Tuesday 2nd June 2020
My birthday in lockdown, secreted from all, except my friends K and C who sent sweet cards (flamingo on a palm-print armchair) and family who Zoomed for 3hrs. Until summonsed out by J who knew, who went out and bought prosecco and cider and Maltesers. Drunk within minutes, watching the Exorcist, then more existentialism as Moana rattled on in the background.
We arrived to the conclusion, head pounding, 2am, that contentment eludes all. No matter how rich, how powerful, how beautiful, society deems us to always battle for more. And when we reach our El Dorado if at all, it’s empty after. That we are living the lifestyles of the millionaires of old -warm, safe, clean, educated, travelled, clothed, fed and cushioned, unriddled with smallpox or gonorrhoea or blasphemy or starvation or state control or war or workhouse, yet still unworthy.
Think of those at the top: the famous, indentured without the freedom to go out or speak openly, constantly battling the downward pull of nature, screentime and Hollywood churn. The billionaires working 15 hours a day, politicking into the night with a cold sandwich from the fridge, while their pampered hubbies, surrounded with everything you could ever want, realise in the empty foil that the absence of struggle, of hope, is despair. The aristocrats and politicians playing out their tenures gladiatorially, rife with intrigue, betrayal and trying to keep the beast of control always fed. Always the want, the yearning.
That that fairy tale princess operated a dictatorship. Where no one ever lives happily ever after. And our horizons are never clear. When was the last time anyone ever saw the sunrise from a flattened plane?
Yuval Noah Harari points out that in our hunter gatherer days we were experts in our field, with bigger brains and marathon-runner bods showing everything our biology, evolution, psychology and DNA had been attuned to for millions of years. That we worked 35 hr weeks rather than the 45 hrs today (not including commuting), or the 80 hr ones for the vast majority of humans that are the Developing world. That you set out at 8am to forage till lunch, then played it out till dinner time, launching hunts one day out of three. That you were rarely alone or felt lonely, sharing families and thus resources. You didn’t have plates to wash up, laundry to iron or bills to pay, before the great scam that was agriculture, multiple babies, famines, ownership, edicts, wars, cities, riots, obesity.
The meaning of life is not happiness, which is a creature we scare and chase, but will approach when you’re not looking. Rather it’s about just getting through it with less hassle according to A. To me, it’s about the once certifiable truth that we will end one day, in the best possible way. And love. And never feeling embarrassed -a detail added by my cousin.
Praise ye, praise ye. To the perpetual struggle. Life, the way they’ve sold it from storybooks to screentime, is a scam. As a great war journalist once said, the journey is the destination.