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Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten: Tromp-l'oeil still life, 1664
"What strange lives we lead."

Our lives seem anything, everything but still. Even under This Damned Pandemic forcing us to march in place, we continue marching in what we firmly believe to be a forward trajectory, making progress, as the old saying insists, through Dire circumstances. I daily subject myself to a fresh edition of The Times, lest I fall uninformed regarding the form of the latest insults. I scroll my newsfeeds, continuously on the lookout for whatever must be coming next. I know for certain that something's stalking me, stalking us, because it seems, when I take a quiet moment to reflect, that 'twas always thus. Even back in what I now nostalgically recall as simpler times, complex threats continually surrounded me. My immune system's always been on high alert and trending ever higher, it seems, and were it not for my continuously-sounding early alert systems, I might well have already succumbed to one thing or another, some humiliation or bother. The fresh threats seem to invent ways to bushwhack me. Well, not exactly me, precisely, but us excluding me personally, for while we continually feel threatened, only a few of us ever actually fall prey, and it seems as though it's a different collection every day. Our society seems increasingly comprised of entropy spiraling ever more chaotically.

Some headlines chase me away, offering information I cannot quite afford to know.
My life somehow goes on anyway without the latest breaking story out of Somalia, which quite honestly seems an awfully long way away from here. There's always some disturbance closer to home, one I can recognize real ownership in. A fire or fresh pandemonium on some nearby street greets my every inquiry, producing a truly dreadful diary. Terrible things happen right here and most days it seems a wonder that none of it has really gotten me yet, perhaps that's due to my constant vigilance. I can do little to change much of what I sense encroaching, yet I still maintain my watch, as if seeing another story about it might inoculate me against ever having to actually experience each threat, as if forewarned actually were a reasonable defense, lest I live in utter ignorance.

I might have been diligently clogging up what I know with what I'm learning, and I'm feeling as though I might need to become more discriminating. I do not tune in to Fox News because it seems to offer only irrelevance. I don't so much tune out that noise as never even consider tuning in. I have relatives who seem the same way about The Times, as if the newspaper of record weren't worth the paper it's printed on, quite literally beside the point. They deeply distrust the veracity of even the more trustworthy reportage, to create nonexistent threats of their own, for it seems we have become largely defined by the threats we take seriously enough to secure our home against. We have to pick and choose because we could not possibly ever feel secure if we took every threat seriously. Some seem no real threat to me.

I'm lately wondering what I'm pursuing with my continuing vigilance. What reward might it provide me? For after decades of continuing watchfulness, I might feel well informed but I feel no more secure. I wonder if I might have been filling my personal information channel with the equivalent of candy and gum, salacious warning of things unlikely to come while foregoing the benefits of focusing upon things more likely to actually affect me, perhaps even a few topics which could potentially improve the quality of my experience here, rather than crap likely only to encourage a continuing defensive crouch. Maybe I could open up rather than endlessly reacting by shutting down another interest or activity. It could be that I only ever terrorize myself by working so damned diligently to stay informed. I wonder what the flood of Dire warnings has cost me over and above the subscription fees. I could really use a lot more peace and quiet, and how likely is that latest impending riot to affect me? Really?

Friends commit Facebook suicide every day and while I really hate to see them go away, I never really cared to interact with them nearly as intimately as their Facebook feeds quietly imposed on me. We could fall back to appreciative intermittence without utterly undermining our mutual acquaintance. And many of us experience an ever increasing struggle simply keeping up with all the Jonses and the Smiths, let alone people who mean a whole lot more to us. I find that I can barely crack The Sunday Times, which really should be delivered with a little hand truck to help cart the damned thing inside. I separate the sections into three piles, easily a month's worth of reading between them. The largest pile includes stuff I'm confident contains the fewest Dire threats. I read the Book Review first, since it's most likely to contain information of personal interest to me and only very rarely contains anything genuinely Dire. I might get no further before I retire that edition to the recycling pile. I might spend an entire Sunday without anything Dire threatening me. More than relief, this experience might better inform me that everything isn't Dire. We're not, as was heavily advertised back in the mid-sixties, On The Eve Of Destruction, by which I mean, of course, that we
are on that eve but few of us believe the Dire prediction enough to take it altogether that seriously, though we still feel an overwhelming need to continually recharge our sense dread. What strange lives we lead.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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