For some, Monday morning is a hard day. For others, it’s Tuesday, or Thursday, or maybe Sunday. Any morning can be especially hard if you’re unemployed or under-employed. It can be especially hard if you’re unemployed and over 50. I’ve read that many unemployed men over 55 are not expected to ever work again, even though they want to and need to.
What’s up with that?
If you’re expected to live to be 80 or so, and you’re now 55 and unemployed, that’s 25 years of being an unemployed monumental pain to yourself and everyone around you.
Of course, we may find that unemployed men and women just don’t live that long, and that will solve the problem.
Well, my response to that is, “To hell with that.”
Now, I know that strikes a different tone for a guy like me, at least in writing. Usually, I’m a touchy-feely, let’s talk calmly, understanding-the-other-guy’s-point-of-view, kind of guy.
Today, my attitude is, “To hell with that.”
I say this quietly, not stridently. I’m not shouting it out my second floor window like Albert Finney in Network, who screamed, “I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take it anymore.”
A lot of us are getting our butts kicked, one way or another, by the changes in the American and global economy. While one-third of Americans can’t pay their mortgages, corporations have their most profitable quarter ever, and an Andy Warhol painting sells for a record-breaking 71 million dollars.
To those inclined politically, I say continue to fight the good fight to get this country more equitable, and to re-direct some of the cash that relentlessly and dangerously keeps floating to the top of the economic pie where it accumulates in the portfolios and bank accounts of the ever more wealthy top 1 percent of the population.
But here, I’m not talking only to the political types. I’m talking to the rest of us who have to do our best while the machine whirs away, sometimes grinding us down as we go about our daily business.
There are many empowering emotions. Just a few days ago we celebrated Thanksgiving, and I, along with a host of others, put out a few words in praise of gratitude.
But that was yesterday.
Today I feel the need to offer a few words in praise of attitude, the attitude captured by the words, “To hell with that.’
I can hear some of you now. “Oh, John, please watch your tone, and your language. You’re starting to sound like one of them.”
Them, being those people who get upset and make loud noises that make finding solutions even more difficult.
I’m not offering, “To hell with that,” as an addition to the noise.
“To hell with that”, is a strong way of saying ‘no’ to what we don’t want, and “yes” to something else.
The “yes” part is crucial.
Mother Teresa embodied the, “To hell with that,” attitude towards the idea that the poor always suffered and there wasn’t anything she or anyone else could do about it. She said, “To hell with that,” rolled up her sleeves and got to work.
How about Martin Luther King Jr.? What was his attitude towards, “The Negro in America would never have rights and opportunities equal to those of Whites”? And what did he do about it?
What about Gandhi? Can you hear a little of the, “To hell with that,” attitude spoken with love, but with the strength and conviction of shifting tectonic plates?
We all need a bit of that, “To hell with that,” attitude sometimes. But attitude can get us only so far. After attitude comes the hard of work of making things better.
I heard a very insightful person say that to live effectively you need to be able to take your life in your hands like a crisp apple, bite it, break off a piece and chew. What’s the energy that helps us do that?
That’s what I’m calling the, “To hell with that,” energy.
There’s the energy of inertia, the resistance that says, “No, you won’t work again. No, you will not solve that problem. No, you will not write that book, or get that job, or overcome that illness, or make that contribution. No. No. No.”
Then there’s, “To hell with that.”
“To hell with that,” is Yes. Yes. Yes.
Or it’s just feckless noise.
To those who say we are down for the count, we have to say, ”To hell with that.”
“To hell with that depression.”
“To hell with that anger.”
“To hell with that stuff about the glory days of the past.”
“To hell with that stuff about Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Socialists.”
I’ve got work to do. Decisions to make. Things to learn. People to meet.
Life itself is nothing but an epochs-long struggle with inertia and resistance, a counter-force to increasing disorder.
Life is one big, TO HELL WITH THAT, to decay, death, and nothingness.
You need gratitude, but sometimes you need a little attitude.
“You can never find peace and liberation from the suffering created by your own mind.”
Can you hear the Buddha’s response to that? Maybe, if Buddha were from Brooklyn rather than from India, instead of chanting “OM,” we’d be chanting, ever so slowly, but clearly, “To hell with that.”