Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude - A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.

Now that I've thoroughly depressed all of my friends with these tales of CNN ticker woe...

Somebody told me once that I have schadenfreude. That I have it, like it's a disease. But I was misdiagnosed. I have something, that much is true. A drive that makes me pass on the worst of the worst stories, as if they're proof of what my gut has been telling me all along. But it's not schadenfreude.

I know exactly what it is. It's the residue of god. Or god consciousness rather. See, I once had a thriving god concept pulsating in my brain. It was shoved in there when I was a little boy, without my permission, and kept alive through a regimen of guilt and doctrine so confusing that arguing against it was beside the point. That god consciousness long ago slithered away, when a little bit of confidence and common sense made me an inhospitable host to it. But its shell, the salty residue, stays behind.

The result is that, for instance, when I read a story about a woman who sawed her 1-year-old daughter's arms off and greeted the paramedics with hymns of Jesus playing softly in the background while her dead daughter lay in the next room, my natural reaction is to e-mail the nearest Christian and ask them if they don't mind mentioning that story to god at the next scheduled prayer session.

Why do these cruel anecdotes turn for me into anger at a god I don't believe in? Because the residue never quite goes away, it's always there in phantom form. Life's everyday brutalities are only a philosophical problem if you make them one, by letting the god concept in the door. And for me, subconciously at least, He never left. And so I get angry, without knowing why, and tell everybody I know about the proof I just found. The proof that the creator story is really just the world's greatest story of abandonment.

I don't know what's up with me lately. I'm wigging a little. Kirst and I getting our cars totaled weeks apart, because of the simple fact that the roads are full of drivers who should not be on them, got it started. Then yesterday, coming home southbound on 1-75, I watched some high schooler in his parent's SUV nearly smash into the line of cars accordioning in front of him, slam on the breaks, fish tale 180 degrees in a cloud of burning rubber into my lane, and come to a dead stop about three yards in front of me. My heart was pounding. All of traffic had come to a dead stop behind me from freeway speed and I had just nearly been in another major accident. This time, with Claire in the car. The car I just bought a few days ago to replace my last one. I watched as the teenage driver came to, blinking and trying to get his bearings. He hadn't been looking forward. Maybe he had been texting, or playing with his ipod. I don't know.

So that was yesterday. Today, as it poured rain on my drive home, I saw a new tragedy. This one was fresh. There were no cops at the scene yet, just people holding their faces, scrambling around a man's body on the street. There was a bicycle about ten feet from the man, and he wasn't moving. His arm was slung over his head so that his elbow rested on his face, the way a bum sleeps blocking the sun. He was so still. I didn't even see breathing swells. A car was stopped about thirty feet down the road from him. A woman was standing on the sidewalk, talking into her cell phone and shaking hard. That's all I saw in the few seconds it took to pass. I felt the walls closing in on me get a little closer.

Becoming a parent has improved my mind in every way but one. Like it or not, I feel I'm nursing an old misanthropic streak, a lens through which humans seem like a swarming species, with weird customs and hurtful urges. A species, that's all, and a pretty silly one at that. An advanced animal, and not the center of the universe. I don't know how to protect my child from a sea of cruel idiocy when we're both swimming in it. I know I'm as big a fool as they come, and I've got empathy galore for human fallacy. It's just that I don't want to be that parent struggling for acceptance in the courtroom someday, bending my pain into forgiveness for some person who did something terrible to my family. And I'm lucky my 16-year-old self never maimed or killed anybody. I had no business being in a moving vehicle. Not with my clouded head. And yet here I am. And there she is. And the urge to take her and hide her away from all of them is almost uncontrollable sometimes.

Pictures from this past Sunday, a typically beautiful day with my girls.




Claire at the fair.



Claire's new buds, Iris and Jon.



With legs that go all the way down.





Let's try this garden thing again.

1 comment:

Marie Lasferatu said...

Oh man, do I completely understand what you're saying. I also feel that there is a particular badness in the air now. Bad news all around.