On Fragility

The innate fragility of our lives is perpetually and callously ignored. Every morning we rise to treat the day as though it were any other, without giving a moment’s thought to the swords that dangle above our heads as we lay motionless. Our lives are eternal in the minds eye, and the only thing that will end them is the slow passage into old age, or so we believe. We live in fantasies of having our lives draw to a close on some quaint porch with a pretty view or in the dead of night wrapped in a blanket of warmth.

Where we go to next is the age-old question that nobody can honestly answer. I have found the best argument against our genuine belief in a hereafter is that even the most religious still cry at funerals. We all fundamentally know that when the light of life is gone, it is never to return. So too the old world order.

I have been greeted daily by the facts of my own fragility. It is being squeezed through the prism of societal unrest – the slow-building sense of dread that has become the wallpaper of our country. Every passing week sees more mouths desperately chewing down on each other. The imagery of food lines and welfare grants is muscling into our news feeds in a way that most of us can only recall in black and white textbooks. The fiction of fragility being elsewhere has ended. It is in our lives to keep our feet cold and stomachs tight. Every day, the world you interact with adds more unstable colors to its palette. Will you be able to raise your children after the dawn has broken and the bones have been ground back into the Earth? In a week, will you be eating? In a month, will you and your family have a home?

I am happy to be accused of melodrama, that doesn’t change the fact that the have-nots are swelling their ranks. The children of lawyers and doctors do not enjoy the safety of their familial professions. Now, they may grow up hungry and barbaric. The “curves” that will enter the lexicon of our future may have less to do with infection, and more with unemployment.

Our fragility is fast becoming the new normal. It has replaced the certainty of the rinse-repeat cycles preceding it.

Which is good.

The world is always charging headlong into some kind of ruin. I have had to watch my arrogance at the belief that a life I have worked for will be the life I will receive. Of course, it isn’t. I must aim somewhere, put my energy into something meaningful, but believing those acts will make a specific outcome materialize is foolish. The world within which we all live, is so obviously bigger than our plans. Does that leave us helpless? Does that take away our comfort and certainty? Is our fragility any more prevalent than what it was? No. Not in the least. Sitting at home feeling sorry for what the world has become does not make you more fragile. It just reminds you how fragile you always were.

That is not to say we shouldn’t work towards goals. We are creatures of purpose and intent. Denying that in the wake of an international catastrophe is the most damaging thing we can do. But what we have to learn, what we must learn, is adaptability. Fragility only exists in ecosystems where adaptability is absent. Being malleable, capable and willing to learn new things is the ultimate armor against the whims of a careless world.

The enemy which we face is not a new strain of flu or a crumbling economy – it is the belief that the static-warmth of the last few decades of repetition is somehow a loss. We are pining for days gone-by that made us servile and predictable. We traded in our adaptability so that we could give ourselves professional titles and send our kids to schools where people would recognize their uniforms. We were not readying ourselves for change, we had become mired in our inability not to. It was a status-quo that afforded us the fiction of safety in a world where fragility was painted over with every safe decision we made.

The new world order demands the tithe of change – your change. Your fragility is something that you need to accept and prepare for, as opposed to dread. Every morning when you wake up and stare at the sword that remains suspended over you, you need to know that it will drop and watch it when it does. Will it land on you or will you dance to the side?

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