Wednesday, June 17, 2020

SNAFU or Utopia?

We show up in this place and this time

Born never asked.

As long as we are here

Might as well

Enjoy the ride

Enjoy the struggle

Be in the fight

Things change

Humankind not so much

Read read read

Work work work

Play play play

Things ebb and flow

Humans remain human

It's all so beautiful and

Ugly and

Sad and

Maddening and

When we are lucky



I was reading the essay What Makes Life Significant  by William James written in the early part of the last century. He's writing about visiting a utopian community called Chautauqua where everything is "perfect". After returning to everyday civilization he realizes how boring utopia is and decides he'd much rather live in the real world than a world where everyone is reduced to some sort of mediocrity for the sake of communal living.

After returning to the real world he writes -
So I meditated. And, first of all, I asked myself what the thing was that was so lacking in this Sabbatical city, and the lack of which kept one forever falling short of the higher sort of contentment. And I soon recognized that it was the element that gives to the wicked outer world all its moral style, expressiveness and picturesqueness,—the element of precipitousness, so to call it, of strength and strenuousness, intensity and danger. What excites and interests the looker-on at life, what the romances and the statues celebrate and the grim civic monuments remind us of, is the everlasting battle of the powers of light with those of darkness; with heroism, reduced to its bare chance, yet ever and anon snatching victory from the jaws of death. But in this unspeakable Chautauqua there was no potentiality of death in sight anywhere, and no point of the compass visible from which danger might possibly appear. The ideal was so completely victorious already that no sign of any previous battle remained, the place just resting on its oars. But what our human emotions seem to require is the sight of the struggle going on. The moment the fruits are being merely eaten, things become ignoble. Sweat and effort, human nature strained to its uttermost and on the rack, yet getting through alive, and then turning its back on its success to pursue another more rare and arduous still-this is the sort of thing the presence of which inspires us, and the reality of which it seems to be the function of all the higher forms of literature and fine art to bring home to us and suggest. At Chautauqua there were no racks, even in the place's historical museum; and no sweat, except possibly the gentle moisture on the brow of some lecturer, or on the sides of some player in the ball-field.
If you aren't familiar with the acronym snafu it comes from the soldiers in WW-II and was one way they (and the people back home) dealt with the nature of the world and the people in it during those particular trying times. Private Snafu cartoons were released for soldiers and civilians viewing pleasure.

The main point being that struggle, trouble and fuckedupitness are not abnormal in the human experience - they are the human experience. Whatever you do; whether it be to enjoy that absurdity, let it beat you down, or cause you to thrive - is your choice.

Teddy Roosevelt touches on this idea in his Citizenship in a Republic speech -
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.