It’s Tuesday. The earth is tilting toward equinox so the sun has moved to a different portion of the cedars for its morning path upward. Two more days until summer is officially over–I also saw the first Canadian geese of the season yesterday, winging south in two sharp V’s over a nearby park. Boxnoggin was oblivious, snoot-down in wet grass, but I watched the birds and felt a sharp swell of relief. No more 90F days until next year, thank you.
Lately, a particular line from a Batman movie has been stuck in my head–Heath Ledger’s Joker, calm and reasonable. “Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if that plan is horrifying.” It’s lived in my head rent-free for a while now, and lately it occurs to me at least twice per day, mostly while reading the news. Normally when a line gets stuck like this it means a story’s about to hatch from it and attach to my face before eventually bursting out of my chest with a splattering vengeance, but I hope that’s not the case this time.
I don’t want the book that would result from such a realization. I suppose I already wrote versions of it (Cormorant Run, Afterwar) and…been ignored, so why bother? The world is under no obligation to listen to me, but that works both ways. I’m under no obligation to keep setting myself on fire keeping the selfish or oblivious warm. Of course my therapist was always saying that–and so were my better friends–but it didn’t sink in for most of my life (so far). Probably because of the caretaking I was raised to do.
It’s not that I’m glorifying the Joker. The character is terrifying, especially in Ledger’s interpretation. I’ve been in the room with bugfuck crazy before, and he nailed it right down to the strange flat shine in the eyes, not to mention the physical movements. I can’t watch that performance without an atavistic shiver, because I remember being in close proximity with someone in that state (however temporary or permanent) and how it felt.
But that line…that line sticks with me, especially the quaver in Ledger’s voice when he says “horrifying”, all but smacking his lips while shuddering with mixed revulsion, excitement, and the burning knowledge that he’s using truth for his own purposes. I don’t deny there’s a certain seduction in that form of chaotic nihilism, a relief from the pain of caring. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to take that path wholesale instead of just peering down it a little bit for a book or character, or vicariously by watching a movie.
I suppose enduring a pandemic in a failing state during the dissolution of an empire amid rising fascism will make anyone philosophical. And naturally, my optimism tells me that eventually humanity will figure it out, will collectively make a right choice or two. It’s just that immediately afterward my realism replies, “Sure, after exhausting every other possible strategy and tactic. And what will the body count be in the meantime?”
So I wait, I watch, I write, I take care of those I can. I think a lot about the assumptions we’re all operating under and how those assumptions might be changing. I think a lot about how humanity behaves when we think there’s some semblance of a plan, no matter how horrifying it turns out to be. I suppose that’s the downside of our cooperative nature as a species–it is the thing that could save us if we could just get our fucking acts together, but it’s also the thing that keeps us quietly queueing up for our own destruction.
And now that I’ve said this, it’s time to get some toast and walk Boxnoggin, who is gloriously unburdened by both intelligence and planning.
It must be nice.