Finding Humility on a Brief Transit Journey; It’s Enough to Make Anyone Shut Their Mouths and Listen [With Help From the Unquantifiable Human Spirit]

There’s a moment between writing and editing an article, near the middle when I’m almost done penning down my ideas, that it occurs to how meaningless a particular idea or opinion might be. It’s often when I’m procrastinating and surfing Reddit, reading through stories of harrowing accomplishments and hardships, that it occurs to me how meaningless my opinion on a certain movie, or song, or even on the state of media really is. It’s a moment where I realize that, no matter what I might say, there is something else that is not only more fascinating, but also more important; an event of such tragedy, drama, and genuine interest that I often wonder where the importance in publishing an opinion piece on pop music and Taylor Swift really lies. To be perfectly honest, I’ll find myself asking whether or not a certain article will be successful, or whether my opinion could possibly matter in a literal sea filled with monstrous ideas and intellects that can, at any given moment, swamp and devour my own tiny iota of particulate.

It’s a moment that doesn’t last for very long, and once the sense of fleeting nihilism passes, I complete an article and publish it, promote it on certain social forums, and wait for my next idea to come to me (or in certain cases, for my next idea to jump into my arms).

However, it’s a powerful moment where I’m forced to consider the direction I’ve been taking, and the next directions I’ll be forced to take, and oftentimes I wonder whether another article about movies, television, philosophy, or psychology will ever be as monumental or meaningful as any of the other innumerable pieces crafted on poetry, society, literature, music, philosophy, or life. It doesn’t produce a feeling of worthlessness, certainly not, as my ego is more than capable of sustaining itself even in the most humble of times, but it produces just that: a feeling of humility and a childlike state of euphoria.

I recently spent a short bus ride talking to a girl (I say girl, but she was in fourth year university, though I do digress) who’s immune system shut down last year, in the wake of colitis; her anatomy continued to break down, resulting in arthritis, and an interesting case of irritable bowel syndrome. I’m not sure if it’s tactless to admit this, but as she was speaking, I found myself thinking that someone needed to tell everyone about her story. She had spent an entire year fighting off an inflamed colon that, at every given moment, was actively trying to kill her. She had been through unmentionable pain throughout the entire year, and had, through some form of humanity, refused to give in to the hurt. I admit, I doubt she’ll ever read this article, and I doubt I’ll see her again, but for a single moment, I found myself deeply humbled.

It’s not like she even made a big deal out of all of it; she was making jokes here and there about her time in the hospital, she talked about the few friends she made, about how loud some of the older patients were, the pain of her IV after two days of treatment and how often it needed to be changed because of how much her veins would hurt, how she often takes her blood transfusion time to take a well deserved nap, about how she spoils herself when she’s sick, and so on.

I couldn’t help but, quite simply, shut my mouth and listen.

At the same time, her experience isn’t the most harrowing; she had colitis that effectively shut down her immune system, but there are cancer and AIDS patients who harrow through the same thing, and what astounds me even more is that these people are even more carefree and amiable than the individual I met on the bus, and these people are the ones who (I’m told) have it far worse. It’s enough to make me wonder what the point of any conflict is when the human spirit is strong enough to make light of a body trying to end itself.

Annoyingly, it’s the most poetic and ironic end; an organism designed to sustain itself by any means necessary then, quite literally, trying to absolutely end itself.

It’s enough to make me wonder what the people actually suffering have to say about their suffering. Instead of having conduits or avatars, celebrities or show-hosts, late night infomercials or daily news bulletins speaking in place of those suffering, what would those experiencing what privileged and entitled humans call “Suffering” say if given the opportunity to talk about their experiences?

Would they make light of their situations, finding humour in the darkest of tragedies? Would they express their joy at being alive, and their joy at being able to live another day? Would they laugh and smile, with a sense of childlike glee? Would they try to avoid the suffering, avoid talking about it, avoid having to ever experience it again?

Human psychology tells me that yes, most of those who suffer would repress and avoid ever having to experience those negative emotions ever again, but the people I’ve met seem to enjoy retelling their stories, they seem to enjoy having people listen to them. In a way, they seem to enjoy reflecting on their experiences. The human spirit, the ability to maintain a semblance of one’s self, the ability to say “I” and understand the meaning behind the word is a fascinating paradigm. Perhaps, however, I’ve just met fascinating people. Perhaps I’ve merely met rarities within the human genome. Or perhaps I’ve met the same humans everyone else meets, but have had more opportunities to (and I don’t enjoy using the word but am relatively forced to) probe them to find out what makes them be.

Honestly, it’s no longer a matter of understanding my privilege and entitlement, or even the good fortune I’ve been given to be able to think the way I do (a first world education is worth so much than anyone would like to admit). It’s a matter of accepting that there is so much more, beyond the scope of what I currently understand, and have seen. It’s no longer a matter of claiming that the world is difficult place, but a matter of realizing that, when it comes down to it, it’s my difficult place. It’s a matter of looking at an image of the Earth and smiling, knowing that this single planet that isn’t even the largest in its solar system, or even the close to the centre of its own galactic arm, is somehow home to a sentient species capable of the most harrowing moments of destruction, calamity, horror, and, simultaneously, the most fascinating and humiliating acts of (for lack of a better word) good.

Granted, it’s a moment; a single fleeting moment, that really doesn’t last for anything longer than five minutes, between the time I finish writing and start editing that I wonder whether any given article will ever mean anything. I used to dread the moment because it would make me feel trivial, but given the circumstances, and given the people I’ve met, it now makes me feel more human and more connected. It gives me a brief kick to the head that grounds me, that inspires me, and that returns me to a more natural state of etre.

Frankly, I think it’s wrong of me to claim the human spirit unquantifiable, because at it’s most basic, the human spirit is sentience. It’s the ability to be, the ability to use the verb etre, and the ability understand what it means for something to be, and for something to continue on being.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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