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Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

"Don't be quantifiable"

A Conversation Before Casting Away

We who sail on the Ship of Exiles reject you.

Goddam, right?  I know.  But it’s for your own good.  We cross the ocean of forgetfulness on the ship of memory, carrying with us the pieces of a better world we’ve never seen.  The hope of tomorrow, which we alone carry in our cargo hold along with a generation’s past betrayals wrapped in oil skin, requires deft hands to carry and a hard soul to bear.  There are some serious dichotomies going on here, and you’re not ready.  We appreciate the interest, your resume’ is great, you test well … but there’s a seasoning process that hasn’t happened with you yet.  No … don’t try to rush this.  Going too fast makes you over seasoned, and useless to us.   We’ll keep in touch.  No, you can’t come aboard our ship.  It’s for exiles, and you have a place to call home.   We’re being figurative, dumbass.  See?  We operate on dichotomous levels, and you’re busy asking “What does it mean?” as though this were a multiple choice test.  Listen carefully:  Ship of Exiles, not the LSAT.  You’ll make a very good lawyer.  We’re happy for you.

Advice?  Sure.  We do advice:  It’s not all about you.  That’s our advice.  Figure that out:  It’s not all about you.  No … we know you do charity work.  It’s on your resume, under the part labeled “Charity Work,” above “Hobbies.”  Not hard to find.  Also, for the record, nobody cares about your hobbies.  In fact, another tip:  If it’s really a hobby, don’t put it on your resume.  Resumes are simple documents, they can’t stand multiple layers.  What we do … the whole necessity of dichotomous thinking thing … is just a category error on a resume.  Also, put that goddamn resume down.  Jesus, your parents must have had high expectations.

The point:  we know you’ve done charity work.  But realizing it’s not all about you isn’t the same as dedicating yourself to do good, because that’s still about you:  “I’m going to do good,” you tell yourself.  “I’ll make a difference.”  We’re saying, figure it out:  “It’s not all about you.”  Right?  This isn’t a call to action, it’s an existential realization.  For a lot of people, the realization that it’s not all about them actually engenders selfish behavior – the urge to build a life in spite of universal indifference.  That’s the right kind of selfishness.  You?  You still think it’s about you, and so you’ll never save the future.  Which, in a loose way, is our mission, and I don’t think you appreciate how loose that is.

I know you don’t get us anymore.  That’s the point.  You never did get us.  We are the sailors of the Ship of Exiles, we are the travelers between worlds, we are the people without a prophecy.  You think that’s the same thing as “diversity” and “multiculturalism” and everybody “just getting along,” but it’s not.  You think it’s the same thing as alienation, but it’s not.  You’re just looking at the shadows on the walls of the cave … do you still read Plato?  Sort of?  You’ve heard of the Allegory of the Cave?  No, don’t Google it!  Jesus, I’m talking to you here!  Look!  Here!  Look!  Eye contact!  Right now!  Eye contact!

You have no idea what a tragedy you represent, do you?  Sometimes it’s hard, being a Lord of Irony, able to see you on more levels than you see yourself.  Yeah, that’s right, I said “Lord of Irony.”  We know it’s kind of cheesey, but, honest-to-god nobody does irony better than us.  Our ancestors thought that was a weakness, a flaw that doomed us to tragedy – but only because they didn’t see you coming.  Now they’re profoundly grateful for our ironic view of the world’s dichotomies, because it keeps us from being you, and as they crawl into their graves that’s one of the few things those bastards have to be thankful for.

I’m sure you’d follow us around like groupies if you could figure out where our next port of call is, but everything you know is easily quantifiable, and we’re not, so I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Good luck.  We’ll give you a reading list, but only if you promise to read the actual books, cover to cover, in print.  Otherwise, develop yourself.  Don’t be quantifiable.  Cultivate an inner life – but remember, It’s not all about you.

Now fuck off:  the Lords of Irony have to cast away.  No one can stay against the tide.  Exile belongs to the enlightened.

We’ll have to do.


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media, Playboy.com, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at www.TheWachsGallery.com.


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