The despair of distraction

Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

“A very popular mode of protection is distraction. One limits attention to the critical bounds by constantly enthralling it with impressions. — Peter Zapffe, The Last Messiash

Life is a whirlwind of activity.

Why?

Why are we duty-bound to do something?

Because otherwise we’d die?

Possibly, but I think it’s more a case of distracting ourselves from the horror of life or at least the emptiness that can so often suffuse our very soul by not knowing why we’re here and what we’re supposed to do with a life that, whilst everyone calls a gift, isn’t one we asked for or had any say in creating — at least the conception part.

You might say that my take on things is way too bleak — possibly nihilistic (it’s certainly narcissistic) — but, the older I get, the more I realise how much of my life has been taken up with distraction for fear of finding myself desperately alone. I don’t mean in the sense that I didn’t have my family around me (forget my parents: they gave up on me a long time ago) but rather with no direction, purpose or anything of measure with which to hold my soul in rapture.

But of late, perhaps because of lockdown and not having much work, I’ve been driven to confront the rationale of my distraction-obsessed way of being, and as you can imagine, for a man in his 50s, I’ve been forced to ask myself:

what the hell was all that (i.e. life) about?

Not much I’m ashamed to say. Sure, I own a few things, have acquired a modicum of experience (not much wisdom) and have my immediate family, but the truth is I’ve not gone very far. In fact, arguably, I’m back in the same place as when I was 15, trying to work out what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life. It’s no different now, save I’ve no expectation of doing anything. I did for a while think I might throw my weight behind something to do with the climate change movement or upending the dominant cultural narrative but, again, I can see how easily these could or would become a distraction from the more relevant question (no, not the usual heteronormative “Why am I here?”), namely, what does a non-human planet look like? And I include my own birth in that reflection.

In a sense, it’s a question with no answer unless that is I was to question everyone who’s ever been on their decision to keep the human DNA alive but then again, why do we have kids? Or more to the point, how did we not see that allowing (that’s the wrong word by I can’t think of a better one) billions of people to come into the world, driven on by the Capitalist Gods was going to end with our demise? And no, I don’t believe there’s a fix either for the climate catastrophe et al. or the world’s pro-natalist position. The reason? Well, there isn’t one but, and it’s conjecture I know, something feels desperately wrong with our genetic make-up that or we’ve become infected with Darwinian malware.

I realise, as I’ve so often said, that none of this really matters. One day, and one day soon, I won’t be here and my words, lest still my deeds won’t matter one iota. But in the meantime, I keep having to remind myself that I’m stuck to the wheel of temporal misfortune and I must be careful not to lose myself in another explosion of senseless activity in order to give some — any — meaning to what’s left of my life.

Take care,

— Julian

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