This gentle dumbass does not generally truck in certainty; there’s a bit in The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo’s talking to some Elves who give him unhelpful advice, and we get the following:
‘And it is also said,’ answered Frodo: ‘Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.’ ‘Is it indeed?’ laughed Gildor. ‘Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.’
By this, I mean that I am too aware of my own limitations to be overly sure of much, and also that I, like the Elves, am something of an unhelpful dick, more suited to illustrate and contrast possibilities than offer guidance. (There’s a reason I’m drawn to Tarot, which most readers agree isn’t about what will happen, but about what could and why.)
HAVING SAID THIS WISHY-WASHY AND LEGALLY EXONERATING HORSE-CABBAGE, I present this non-comprehensive, non legally-binding list of things on which I would gladly stake my good name, fortune, and the secret of how I got this terrible scar.
1. Love is real and we are more than carbon and chemicals,
but the physical universe around us is a machine made of knives and glass and incomprehensible cold, and it neither knows nor cares that we exist.
There is, as the man said, not ‘one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy’ that occurs naturally in the universe; they’re real, but manufacturing them is our job. As the other man (who is a bear) said, “I believe in a universe that doesn’t care and people who do.”
2. Whenever possible, presume ignorance before malice.
Though there does come a point where ignorance, if willing and profound enough, becomes malice by dint of doing the same amount of damage; see every relationship you’ve ever had with an employer.
3. If you have a single breath left, you have time to become a better, kinder, more patient version of yourself.
It may not be in time, and it may not be enough, but sometimes it’s all you can do and it’s always worth doing. I believe in you, and so does Squirrel Girl, and of the two of us you should be much more worried about disappointing her.
4. Humans may have a spiritual nature if such a thing should exist, but we are animals with naturally-evolved animal programming that sometimes contradict the ways in which we want to and believe we should conduct ourselves; that dissonance will often feel bad, but our ability to choose is what separates us from the rest of the animals.
There is an upper limit on the number of people we can truly understand to be human in the same ways we are, but we can choose to have love and compassion for them even though our ape-brains tell us they aren’t real. The science is still out but all signs point to us probably not being neurologically wired for monogamy, but we can still commit and make a meaningful life with one person if that’s what’s right for us. Violence against those who challenge us or ring our fear-bells is so, so easy and fast and satisfying and feels 100% correct in the moment, but we can choose the handshake instead of the fist. This ability to choose, and not be bound to our basest instincts, is what makes us human; it doesn’t always feel good, but if doing the right thing always felt good, everyone would do it.
5. If everyone hates you, sleep; if you hate everyone, eat;
if you hate yourself, shower.
(Your exact configuration may vary, but the parts are universal and will fit all models of meat-chassis; customize as necessary.) And remember: