Kind of strange. This whole business with the unfixable vehicle has got me feeling absurdly vulnerable.
Rationally, this makes no sense. Even with the car business coming on top of the broken ankle (and on top of $500 worth of car repairs in April), it doesn’t put me at any real risk. I’ve got neighbors who’ll pick up my mail or give me a lift to the post office. I’ve got friends who’ll get me to the grocery store. It’s not like I’m going to be stranded in a blizzard by the roadside and get eaten by passing Bengal tigers.
Yet I have to remind myself, “Calm down, Claire. You’re not doooooomed.” What’s really worrisome is the sensation of being lost in a strange world and helpless to do much about it. Of being out of control.
There was a time — not really that long ago — when an ordinary woman or man knew pretty much everything they needed to deal with an average day. Their lives might have been nasty, brutish, short, but they could fix a broken whatever or build a vital thig-a-ma-jig. If they couldn’t do it, their neighbors or tribespeople could, perhaps as a joint effort.
Oh yes, they lived in a world full of unsolved mysteries and random attacks by angry gods. But most could dismiss all that via a few rote rituals and accompanying mythology. No worries. An earthquake knocks the village down? God did it because … oh, you tolerated witches or something. Kill the witches, problem solved.
Okay, it wasn’t quite that easy. But ordinary people knew all the ins and outs of the technology (if you could call it that) that they lived with. Then they filled in the gaps in their knowledge of the wider world with beliefs and myths. Their answers may have been wrong, but they had confortable certainties in places where we have only questions. We know more but (except for the devoutly religious among us) we have no easy defenses against what we don’t know.
Commentariat old-timers bemoan the loss of the good old carbureted Chevy. But even in those days, we were already on our way to complexity beyond the capabilities of Ordinary Joe or Josephine.
It’s far, far, far from original to note that as life got better, individuals became more specialized and now we are to the point of being improved to where we often know nothing. Nothing about the technologies our lives depend on. That’s just a given.
What’s said less often is how alarming that lack of knowledge can be even without the proverbial S hitting the proverbial F.
Yet the alarm is still often nonsense. So my Plan A (vehicle) and my Plan B (walking if vehicle dies) both got knocked out at once. Big deal. I’ve got a Plan C and Plan D. C and D get me closer to my neighbors and friends, inconvenience me and them only slightly, and aren’t bad at all. You, the Commentariat, have already done your bit in Plan C, thank you.
And that’s usually the way life works. A lot of bad things are really no more than inconveniences, and a lot of “bad” things actually turn out to have great, creative aspects. (Also a given.)
I think the scariest thing is realizing how little even the supposed “specialists” know now. The times are beginning to remind me of C.M. Kornbluth’s classic story “The Little Black Bag.”