are spent in constant battle. Day by day, the waves of self-satisfaction in us crash against the jetties that keep us from attaining our political, economic, societal, spiritual and corporeal desires. This is the human condition: fighting back that current of self-absorption that threatens to sweep us away with tsunami force.

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