I’m surprised I haven’t told this story before; or maybe I have, but even I can’t find it in the hundreds of thousands of words that comprise this blog. A friend told me a story about his road rage and how he eliminated it; and that has affected how I look at much of the current news – and more.
Think back about thirty years. It was a time of particularly difficult commutes in Seattle. (That must all have been resolved since then. Right? No? Glad I moved to Whidbey Island.) My friend’s commute was constantly a torture of slow moving traffic. For years, he changed lanes at every opportunity that looked like it could get him ahead. Bozos. There were so many bozos getting in his way. The other drivers were doing the same thing. He’d shout, shake his fist, but he was just mature enough to not get into anything more than throwing insults through his open window. A few years go by, tormenting himself this way, twice a day, five days a week. It wore him down. He was a geek and eventually accepted the mathematical truth that he couldn’t control or out-think a chaotic system, chaotic in the mathematical sense. His anger continued though, because he saw how the other drivers were putting the rest of the cars and drivers and passengers at risk. This continued for a few years. And then one day, a day like the rest, he had a breakthrough. Instead of getting angry, he became sarcastic, massively sarcastic. Within a short while, the sarcasm became a source of humor. The unbelievably stupid things others were very seriously doing became entertaining. Watch some stupid maneuver, and instead of shouting, he tried laughing. And it worked. A while passes and one of his jokes reaches back to his geek heritage. He mimicked Spock. Fascinating, Captain. Fascinating how these humans act. Why would they do such things? What would they think something that illogical would be the way to live a life? And then, no joking included, he actually asked himself that question. Why do those people do those things? Take another step. Why do people do what they do? Why do I do what I do?
Channeling Spock brought him a bit of enlightenment. He didn’t see that one coming.
Has the world been weird enough for you, lately?
Climate change, a pandemic, assaults on political and societal institutions, gross injustices. Even if we all were working together towards a common goal, as if we were united or something, it would be a stressful year.
And yet, we aren’t working together. Each of those have people who are adamant that the other side isn’t just wrong, but is delusional, that conspiracies are involved, and that discussion has become pointless. Just looking within the US, tens of millions stand proud of their opposing opinions. It’s almost as if checking facts takes too much time. Opinions are far easier to shout. Opinions don’t require asterisks, footnotes, or references. Opinions define identities.
There’s a lot of shouting going on. There are a lot of unchallenged assumptions. People are reading between the lines when there are no lines to read between, or the lines are mere mimicry, echoes from perceived authority figures.
Why is that? I don’t know. I can guess, but guessing is not knowing. Guessing is in style, right now.
Something I do know is that ‘those’ people are adamant and proud. Rather than debate that, I accept that. Expecting everyone to suddenly agree on the same position is unrealistic – in my opinion, my guess. But there’s a value to accepting ‘they’ will exist and probably persist.
I’ve learned that I am not a particularly persuasive person. If I was, the world would be a better place – isn’t that what most folks think? Don’t try to change what I can’t change, but don’t ignore what I’ve learned.
Climate change, a pandemic, assaults on political and societal institutions, gross injustices. Progress for or against each of these is going to be influenced by the fact that we’re not united. The ideal solutions are good goals to have, but reality will be different.
I won’t get into each of those topics. They’re simply the ones that came mind, came to fingers as I typed. But I will pivot this to personal finance because that is not remote. I have to deal with my finances, my personal finances. For each of those topics and many others, my plan is to assume there will be a struggle for months, years, and decades. The struggles may go on for centuries or millennia, but unless we develop immortality that I can afford, those longer time scales are moot, to me.
I’m glad I live by the Salish Sea. Climate change will happen here, but moderately compared to much of the world. While many expect the pandemic to fade, and it might, I also recall an early article from epidemiologists who labeled this a ‘Practice Pandemic‘. As bad as Covid19 is, it doesn’t carry some of the more worrisome, deadly aspects of their worst case scenarios. (I agree after researching the histories they referenced.) As for political and societal institutions and injustices, the Middle East is a good example of how long we humans can adamantly hold serious grudges for serious reasons. Common, united ground could be generations away.
This year has been cathartic. Disruption and change have been the norm, and that won’t suddenly stop in 2021. At least for the next few years, my personal finance plan, and life plan in general assumes an extrapolation from now. Even if there was some sort of revolution, history shows there is an undercurrent with immense momentum that doesn’t change everything, everywhere, all at once. People have to eat, sleep, and poop. Kids have to learn. (So do adults, in this world.)
I am hopeful about 2021. I expect there will be a slowly-building great relief as at least this pandemic gets under control. Shoppers, businesses, employers and employees, and the government will try to dance the economy back into something healthier. We may not recognize how much better it is until we’re looking back from twelve months in the future. Hopefully face masks will gradually find their way to the back of medicine cabinets, glove boxes (which should be called mask boxes), and junk drawers. Maybe some of our essential workers will finally get a vacation, and a raise.
But, we’re still human. We’re still fascinating. Enjoy the free entertainment.