Stephen Fahey: Umbrellas

Many of today’s great thinkers assure us that the statistical safety, security and prosperity of humanity as a whole are improving on a daily basis. They tell us that we have never been better off. And they insist that we have never been happier, despite the now ever present headlines of atrocities and famines and droughts and rampant diseases and bands armed squirrels rampaging through villages. They also insist that Elvis is actually dead and not, in fact, living in Galway under the alias „Iain Dobbs” (of Kinvara), but that’s a story for another day.

Point being, we really are in an era of human history that is, by almost every conceivable measure, far better than ever before. But we are also more connected than ever before. We can see what someone on the other side of the planet had for breakfast tomorrow, before we go to bed tonight – if we so chose. We can also see the online profiles of every scoundrel and nutter who wants to smirch the human species with their own personal brand of violent lunacy – if we so chose. As can we watch a dizzying plethora of fanatical amateur cooks burn the living daylights out of perfectly good steaks for every minute of the rest of our lives – if we so chose.

Yes it’s absurd, but as we are so saturated with information, so over stimulated in every waking second of our lives, that in the end it almost always boils down to personal choice. Either we climb up on top of the positives or fall under the negatives and get smushed like an overripe tomato on a highway. That being said, at any given minute of any given day it is either easier or harder to accomplish the former, rather than become the aforementioned stain. Sometimes it’s Monday and you have a touch of the flu and your cat messed the sofa, again, and it’s just not as simple as hauling your aching carcass up and over the unending tsunami of input. Then, sometimes it’s a random Thursday afternoon and you’ve had a decent breakfast and you won the argument years previous and have a dog that never once urinated on your sofa because it’s not a soulless, seemingly incontinent feline. Such moments make it all the easier to not jump under the tires of the fourth-rate celebrity gossip and your senile neighbours eighteenth post, that hour, about how all government employees are lizards from outer space who secretly rule the world. But then again, sometimes Gerry next door kind of makes sense when you’ve had a few.

Either way, it’s still up to each of us to muster the strength to not become a stain on the tarmac. The best way to do this is, of course, to eat as clean as you can, get your rest, read, spend time with loved ones, get a dog (never a cat), listen to music at least once each day, drink plenty of water and just be grateful for the fact that you’re far better off than 99% of the poor souls in all the so-called news that rolls over you like, well, a truck, every time you walk out of your house.

You can also go the extra mile and make someone else’s day better. Even if it’s just a smile or the simple act of saying hello, you’re doing it. If you can make them laugh, you’re doing it. If you can actually distract them from the dull yet numbing existential truth of a crazy world full of human beings for even a few minutes, you’re doing it. And if you can improve their lives or the lives of anyone, in even the smallest way, you’re definitely doing it. It isn’t easy to put the effort in, even when it’s Thursday afternoon and even when it’s with your own family or friends, let alone Janice from accounting. But it’s worth a hundredfold the investment of your efforts.

There is no cure for this overwhelming torrent of information and it’s only going to continue getting worse, or better, depending on what kind of day you’ve been having. Even entirely cutting yourself off from the world won’t work, because of plastic in the oceans and because of smog in the air and because of the inevitable arrival of tourists who will surely show up on even the remotest desert island just to take selfies for their social media without ever having enjoyed the pleasure of a moment on an island paradise. The advances of the storm are unavoidable, my friend. The fact remains that you and I and everyone else will continue to be increasingly drenched. All that we can do is hold our umbrellas over the heads of those who aren’t as fortunate as us who have umbrellas.

Stephen Fahey

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