Tuesday, September 29, 2015

the good life

Lohbado sat in the park and watched hundreds of seagulls gliding about and making a racket. It reminded him of when he worked about thirty-five years ago on the north-western plains as an agent of goodwill. His job was to drive around and wish everyone a nice day, then to record his route and the number of those who responded to his greetings. The job was fifty fifty on the road and in the office. While in the office, he would gaze out the window at pigeons and seagulls on the supermarket roof in the mall next door.

He was efficient at paperwork. He could process a mountain of data within an hour. The rest of the day he could read a book, draw pictures, gaze out the window, or invent excuses to walk about town for fresh air and exercise. The town had a population of 2,000. He did that job three years then burned out because he quickly realized the job was a sham, part of a vast network of jobs in a department set up to employ bureaucrats. Forty years later he realized he’d made a mistake. At the age of twenty-five, he was naive and idealistic. He didn’t fully understand the human condition. He still believed that one could make a difference, that with good intensions and hard work, one could bring about positive change. He hadn’t yet learned that he was powerless to do anything other than to keep up appearances and to not rock the boat. 

The wise approach would be to accept the nature of the situation and to enjoy the benefits. Enjoy getting paid, living in a nice apartment and being treated with respect. Get promoted. Buy a house. Get married. Have children. Get divorced. Get married again. Unfortunately, Lohbado dropped out for quite a while, before returning to work years later as a PBE (push button expert). The school of hard knocks taught him it’s better to play the game and enjoy material rewards than to live according to one’s ideals, which often involves poverty, humiliation and social death. Even if a sixty year old person had told him this, he likely wouldn’t have listened. He would have written off the advice as senile rambling from an old fart. He would think maybe the old person was a failure. 

Ok, skip the ranting and raving. It’s boring and predictable. Stick to the story. 

The job description was make-belief, a fairy tale. The department was there to pay lip service to social problems and needs within the region. Agents were trained at effective delivery of token gestures, to create an atmosphere of friendliness and willingness to help, while doing nothing to tackle problems, which were built into the system. The roots of the problems went deep, to the level of politics, vested interest and greed. There was nothing to be done except to give the impression something was being done, in order to ease the occasional pangs of conscience and so that nobody could accuse the system of doing nothing. It would look bad if nothing was done when public opinion called for action. By pretending to do something important, Lohbado lived the good life. What happened next... it’s karma, maybe the structure of the brain. Certain things manifest, sickness, trauma, accident, loss of employment, unpleasant surprises causing one’s life to not turn out happily ever after.

In a way, Lohbado’s life turned out quite fine. He got what he wanted, a quiet room and no distraction. On his pension, he had plenty of free time to reflect on life. The main obstacle was the effect of age, less stamina, aching joints, a whole list of aches and pains. He could work in short bursts, then would be tired and have to take a rest. He wasn’t claiming his life was anything special or unusual. It was quite ordinary, but definitely off the beaten trail. Since he knew death couldn’t be too far off, it would be interesting to use the remaining part of his life to philosophize or contemplate the nature of existence. He made the effort because he learned that if he did nothing, he could slide into depressive inertia. Writing and making pictures provided a focus and made it easier to cheer up. Making pictures drew him deeper into the world. Looking at his mind opened mental horizons, enabling him to have glimpses of the infinite and profound nature of being.

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