Over the winter, I lost perspective. I did precisely what I warn against: I let other people — evil, agenda-driven, elitist, even downright moronic people — control my mind.
From the day of the Newtown shootings, I felt braced against some invisible force, as though I were trying to push back against something powerful but at the same time something not there. Something that had to be resisted, that would be resisted, but was too formless to resist.
Eventually, the force took shape, as we all knew it would: the media onslaught of lies, ignorance, and strident demands about firearms (and firearms owners); the gloating triumphalism of legislative control freaks who have a v*te and know how to use it.
But it still felt like trying to fight a malignant blob. You know what I mean. I suspect everyone in history who has fought the foul nothingness of tyranny knows what I mean.
I had no solutions. I felt helpless. This was made worse by the fact that part of my job, part of my being, is to find solutions, to rise above despair and cheer others on.
Eventually, I let this overwhelming sense of helplessness leak into even minor daily nuisances. Every little thing left me feeling as if life was spinning out of control. Here’s an almost embarrassing example.
I hate junk mail. Not so much the clutter in the snailbox, but the databases behind the clutter. I work hard to keep my life junk-mail free. But every few years, some well-meaning person who has my snailing address decides I simply must receive mailings from his favorite magazine/institute/think tank/lobbying group/or obnoxious, hysteria-promoting fundraising group. And of course, you can’t just be on one organization’s list. These outfits will sell you quicker than a pimp sells the hookers in his stable. Somebody put me on a list last Christmas, and just as I was already feeling frazzled, I started receiving two or three exclamation-filled fundraising pitches per day. And these days, with most outfits having gotten smart enough not to include postpaid envelopes, I couldn’t even have the cheap satisfaction of sending nastigrams back at them at their own expense.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to shove the envelopes down the throat of the unremembered person who decided that his priorities trumped my privacy. I wanted to do something to tell these databasing, junk-mailing, money-seeking, hysteria-mongering privacy invaders to get the hell out of my mailbox, my life, and my consciousness … and couldn’t do anything. Their priorities trumped mine.
Yes, that was waaaaaay too much energy to put into a minor nuisance — and a nuisance that will mostly go away again after another round of opt outs. (And returning to a more strict privacy of my address.)
But helplessness begets helplessness. And an attitude of fight-or-flight begets stupid, needless adrenaline rushes amid a perpetual state of low-level stress. And the stress carries over from one thing to another.
So as petty and overwrought as my reaction to junk mail was, it’s the kind of thing that happens when we lose perspective. For me it was junk mail. For somebody else it might be flipping out over a job setback or freaking out over money or (for some real hotheads) taking some minor political slight and turning it into internal warfare.
It’s all unproductive — but all typical of what happens when otherwise smart, capable people fall prey to fear.
I know better. You know better (and many of you have spent the last few months reminding me). But sometimes you get caught up in these things — despite what you know, despite the wisdom of your friends, despite the wisdom of your own heart.
Last week I took a breather. And I use choose that word with care: breather.
I’m going to continue this in a day or two, but for the moment, I’d like to leave you with links to two interesting essays (that have to do with this subject in different, indirect ways). I don’t agree totally with either of these. And the second is a bit on the woo-woo side for folks hereabouts. But … well, both offer something worth thinking about for freedomistas and Freedom Outlaws.
The Jeffersonian Perspective: “Freedom, Liberty, Rights, and Their Limitations”
Calm Down Mind: “The Attitude Required for Inner Freedom”