From the Absurd to the Sublime
The total absurdity of everything each of us experiences
these days is mind-boggling. Think about it. We
have thousands of men and women, torn from their
families and friends, poised for war with Iraq.
In fact, it now seems almost inevitable that we'll
soon be plunged into a full-scale, resource draining,
collateral damaging, body bag counting, potentially
horrifying-in-its-consequences War. A war that most
of us will have absolutely no connection with other
than hearing about it on the evening news. There,
amidst the serial rapists, high-speed car chases,
child kidnappings, drive-by shootings, and middle
east suicide bombings, to which we have become immunized,
will be added the agonizing sights and sounds of
the war in Iraq. And soon, in order to go on living,
we will be deadened to that horror too, until none
of it seems real.
Besides, if we really crave reality, all we have
to do is flip the channel and watch "Fear Factor,"
where real people face truly tough challenges, like
eating worms and lying in a cage filled with rats.
Now that takes courage. And for agony, we
can listen to the wannabe singers on "American Idol,"
or empathize along with "Joe Millionaire" as he
struggles with the painful decision over which woman
he'll choose as his favorite, the one to whom he'll
confess the huge lie upon which the show is based.
For those who can't handle that much reality, we
can still have our dose of killing, bombing, raping,
and terrorism on "Law and Order," "24," "Kingpin"
or any of a dozen other shows "ripped from the headlines,"
all the while taking comfort in the fact that they're
only TV shows. None of it is real. The edges blur.
Reality, for the vast majority of us, begins when
the television is off and we try to conduct the
business of our lives. If my son or my husband were
about to go to War, then that singular knowledge
would indeed affect every aspect of my reality.
Instead, reality is more like waiting on hold for
fifteen minutes listening to a recorded message
about how important my call is to whomever I called,
only to discover that no one really cares about
my problem, or if they care, they can't solve it,
or if they say they can, they're probably lying.
Reality is being subjected to a random audit of
our tax returns, when our entire income was less
than Shaq's pocket change. It's consoling a friend
who's unemployed, while knowing that his chances
(or the chances of anyone else over the age of fifty
for that matter) of finding another job in this
society, in this economy, are close to non-existent.
Our daily realities are too often our daily absurdities.
Like paying almost one-fifth of our yearly income
to a money-sucking HMO, even though we despise the
fact that by doing so we're helping to perpetuate
the corrupt and hopelessly screwed up healthcare
system in this country. Like hearing the President
talk of developing fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles
while knowing that our tax code sanctions $30,000
plus write-offs for buyers of SUVs under the guise
of stimulating the economy. Any idiot knows that
the results of this "stimulus" are an even greater
dependence on foreign oil, and an even more damaging
impact on the environment. But fear not. There is
a bill to extend a $4000 tax credit to fuel-efficient,
environmentally friendly vehicles. It's just that
it's stalled in Congress.
The fact is, in this wealthiest, most powerful,
most compassionate country of ours, the very same
country we hold up to the world as a paradigm, there
are millions without housing, without jobs, without
pensions, without healthcare. But that's O.K., because
we have a broader mission. Even though we are a
trillion or so dollars in the hole, the United States
will NOT let down all those citizens of Iraq who
are beseeching us to liberate them. And we can do
it, thanks to having this incredible business strategy;
it's called deficit spending! So, we'll find the
money to finance a war because, in Bush's own words,
his "budget includes the largest increase in defense
spending in two decades." And if the war makes you
worry more about counter-attacks, rest assured,
because we are also going to strengthen homeland
security. That's right. The Bush budget "nearly
doubles funding for a sustained strategy of homeland
Now, if all that spending makes you fear that our
economy can only get worse, lighten up. Because
Bush has also promised a tax cut for "all" Americans
to kick-start our faltering economy. In fact, according
to our President, 92 million taxpayers will benefit
from the proposed tax cuts (based mainly on eliminating
the taxation on dividend income) receiving an average
reduction of $1,083. Now THAT might really help.
Oh, but wait. Did he say "average?" Well, that could
mean that if one millionaire gets $45,000 and 40
shlubs each get $50, the "average" of their combined
tax breaks is approximately $1,000. So in a way,
Bush is right. In fact, according to the calculations
of the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research
group, people with incomes over $317,000 will save
an average of $13,243 on their taxes, while people
earning $21,350 will save an average of less than
$5 a year.
The overwhelming absurdity of it all tends to narrow
our focus down to the immediate reality of our own
lives: our family, our friends, our co-workers.
Perhaps that's because it seems to be the only realm
in which our reality is actually affected by the
choices we make.
So, when we choose to behave with integrity and
always keep our word, it has a direct impact on
our business. Mostly, it helps encourage our clients
to refer us to others based on their satisfaction
with our service. Sometimes, though, it backfires.
When we play by the rules but the client has thrown
out the rulebook, for example. When we provide a
client with a detailed proposal, a client who has
expressed their intention to work with us, we give
them our best concepts and suggestions in good faith.
Sometimes we'll even do several proposals for that
same client when their budget or their goals change.
Accepting the fact that there are times when that
very same client takes our ideas and uses them to
shop for a lower price is tough to take. But, these
are choices we make that affect our reality; integrity
doesn't pay the bills, but it feels better.
Often our choices involve friends or family. When
we choose to take the time to listen to a loved
one's problems or frustrations, even though we'd
set that time aside for something else, it has an
impact. When we stop work to counsel a friend who
is begging for the truth, or when we choose to let
go of a friend because she cannot bear to hear it,
we are affecting our personal reality. When we choose
to hug our spouse for no reason, or walk our dog
when we'd rather take a nap, or comfort a child
when we planned to watch "Friends," or turn to God
for wisdom and courage, our choices have a ripple
effect that enriches our own personal reality. And
there's nothing absurd about that.
me your opinions at Lynn@netlistings.com