Trial and Error: A Solution Four Thousand Years in the Making

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls.”
–Thomas Paine

Having written so on the eve of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine was right – those were times that tried men’s souls. Nevertheless, when you consider the almighty, objectively infallible bigger picture, his words are misleading. Peoples’ souls have always been tried; they’re being tried right now. All of the times are the times that try men’s souls.

The astounding fact of the matter is that, in this modern age, we’re not so much being tried by a callous and indecisive nature – we’re being tried by our own embittered and faltering peers.

So if you should still desire happiness, gender-neutral reader, you would do well to go live in a box. Best to be alone in the truest sense – sitting blindfolded, with earplugs in, duct tape over your mouth, and naught but your pulse to play with.

Of course, that’s just the ideal solution – it’s fairly impractical, when you get right down to the heart of it. If ever you had to remove the duct tape – and you would have to – it would more than likely flay your skin. The earplugs would chafe your ear canals. The blindfold would keep you from seeing the time. Your box would eventually rot away, and then what would you do? Get another box? Nice boxes are not so easy to come by.

The more pragmatic solution – on pain of death, we should stop smiling. We’re already on our way.

If you take even a cursory glance at human history, it would soon become clear that, while we have had our momentary successes, on the whole, we have not gotten along all too well – in fact, success itself has been at times the very instrument of our undoing. At the risk of belaboring Aesop’s fable, as a species, we are wolves; as individuals, we are wolves in poorly tailored, unconvincing
sheep costumes.

You’re a wolf, and I’m a wolf. We both know it, but neither of us will admit it. So we dance until one of us eats the other, only to realize that sheep costumes don’t make wolf meat taste like flanks of lamb. We are shrewd and unhappy rogues.

But it’s not all bad.

A closer look at human history will reveal a stark dichotomy.
Compared to the present, the past is a lame piece of soggy bread. We’re good – at least compared to the thousands of years of brutal butchery, artless oppression, and spilled milk. Trying times indeed.

Apparently, then, we’ve done something right. Regardless of what atrocities have happened in the past, then, this gives us a definitive solution to the problem of strife: Stay the course.

In the interest of tomorrow, keep your jollies to yourself.

We ought to continue to stigmatize and ignore our peers – their friendliness must only be a front for poison and guile. We should persist in provoking drama, fanning the flames with an acid breath, watching the sparks catch. Indeed, lets judge away; the world is our domain to define, discriminate, denounce. Let no man, woman, or child be safe from our cold and arbitrary antagonisms. Melodrama, the plague of the prosperous, must ferment and burst out as an inflammatory plague, turning social life political. Bitchiness must continue to break life down into a fetid mire of stagnant sludge.

We must take everything with the utmost Siberian seriousness, asserting beliefs as positive truths, opinions as facts; no mistake is forgivable, no transgression forgettable.

More than anything, heed the following:
It is imperative that we take everything personally. It’s raining on our parade; poor drainage was put in place by cosmic forces to unmake our hubris in some small way. We should all just go lay facedown in the mud.

Let us not smile too much, lest we change our strategy and ruin our good fortune.

Let us not laugh too much, lest we enjoy life too much to continue the struggle.

Let us continue, ultimately, to be wolves.

But then, there are some who would joy to see a world recreated from only the bones of this one: their world would be a beautiful sphere of ornamented cubicles, each cradling a peaceful package of one – one person, content in isolation, satisfied in solitude, soaking in the balmy darkness, absolved of everything emotional. An intemperate light would no longer betray our faults, reveal the dust of our imperfect existences. Nothing need be said, written, or thought. This is the ideal solution – living in a box. But it’s bullshit.

We’re social creatures. It will never work.

Nevertheless, it’s altogether senseless to expect each other to be reasonable, let alone sympathetic to our peers; we are obviously incapable, and, more often than not, our beliefs dictate that we be unflinching, unmovable, unshakeable in our foolishness. At the least, we have proven ourselves unwilling. So let us continue to live alone among the masses.

One can feel the stony and lifeless glances of others. It brings a refreshing chill to the soul – a relief from the heated drama elsewhere. Apathy and escapism cushion the hardest, sharpest beds of reality. One can sense the transitory nature of our laughter. It is a wheeze in company of laughter at its best.

Unlike Thomas Paine, we are not in the midst of a political
revolution, but we might here and now revolutionize the idea of revolution. We shall protect the status quo from aberrant developments and stay the course.

In the interest of tomorrow, keep your jollies to yourself.

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