Last week was not good.
I had three hospital/doctor appointments crammed together because it was reading week at Uni. I volunteered to do creativity workshops everyday online. So in between blood tests and more intimate examinations of ones parts customarily keeps under wraps I was introducing Jeff Koons and Brutalism to a group of student designers – actually they were great and it was fun and distracting.
Now that I have a small library of diseases, whenever I am sent for a test for another my assumption is that I will have it. Happily this week I may have dodged a bullet on glaucoma, at least for now but received a graze for prostrate cancer. Nothing alarming I was told, borderline, but necessitating further investigation just to check. (Don’t you hate that outcome) Bugger I thought, not again. More trips up the silver tube to the sound of the archers omnibus (inaudible because of the sound of 100 rusty washing machines on spin cycle above your head.)But so be it – what’s one more worry to add to dodgy blood, errant proteins, a syncopated heart, pumped up eye balls and Covid of course. There is a law of diminishing returns. One disease – terrifying – two – troubling – three – you’ve got to be joking! – four – so what….
I am reading Camus – The Plague. Timely of course. His point is that life is absurd and that even when some massive event comes along that should change the course of everyone’s life we all carry on with our day to day trivia in an effort to maintain meaning. He is right of course, life is absurd but that doesn’t mean we have to feel miserable about it. I agree with Ricky Gervais and if we are lucky enough to be able to be born ( the chance of our existence being trillions of trillions against, the chance of us achieving the conscious necessary to realise we exist being trillions more against) we should enjoy it. We should treat life like a free holiday. An opportunity to do something we love. Of course we need to recognise how lucky we are to be in that position. Most people aren’t. So despite my library of diseases and no doubt more to come I am still extremely lucky to have this chance to enjoy my free holiday – and I am doing just that.
On a related subject. I had an epiphany in the bath while contemplating Camus. I like to contemplate the European literary giants every bath time don’t you? Anyway one outcome of the absurdist view is that we may be able to create meaning in a meaningless world through making art. I am not sure about that – it sounds like the sort of thing that artist or writers would say, after all that’s what they do for a living. Knocking out a quick opera may satisfy them but how about all the poor sods who don’t like opera or don’t like art does that mean their lives are meaningless. Now if life is meaningless there can’t be subsets of lives that have meaning, it’s an ‘all for one one for all’ situation. So let’s accept for a moment that life is truly meaningless or as Camus and the existentialists might say a ‘pile of bollocks.’ What should stop us packing up and going home with a 6 pack of special brew and a family pack of paracetamol. If it’s not about making meaning through art what is it about? This was my epiphany. From the ‘Dove’ derived suds between my legs a voice proclaimed – It’s simple really it’s about providing others with ‘relief.’ Relief from the pain inflicted on all us, but disproportionally on some, by nothing but chance. We are all stuck on the same absurd train journey but some of us travel first class with a free Buck’s fizz and some of us are hanging onto the running boards. There is no reason for this, no meaning in this discrepancy it’s just chance.
So despite the fact that life is meaningless endeavouring to make it as pain free for others is as near to a meaningful contribution that any individual can make. Nurses, social workers, care workers, doctors, even vicars are in that category. Opera directors are not.
Where does that leave me. I do next to nothing for others. I am selfish. I like to indulge myself and in particular I like to make art. Should I stop a devote myself to the service of others. Well frankly, probably, yes. Will I. Absolutely NOT. But you lot should!