“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
At some point between the fall of the towers and Christmas of 2001, it became clear to me that I needed to conduct a searching inventory of my soul and rebuild, almost from the ground up, my sense of who I was and how I thought about the world and the life I was leading. At the time, I knew only that I had been mistaken about a great many things for a very long time and I was long overdue for an extreme makeover of the self.
To do that I used the only set of skills I was ever any good at, writing and reading, and began — in fits and starts at first but then with more dedication — changing into someone different from the person I had been for many years. This is nothing either unusual or dramatic. The reinvention of the self is something deeply American and mordantly dependable. Still, it seemed to me at the time, and it still seems to me today, that I have no choice but to begin and continue with my slapdash renovation until such time that it seems to me to be finished.
All of this is a worn out way of saying that it has become my discipline over the past few years to try and write my way to a new kind of liberty I still only vaguely see. This again is neither unusual nor dramatic. Many others do it. Many more use other tools to accomplish a similar goal; career-change, relocation, materialism, spiritualism, conversion, drugs, alcohol, rehabilitation, Jesus. As Americans, our options for reinvention are numerous with more being minted daily.
We are a restless people in America, a yondering race that seldom finds the here and now good for more than a few years in any one place — in our hearts or on the land. We meet and we part, promising to see each other ‘down the road a piece’, and often we do, but much more often we do not. Christmas card lists grow shorter until we get to the last name and then many go ahead and cross Christ off.
And as we move across the land and through our lives, so we move within our hearts and souls, in our persuasions and in our politics. In so doing, we often come to the belief that people we once thought of as significant are, indeed, disposable in the pursuit of our own personal satisfaction and goals.
Disposable people are just another product of our disposable culture. And the stark truth of this matter is that disposable people are the case much more often than it is not.
We like to say that there is one special person on the earth for each of us, but the truth is that there are probably 10,000 special people on earth for each one of us. It’s not romantic to say so, but with more than five billion people on the planet, the odds loom large against such romanticism. Instead, we come to the realization that there are lots of people hanging about that will do and, in the words of Molly Bloom, “Well, as well you as another.”
But what is desirable to the individual can become disastrous to society. It is a commonplace in our disposable culture to contend that a divorce between two people is a solution to the recurring problem of incompatibility. And this is true. The problem is that when millions upon millions avail themselves of this personal solution, it becomes a disaster to the society. It becomes normality. Divorce, especially the risibly named “no-fault divorce” underscores the disposability of people and demonstrates it to all, old and young. Thus the whole cycle begins anew, growing ever larger than before until it displaces a society built on faith and trust with one founded on little more than a tweet or a share, the thin gruel of iThings, and the desire to be admired through possessions rather than works and deeds. Our souls become smaller than our smartphones data plans and hard drives. We have only so much room in them and to bring others in, some must be disposed of.
Once this disposability is realized inside the self, it is only a small step to the kind of culture that compulsively and without reflection puts material things above people as the real goals in life. After all, you will have lots of people in your life, but only one life — so you’d best grab what you can on the material plane while you can. “You take what you need and you leave the rest.”
One of the crucial questions of our blighted age is whether or not we are correct in regarding human life as something which is, under the proper conditions and self-ascribed definitions, something that really is “disposable” whenever it becomes inconvenient? And in our answer to this, we drop into the “No Fault” bucket not only automobile accidents but divorce, abortion, and euthanasia. This is how we pretend to live now, but it is just life made the slave of death. [click to continue…]