10 Terrible Words that Shouldn’t Exist in Any Language

Digital text-illustration: 10 Terrible WordsOne person who hates is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. One who cares and shares? Perhaps the only antidote.

As I recently said to my friend Maryam: poverty—both of concrete, material resources like food and shelter, and of intellectual and ephemeral resources (education, spiritual enrichment, the arts, community engagement, etc)—seems to me to be perpetrated and perpetuated more by selfishness than by an actual shortage of any of those resources. The rich and powerful always want more riches and power, and what they do have makes them able to afford and acquire more and to keep their feet firmly on the backs of the have-nots. Plenty is never enough. The resulting imbalance is as old as history, and rotten as ever. Only those who will speak up and resist entrenched inequities and injustices will have any hope of making change.Photo montage: Wolverine & Badger

The badger and the wolverine have a reputation for being among the most tenaciously savage brutes of all the mammals. Yeah, Honey Badger even has his own meme to show for it. But let’s be honest: no beast of earth, air, or sea has a capacity for vile, rapacious cruelty rivaling that of the human animal. Even creatures of the natural enmity of predator and prey compete, fight, kill, and are sated. They have little apparent ideation of hatred and war to match people’s. A wolverine or badger will fight to defend, or to kill for food, but unlike the human, doesn’t seem inclined to attack indiscriminately outside of its primal needs for safety, shelter, and food; when the skirmish is done as efficiently as possible and the need assuaged, the sharpest of tooth and reddest of claw among them doesn’t do an end-zone dance to celebrate its pleasure in winning but will usually depart the scene or go to rest for the next time of need. The remaining food and shelter and other resources stay in place for whatever creature comes next, hunter or hunted, cousin or not.

Can we humans not learn from such a thing? I’m pretty sure that if we destroy each other and ourselves in our constant self-righteous, self-congratulatory belief that we deserve everything we can get our hands on, Honey Badger won’t be the only creature that doesn’t care.

Here I am. Now.

Honey Badger is not alone. Dead people don’t care, either. Even if they’re going to be reincarnated, they couldn’t possibly care less, I assume, about what anybody thought of them in life. The past is a lock.

What matters, if anything does, to the dead as much as to the living is what’s yet possible (if that includes reincarnation). The only way to get to the future, furthermore, is to be present in the present. All of the yesterdays that ever were can only be altered—at least without a time machine, which, of course, must be built in the present or future since there isn’t one yet, other than the hard to find Vernean one or the wonderful TARDIS of course—by improving the outcomes of those yesterdays in the present and future. Funny how that all works.

But what it tells me is that while I can (I very much hope) learn from the past, there’s no benefit in dwelling on it. And I don’t even think there’s much to be gained from living exclusively for the future. I’m not guaranteed one, after all. I could be caught unawares by a fatal disease, slip on a blot of mud and fall off a cliff, or be eaten by aliens tomorrow. And I can’t be sitting around knitting my brow and fretting over whether anyone will express admiration and gratitude for the wonderfulness of me after that happens.

I’d like to be way too busy until tomorrow, or whenever that cutoff time arrives, to expend any real energy conjuring up what grand eulogies I’ll get and what perfect art will be applied to my tomb, when I’ll be much too dead to care. Not to mention that whether I’m cremated [post-mortem, thankyouverymuch!] as I intend or it’s because there’s nothing left of me but my socks and hat after the aliens ingest me, there won’t be any need for a tomb. In any case, joy and contentment should be usurping all of the space that any such thoughts would aim to occupy. I prefer to think that I’m living out my eulogy, and lest it be of any interest to anyone but me, the most fitting one I can imagine would be that I was too busy living to sit around for a funerary portrait.

I know that I am loved. That is the best of all possible epitaphs I could possibly desire. And it’s a cheering enough thought to keep me occupied for as long as I get to be in the Here and Now. I guess my job is to pass it along to those in my immediate vicinity, my small orbit, so that they might be able to make the same claim.photo