A small angel with a smile which only a child can make so sweet
September 2015. A small angel washes up dead on the Turkish shores. The most sacred of all had just been trampled by the powerful, the greedy and the fool. He was two years old.
He was wearing a red T-shirt, probably the Mystery Space Riders T-shirt he wore in another picture of him cheering in a playground, as only a child can cheer. He was radiant. It might have been his favorite T-shirt. It became his shroud.
“He is in a better place now”.
It depends of course on your belief in an afterlife or the lack thereof. One thing is for sure though.
We are in a worse place now.
There are household names and less known names signing articles on this platform. Maybe they only write to promote candidates for local elections. Maybe they only write to promote playlists and movies they played or watched in 2022. Maybe they only write on how to write to make a couple of bucks. Maybe they never read anything published out there. Maybe they just don’t care.
But maybe they do.
So here it is, sealed in a virtual bottle and entrusted to the meanders of an ocean of electrons and bits, my rant for the new year.
Love the children in your life, whether they are yours, or just nephews, neighbors, or complete strangers you happen to walk by on your way to work. It will make you a better person and this world a better place.
Apart from the fact that they do not exist, perfect humans would still have one real flaw, that of being perfect.
A parallel with music
Chances are you have heard of musical notes. Of course you have! You might have even heard them too if you listen to music. They’re called C, D, E, F, G, A, B, or more poetically, Do, Ré, Mi, Fa, Sol, La and Si, in French.
Now here comes the interesting part. Every note can be associated to a major chord, by simultaneously playing the root note, C for example, the major third which happens to be the E for this example, and the perfect fifth, the G.
The root. The third. The perfect fifth. And this is why the major chord sounds, well, perfect to the ear. Maybe a little bit too perfect.
What if we tried to play something a bit more flawed, just to see how it would sound? Something with a seventh, rather than a perfect fifth? Or even a ninth? What if we tried to play a C major 7 instead of a C major? How about a Bm7? A Cadd9?
There are many flavors to a given chord actually, and if you take the time to listen to some of them or try to play them on a piano or a guitar, you will come to realize that a perfect major chord sounds quite dull next to most of these flavors. The “flaws” make them way more interesting.
A C major is just happy. Lame happy.
A C minor is sad. Lame sad, but still an improvement over perfection: sadness is a more interesting feeling to explore than lame happiness.
A Bm7 would trigger a mix of optimist melancholy and hopeful nostalgia I would say.
A Cmaj7 would send you surfing in the clouds, comfortably numb, with a very distant afterthought to the vicissitudes of your human condition.
I can only speculate on the feelings a C7sus4 would trigger.
The flaws which make us perfect
Same goes for us mere mortals. You see, apart from the fact that they do not exist, perfect humans, like major chords, would still have one real flaw: they are perfect. They are boring. This is why people displaying their perfect faces, hair, bodies, homes, and lives on social media are annoying at best.
It is partly through our flaws and idiosyncrasies that we become interesting to our fellow humans. A scar. A birthmark. A weird hobby. A strange name. A one-off characteristic which hooks people for reasons they do not consciously realize.
Some of these actually define who you are. Cyrano’s nose and his irreverent poetry. Django Reinhart’s fingers. Rick Allen’s left arm, the one Def Leppard’s current drummer lost in 1984. Hellen Keller’s eyes, her ears too.
If a large nose, a missing arm, missing fingers or blind eyes and deaf ears are flaws in the eyes of the world, then God knows how perfect and flawless they have made Cyrano’s poetry, Django’s music, Rick’s drumming or Hellen’s speech.
Some others become a tag, a moniker. The Edge’s beanie or Bono’s sunglasses. Freddie’s moustache. Brian May’s PhD in astrophysics. Churchill’s cigars. But also your dad’s 1965 Chevy Impala he’s been driving around the block everyday for the past 57 years.
And some are just pleasant traits, rays of sunshine in a dull day, like your neighbor’s French accent or your colleague’s infatuation with Sidsel Endresen, and the many more interesting features of the many more illustrious unknowns you have yet to meet. All weird chords, all m7, add9, sus4 and the likes.
A word of caution though, you can only find the major chords on Instagram.
All the others you can hear playing through the lives of real people. Flawed people. Beautifully flawed.
Brothers. Sisters. Fellow souls in this valley of tears we call Writing. I read to you from an apocryphal gospel according to the self-proclaimed prophets of the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Writing.
Thou shalt dump daily excrements on the flock of readers for they are not worth the time you could be spending to produce quality articles. Quantity is enough. Follow the quick buck.
According to these false prophets, writers are in essence business hunters who must produce as many low quality articles as humanly possible, as fast as possible, hunting for more reading time and more dollars.
Now here’s the truth, according to the gospel of your inner guts, because yes, you already know what I am about to tell you.
You don’t write because you have something to say. Everyone has something to say, anyone can dump excrements. It takes more than that to write stories which can speak, which can sing.
Writing stems from an incurable itch, an unquenchable thirst, a void impossible to fill. You write because the itch is unbearable, the thirst is too potent. Because the void is too terrifying to contemplate.
As for the readers, well, they read for the same reasons compelling you to write: to quench the thirst, to fill the void. If your writing does not quench thirst, it is worthless at best, or rather smelly vomit more often than not.
The false prophets dumping worthless stuff on the masses and measuring success by the buck can only amount to what they write. They are not writers. They are dumpsters. They only know how to dump off the shelf fertilizer.
Mind you, dear reader, dumping can indeed generate quick bucks.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
Unalienable right N°1
Life. Self-evident. Seriously?
How can the right to life be regarded as a self-evident truth without affordable healthcare? How can it be when the major stakeholders in the healthcare journey are private compagnies seeking profit? Is the conflict of interest not obvious?
Healthcare should not be a commercial activity subject to the laws of demand and supply. It should be organized by a neutral body, the state for instance, as it should be driven not by profit but by the common good.
And we are not even addressing the interpretation of the second amendmentand its dire consequences on Life as an unalienable right, consequences which we have just witnessed again. Innocent children are paying the price of this anachronism of the 18th century which still holds its ground today, in spite of logic, in spite of faith, in spite of the god in whom the nation puts its faith, as George’s dollar bill seems to proclaim.
Or do we only trust Him with the markets self regulation and leave the rest to guns?
Unalienable right N°2
Liberty. Unalienable right. Right.
How can there be liberty in darkness? How can you be free without the light of an education you can afford? If your mind is constantly being kept in the dark, the only liberty you have is to fall for the gaslighting of big corporations and crooked politicians.
A fall, that’s exactly what it is.
You are free to choose exactly what other have already decided you should choose. And your choices will alienate your unalienable right to pursue happiness.
Unalienable right N°3
The pursuit of Happiness. Not yours, someone else’s.
In the dark, you will vote against Medicaid even if you cannot afford your medication, the dentist, or your cancer treatment.
You will vote for guns to protect the children whose lives will be taken away by this so-called remedy.
You will vote against unions and for the big corporations at the expense of your own rights to reasonable work hours, fair compensation and fair treatment.
You will believe that markets auto-regulate themselves, for the good of free entreprise, which, granted, is probably not an entirely false assumption, except markets do not “regulate” themselves as much as they “correct” themselves when a speculation-bred bubble bursts. That’s a much steeper process which leaves most people dying on the side of the road.
You will truly believe you are happy, living the American Dream one paycheck at a time, barely making ends meet, loosing your teeth and dragging your untreated and undiagnosed diabetes from your current hassle to the next one.
Enough with the socialism scarecrow
There si nothing inherently socialist in affordable healthcare, affordable high quality education and gun control. These do not undermine free entreprise and free markets. They do not hinder any rights.
Without them, the unalienable rights enumerated in the declaration of independence and supposedly upheld by the constitution will fall.
First, let me set things straight with the title: some choices are obviously wrong. You can tell right away. You would be ashamed to even consider them. In this sense, they are not exactly choices.
Some others are a bit less obvious to figure out. For those, God, or the cosmic dice, or evolution, whatever you believe in, has provided us with an infallible compass. It is the inner voice telling you not to buy the Porsche. The one compelling you to study for the mid-terms instead of going out for drinks.
You can choose to ignore it, but you know you should not. Still you do sometimes and you hide behind rubbish like “You Only Live Once”. I know I have, many times over.
I’d like to argue these are not choices either. With a bit of inner listening, you can figure out what to do, and you end up realizing there was only one path to walk, and it did not involve a Porsche. Early enough or too late, that is the real question.
A sea of hesitation
Apart from the non-choices above, remains an ocean of hesitations. These are the real choices, the ones which have no true or false answer in general. Which job offer should I take? Who should I vote for? Do we go for a third child or do we stop at two? Medium or Vocal?
Standing on the crossroad, who’s to tell if left is better than right, especially not knowing where the roads lead? In many if not most situations, the road itself does not know where it leads. So, which is better?
In my opinion, adjectives like good, bad, right or wrong and their superlativesdo not apply to such choices. Good and bad are outcomes in this instance. They depend not on the choice itself, but on the course of actions one takes after the choice is made.
One has also to keep in mind that there are many dependencies to the choice which are out of one’s control. You take left. It is raining. Your car skids and ends up in a tree. Had you taken right, you could have avoided the accident. Or could you have? Whose to say? The road was slippery in both cases, and you might have ended up in an even worse situation. The fact is, you just do not know.
Warning, geek stuff ahead!
You see, the universe is governed by laws which simply prevent us from figuring out precisely what the future holds.
Here comes the geek part, brace yourselves!
Classical physics teach us that we can model the behavior of a system with a set of differential equations, which, given the right initial conditions, should allow us to predict the state of a system at any point in time. However, the devil is in the details. You need to figure out precise enough initial conditions, if you want your predictions to be accurate, for instance, the exact position and initial speed of the system you are trying to model.
Practically speaking, you could predict the exact position of an oscillating pendulum at future times for long enough. You would not be able to predict the path of a ball in a flowing river beyond a few seconds, and that is assuming tremendous calculation power to solve the differential equations behind the prediction.
It gets even more complicated when we move to less classical physics. Quantum mechanics teach us that it is not possible to know with arbitrary high certainty the position and speed of a particle at the same time. If you figure out its exact speed, you lose its position. This is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
In a nutshell, no one can predict the precise outcome of a choice. The laws of the known universe will stand against such a prediction.
So how to make a choice? Well, if your inner voice is silent and you do not feel inclined towards one of the alternatives, heads or tails should be a good enough method. You cannot be wrong. Not when making a choice.