Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

The Inertia of Life

We wait.

We keep expecting something to happen, something better than what we’re experiencing in the present, a change in fortune or circumstance, an idea perhaps that we can pursue to a satisfactory conclusion.

After all, this can’t be all there is to life. Getting up in the morning, going to work, eating, sleeping, playing, loving, navigating the same old neighborhoods with the same circle of companions, doing things pretty much the same way year in and year out until retirement, at which point we sit in a chair and wait to die.

There ought to be something greater, something that will make a difference to the world, but what? If we just leave our homes and begin walking, what will we find? Maybe we’ll encounter someone who can tell us what we should be doing with our lives. On the other hand, it’s possible we’ll just walk until we lay down by the side of the road and get picked up by the police for loitering.

We think we might be at an important crossroad, where we can either continue on as we’re going or change direction, and yet despite the impulse to change, to go in a more fulfilling direction, we keep to our path. We think about doing something greater, something altruistic, but we don’t actually do it.

We consider how wonderful it would be to fight ignorance or save the whales or donate our time to tutor inner city kids, but we just write a check or maybe we only think about writing a check. We don’t go to the trouble of changing our behavior.

We linger in our present, enduring our ennui, expecting or at least hoping for some sign that now is the time to make the changes we suspect we ought to be making. We’re afraid to set off on our own, without guidance, without confirming that there’s enough support out there to get us through the journey.

All we need is a push, and then we’ll do it. But if we change and no one else does, if we stop fertilizing our grass and using our power lawnmowers and no one else sacrifices for the sake of the greater good, then we’re suckers. If we donate a portion of our savings to help fight illiteracy and no one else does, then haven’t we thrown away our money? Because after all, how much help can our donation provide?

We want to do more, we really do, but we don’t want to engage in pointless gestures. If we give our money away to help the poor, won’t we then be poor? If we quit our jobs and join Greenpeace to try to save the whales when other countries continue to hunt them, have we thrown away our careers?

Inertia is a powerful force.

We admire those who make the sacrifice, who pursue the noble cause. We wish we had that kind of courage, but we accept that we don’t. Instead we applaud their efforts and say that we will join them one day soon. Not today, but sometime.

And in the meantime, we wait.


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