The comic Steven Wright said, “I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, ‘Hey, the sign says you’re open 24 hours.’ He said, ‘Yes, but not in a row.'”
Similarly, I always found the 1990s business concept of “continuous improvement” existentially exhausting. Even God took Sunday off—and I bet he knocked off a little early on Friday, too.
Then we started hearing this smarmy term, “lifelong learning,” always intoned by mincing jagmuffins who called themselves “lifelong learners.” Fuck them, and the bookmobiles they rode in on.
And now here I come, getting ready to publish a book next spring (available now on pre-order at Amazon.com!) called …
My question is, is the Effort to Understand truly Sisyphean? Or can a fella take a little breaky-poo? Say, between now and Election Day? You know, just to see how it all turns out, so I can figure out who and what it is I have to make an effort to understand, and so I can ascertain out how urgent the effort is?
And so I can spend these next eight weeks focusing on honestly but firmly advancing my own point of view, earned over a half-century’s efforts, in the meantime. Maybe helping other people make more of an effort to understand me! Or maybe just doing what I can to give my own choir something catchy to sing.
Then, after the election—no matter which way it goes, no matter how everyone reacts—I promise to make another effort to understand. a million more efforts to understand. And effort to understand you and you and you and you. PROMISE!
But right at this particular moment, I feel like I’m just about the only dumb motherfucker I know who is even trying to hold back from blurting, spurting, reverting to type. Everybody else—even those on the right who were making sounds of peace and reconciliation in the heat of George Floyd, even those on the left who who have expressed regret for the effects of their own incendiary and irresponsible rhetoric—everyone seems to be digging in, cleaning their guns, gathering ammo. I feel like a conscientious objector in a Trench of Bayonets asking if anyone wants breakfast.
Maybe this just isn’t a season for understanding. Maybe this is a season for fighting—and maybe the season for understanding will come, after.
Next spring, perhaps.