The Tragedy


12/2002: I found this file from 2000 lying around. Since I had just posted the not-so-positive "Lamentations," I decided I could post this too. So I cleaned it up a bit (in the two years since the original writing I've had more reason to be bitter), and here it is.
People say I'm bitter. I know I used to be die-hard cynic, a complete pessimist, who saw through darkened vision.

I used to see only the bad things. There were a few good things, but they were far removed in the realm of mathematics and physics, or the beauty of a sunset. I liked dogs more than people (still do sometimes). I was mired in cynicism and existential despair.

These days I see more good things. I see a certain spirit in stories, in art, in inventions; I see that spirit in people, even sometimes in some companies, in technology. The spirit I see is one of dedication to a cause, standing up for justice, compassion for the less fortunate, determination in the face of adversity, the will and passion to bear painful burdens and still keep going (even at a crawl), opportunity for growth, child-like wonder at something marvelous, vast leaps in potential and abilities, growth into new unexplored areas, learning, sharing, helping, ever climbing....

But I'm still bitter. Why? Because the more I see the good, and just how wonderful and awesome it is, the more I see how badly we corrupt it.

Look at some of what we are given.

Small companies where employees are friends, who can rely on each other, who go to each other directly when there are problems, where inefficiencies are worked out. Pain, tears, suffering is still there, but overall, there's a dream, a vision, and the guts to follow through.

A new technology that can disseminate information and education throughout the world. A way for people with common interests to meet and learn from each other despite geographical or cultural boundaries. A way for friends to keep in touch. A way for societies to learn from each other. Sure, there are some misunderstandings, mistakes, and wrong messages, but there's still the joy in reaching out to others and being able to teach something new that you honestly believe is worth teaching.

Look at the wide green Earth itself, brimming with life. Animals, plants, places to explore, oceans, mountains, forests, deserts, jungles. Vast. The source of sustenance, stability, the very air we breathe. It's not perfect: there're diseases, natural disasters, predators, death, rot, blight, but still, what a vast and amazing planet we have.

Look at the human being. One of the cleverest minds on the planet. Some inner recognition of the existence of right from wrong (as C. S. Lewis noted, how often do people say "that's not fair"?), the ability to alter the environment, build spaceships, communicate with fellow humans halfway across the world, the ability to comprehend infinity and to plot the course of the planets. We can envision a society where people care for each other, and we can teach our children to strive for that goal. No one's perfect, and the world is filled with all the little and big problems of ego and pride and error, but even a "lost soul" has been known to turn around and become a saint. And religion has the potential to turn us away from all the hurt we do, and transform us into people who really love and care for each other and live by higher principles.....

All of these things, blessings heaped upon us. If you don't believe in blessings, then at least perhaps you can see the potential in the above, what things could be like, how far we could go.

So, what do we do actually do with it all?

I've known for a few years now that good companies often get bought out by bigger and worse companies, or just through mistakes in planning or hiring turn into selfish, inefficient, and shallow places. But then I saw for myself how young fresh companies with lots of potential get driven into the ground by profit-motivated or egotistical managers and directors up and down the chain of command. I've seen the process of increasing red tape and megalomania, where managers divide the company to strengthen themselves, where managers hire "cute" but clueless people, where big problems land on someone's desk and rot there without action, where powerplays rule the day and insecurity is the ultimate motivator. Bad decisions are made top-down, forced down the throats of the front-line peons who know how stupid the actions are, yet who are as powerless to change their leaders as an abused child is powerless to swap parents with someone else.

I've known for a few years now that new media, like TV when it first came out, will get seized upon by money-grubbing people and be transformed into a bottom-line-oriented, profit-motivated industry of 99% crap and 1% quality content. But I saw the reality of it. The Internet today is loaded with "Make Money" scams and offers of pornography (the more shocking the better); one can hardly check one's inbox without getting another piece of junkmail from yet another person trying to make a quick buck from you ... where once there were universities and individuals constructively sharing data and ideas, now there are companies big and small scrambling to overload your senses with flashy and titillating graphics so that you'll be tempted to spend money on them.

And our planet and its potential? I've been quite aware for years that we are abusing our planet and ourselves. But then it really struck me how some of the most healthful food - fish, high in healthy fat and quality protein - is becoming nigh unusable from our pollution and over-fishing and over-development. Once-grand forests are being reduced to strip malls, majestic animals are being driven to extinction, and the very air we breathe and water we drink are being filled with toxins. We are changing our own climate and don't know how to stop. Powerful industries have even sabotaged efforts to introduce cleaner and more efficient energy or forms of transportation. We're literally killing ourselves and everything around us - doesn't this bother anyone?

And spiritually? As for how we treat each other, well, I knew that was pretty shabby, if not downright criminal. I knew that as a child. As an adult I now see and hear people who say that it's OK to harass others who don't fit in with the group ... and elsewhere in the world people are saturated with the next version of that philosophy, the one that says it's OK to kill others who disagree with your point of view.... There are wonderful storytellers of all forms of media, books and film and music, who want to teach of hope and struggle and growth, but the masses want to see more violence, more blood, more sex instead. I hear the despair in people's words as they look around at the society gone wrong and can only say they can do nothing about it. And religion? The great hope of mankind? Why is it pointing fingers and damning everyone who is "different"? Why is it the first to blame and the last to listen? Why is religion on the front line of so many bloody wars?

We have been given treasure, but what are we doing with it? We are squandering it. We are wasting it! In our preoccupation with selfishness, greed, and our insatiable lust, we are turning gold into lead, pearls into powder, potential into a prison.

God help us, because we have the keys to Heaven, but we insist on locking ourselves out.


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