"Yay! It's the latest issue of Hot Buttered Asses!"
I think we can all lead satisfactory and even fulfilled lives this way; you don't see heroes on every street corner putting things right, you don't see every nerd with an ounce of charm schmoozing hot models and sexy Aussie Twitter followers left and right (hey ladies, @felix_clay), so I think we all get by alright, but we could do those things. And don't you want to?
I remember once leaving a bar late one night with a friend, and on the street outside, this pulsating meathead of a neckless twat was just tearing into a girl. They were apparently a couple, but meathead was angry about something, and his girlfriend, easily 100 pounds less than him, was bearing the brunt of his rage. The street was full of people, and no one said anything. My friend and I watched for a moment to get the lay of the land, and as Snausage dick pushed his girlfriend to the ground, my friend sprang into action, just walking out into traffic and yelling at this guy to reconsider his actions lest he get a circle booting from the two of us. It was at this point, with a call to action on my doorstep, that I joined him. I'd absolutely get my ass kicked by that man, but what the hell, it was for a good cause. But I hadn't thought of it myself. I should have. I feel bad that I didn't. I hesitated with the knowledge that I so would get my ass kicked. My friend (who it should be noted is much larger than me) just leaped into the fray like Captain America, and once I had that motivation, I was all for becoming a statistic.
For what it's worth, the guy shut his trap real quick after that, but the girl, oddly enough, went on a foul-mouthed rant telling us to mind our own fucking business and to go blow each other. So we didn't save anyone from anything, really, but I like to think it's the thought that counts. That just always stands out as a time in my mind when I wish the thought had been mine.
Regret for What You Can Never Do
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This kind of regret can lay waste to your psyche if you let it. And the worst part is that you don't want to let it, but it will weasel its way in, if the circumstances are right. I hope they're not, for your sake. I hope none of you have ever or will ever have an occasion to feel powerless in the face of an overwhelming despair about which you simply cannot do a thing. You get this kind of regret when someone you care for is dying. Maybe it's cancer. Maybe diabetes. AIDS. And medical science has taken you so far, and then it says, "This is all we can do," and so you, whoever you are, a cashier, a waiter, a comedy writer, you take that in. You take a big bite. You swallow. You let it burn down deep inside. Because there's nothing you can do. You're a CBS executive trying to develop a sitcom that doesn't make babies cry and dogs howl in despair.
Watching a person die is probably the worst thing I can think of. I can think of a ton of bad things, but man, that one thing is fucking awful. One person who, above all others, needs to be here, and they can't be, and they get pulled away so goddamn slowly while you do what? Not a fucking thing. Because you can't. Because you're a cashier. Or a waiter. Or a fucking comedy writer. You don't get to save lives. You just get to watch them pass through your own.
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"You ever notice that white people save lives like this? And black people save lives like this?"
I think you come across people who can't handle this a lot, especially in dealing with animals. I think this might be the root of animal hoarding. You have a person who suffers some kind of serious mental fracture and decides they can't do for themselves, but surely they can do for a dog or a cat. So they get one. Then they get 40 more. And their goal is really to deprive the universe of the terrible fate that befalls thousands of uncared for little lives every year. They will defy the very process of nature and save these unwanted animals and give them good lives. And then the crazy person gets crazier, they're up to their ankles in poo, cats are being mummified under couches left and right, and the whole situation is worse than if the cats were living on the streets eating the shoes off of hobos. You can't change nature, ask Dr. Malcolm.
Combating what is essentially a total and cosmic sense of powerlessness is no easy task. You need balls made of pure hope and sunshine dribbling out of your ass to even come close to making it work. You need to focus your hopes on those crazy long shots and be willing to dust yourself off and move forward if they don't pan out, rooting yourself in the here and now and understanding and appreciating that life is and always will be fucked right out of your hands. You're just along for the ride. It doesn't necessarily make things better or easier to deal with, but it gives some perspective to keep your ass grounded.