You know the old adage, you’ve heard it repeated on everything from films to podcasts, in books, newspaper articles, and probably even some of your classes if you study anything even remotely centered around human psychology: “Insanity, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Comically, it is, by that definition, insane how many times that quote has been attributed to Einstein, when in fact he never said those words at all. Truth is, Rita Mae Brown penned the line in a novel wayyyy back in the ancient times of 1983. Not Einstein, not that old an adage at all. Nevertheless, there’s truth in them thar hills, and by hills I mean words, and by words I mean the quote she dropped into some mystery novel 40ish years ago. Trouble is, we all do this, so many are doing it now, and it seems increasingly challenging to break the cycle, and stop the very loosely defined insanity altogether.
I’m going to dive into a lot in today’s Signal Fire, and I’m going to just loosely graze some subjects that may be polarizing, so that’s a fair warning for any of you that may be triggered by current events, said polarizing topics, and what have you. Controversial, maybe, but what’s the point of this place if we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to dive in, talk of hard things, discuss them openly, and be kind and courteous in our discussions? This is a place to spill it out, to absorb it in, and to try to come out better on the other side. There’s no point to art that doesn’t ask questions, that doesn’t push us out of our comfort zones, that doesn’t strive to make a difference, I believe that, and I always have. Here’s what I’ve noticed over the years I’ve come through, the ‘insanity’ though I hate that word, that I feel we’ve all collectively allowed to become the norm.
We elect the same exact types of people to the same exact offices over and over again, and then are so marvelously perplexed when things remain mostly exactly the same. We appoint and elect, almost always, upper-class, white, older men to the highest offices in the land, and cannot quite understand why those who don’t look, act, live, or resemble them are being largely ignored at the best of times, and systematically oppressed at the worst. We pay unbelievable sums of money to receive unbelievably little health care, we bankrupt ourselves at absolutely mind-blowing rates every single year for health problems, emergency services, and we’re left picking up the pieces for the rest of our lives. We buy more than we need, more than we can afford, and hoard when we should be sharing. We work ourselves to the bone, saving vacation days like gold under dragon wings on some mountain in Middle Earth, never using them, and then die two months after we finally retire at 70 years old. We wake up in relationships that consistently reduce us from the people we should be, that force a daily bartering, our dignity for a slice of some perceived stability, and we wonder why we long for the ‘love’ we see on the films we watch. We supersize our fast-food portions while raising the cost of fresh, healthy food in our supermarkets, and wonder why we always feel so tired, why we’re getting sicker at faster rates than ever before. We arrest those who march for equality, while never understanding the reason they march at all. We make it harder to reach that equality, then listen as those same politicians give the same hopes and prayers for the same things over and over again. We teach active shooter drills, then stare open-mouthed and horrified at the highlights when someone actually brings the gun to school on the evening news. We argue about gun control, talking heads on every major network, while nothing changes. We mourn the loss of so many victims to the opioid crisis, but allow the pharmaceutical companies to keep making money off the drugs they sell. We open too few rehab centers, and go to doctors that prescribe too many medications. We burn down literally the only things preventing the climate crisis, then are stunned, saddened, and worried when forest fires, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and every other disaster returns more and more and more each year. We destroy the only home we know in the name of progress and in the worship of concrete and glass, of 0-60 times and cyrptocurrency, we overfish and pollute the seas, we fill landfills with junk and the air with poison, and we wonder how long we’ll have left, when this “cycle” of warming will stop. We do the same things, over, and over, and over again, all the while thinking that it’s This time, THIS time, things will be different. It’s not our fault, after all.
If this is how Rita Mae Brown (and Einstein probably felt the same way) defines insanity, then we’re in a full blown mental breakdown as a society, as a planet. I’m not saying these things to be negative, nor to be a pessimistic cynic, I’m saying them because I see them, and I see them because they are quite literally everywhere, quite literally all of the time. I’m saddened by the state of things, and disheartened often at how far we’ve come, to not really come very far at all. While we’ve done better in many ways, it’s hard not to feel that we keep ourselves trapped in these infinite loops, making the same mistakes over and again, all the while being so confused as to what’s gone wrong. I struggle so mightily to understand why we’re still dealing with racism after all these years, all these many years of humanity with intelligence and understanding. I struggle to understand how something as simple as LGBTQIA+ rights are still debatable, how there are still people who don’t believe that love is love and we should be allowed to choose who we spend a lifetime with. How are we still here, allowing the same conditions that put the United States gun violence at a rate anywhere from 5 to 30 times that of literally every other ‘first world’ country? How are we here ok with the idea that the United States has 57 TIMES more school shootings every year than all the other countries in the G7 combined?
As I said, this is not a post arguing gun laws or drug laws or voting rights or anything else today. This is an observation as to the conditions that have led to us doing the same things and expecting different results, on such a macro scale, but more, the trickle down and the same exact thing happening on a micro scale too, in our own lives. We’re still working those same jobs, staying in those same relationships, eating that same unhealthy food, skipping the exercise, the vacation, the therapy we desperately need, and paying unbelievable rates for unbelievably bad health care coverage. We all are, and we wonder why our lives are not new.
I’m not here to tell anyone they are doing anything wrong, but to just ask the questions that I hope you’ll all answer…if not me, then to yourself: Are you living the life you want to be living? Are you as happy as you deserve to be? Are you doing the same things over and again and expecting different results? Are you disappointed when they aren’t? If we want to see new changes, we have to do new things, if we want to be new people, we have to step out of the cycle, and begin again. These last two years, we all get a pass dammit, it’s been the most trying and, to reuse that damn word again, INSANE set of circumstances anyone could have never predicted. But we’re here, there’s light at the end of this dark tunnel, and we have an opportunity to be what we’ve waited to be, to work the jobs we’ve wanted to work, to stop settling and start growing, and make happiness and healthiness and joyfulness a priority, not just a wish on some birthday candle once a year. It is time, to ask new questions, to try new things, to take new risks, and see what happens.
If these years have taught us anything it is this: Life is short, life is fragile, and time is all we truly have. Why not now, why not us, why not use that time in better ways, to become better people, and by better I mean more of all the things I said above. You deserve it, dammit, and I want to make sure you know that. On a micro level, we can begin, and maybe, just maybe, once we figure that out, the macro level stuff will follow. Better people make better choices, and better choices lead to change. Let’s start, right now, with ourselves.
I love you all, and remember, any discussions, please keep civil and polite, or I will literally boot you out faster than you can say Orange Mocha Frappucinooooo.
Peace out friends. Peace out indeed.
Our biggest problem:
we do what we always have
and nothing changes.