The Poverty of Self-Interest

The Poverty of Self-Interest January 8, 2020

Well, I overslept my blogging moment, and then went down and stood by as a lovely friend looked into the guts of the lovely old car that belongs to my parents but that I’m supposed to be driving, but that doesn’t start anymore, because I didn’t keep turning it on after the windshield wipers broke off in the snow. Was fearful that the lovely friend would say, There’s Nothing That Can Ever Be Done. Instead, he said, This Looks Great! What a great car! Have it towed to ____ and tell them it’s probably the starter, and also get a new battery. So now Matt is calling the towing people and hopefully everything will soon be as lovely as before when I was tooling around town, Really Driving, as in days of yore when you had to use both feet and muscle the gears around and generally Think About What You Were Even Doing.

Sorry about all the Epic Thoughts. While I was doing that, Matt gazed in astonishment at the child who dropped his laptop such that it no longer works, nor will ever again. As I’ve been saying, HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Right before I wandered out into the snow, I watched the Golden Globes Acceptance Speech of Michelle Williams, which I had been trying to avoid at all costs, distracting myself with the Ricky Gervais opening monologue which never seems to get old. Her short speech was exactly as Gervais predicted, essentially, as he cut through all the hubris of the moment. It wasn’t just the tragic sense of mourning, which is a strange posture in which to receive an award. You stand up in your lovely dress, your skin glowing, and begin to thank everyone, and say something meaningful, but you look as if you are going to burst into tears, not out of happiness, but because you are bitter, angry even, and the award hasn’t cut through your interior grief so that joy may emerge. It was that, but it was also the camera swopping in close up to faces of women all over the room. I’m sure the camera sweeps were meant to communicate bravery, strength, beauty, truth, pioneering spirit, and manner of virtue. But really, it was like a scene from some kind of French tragedy. All that was missing was the music of doom.

I often think, ‘gosh I wish we had more money.’ Dealing with a broken laptop and a car that needs a new starter means that something else that I probably wanted will have to put on hold—indefinitely. We have kids to feed, clothe, and educate, not to mention the tiresome number of little jobs that need to be done to the house, all of which costs piddling little amounts of money. Money that we usually use up on other more pressing matters. And my goodness, we are rich. We have a beautiful house and plenty to eat and thousands of books to read and lovely friends and everything—really—we could hope for. Even so, like the rest of humanity, there is always that little niggling desire for more, for more ease, more stuff, more comfort.

Looking at that room full of unhappy women is such good check, as some say, to my spirit of discontent. Those are the people who have everything they’ve ever wanted. Michelle Williams stood with a golden statue in her hand, receiving the accolades of her peers, wearing a beautiful expensive dress, expecting a baby. And yet, her face is marked with grief. The faces of her friends are hard, the eyes set, the lines of each mouth fixed not in happiness, but in something else.

What is it? I can guess. I think is the hardness that inevitably comes when you insist on your own way. When God says, Ok, have it. But your way included the death of millions.

No Thanks. I’ll take my riches over yours, Ms. Williams. Nothing about your vaunted choices entices me at all. I would rather sit in rags at the doorway of the house of the Lord forever, then spend one single day in a room filled with so much death.

Michelle Williams admonished the women in the room to vote “in their own self-interest” and then the world would look like them. It already does. 2020 is already a hard, cold, cruel year, filled with terrorism abroad, and the hideous stench of death at home. If you ask me, which no one has, the only hope for the future would be for women to let the children they conceive come out into the world, to finally say that the life of another person is more important than that of the self, and then seek the forgiveness of a God whose property is always to have mercy on those who beg him to give it.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go look for my wallet.


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