‘Shanghai’ — like the city

by maddrunkgenius

The tragedy of contemporary mediocrity is that you don’t even get the satisfaction of feeling your displeasure is anything remarkable.

No! You’re one of millions experiencing exactly this, and no matter how intense you think you feel it, you know your mediocre talents mean that you’ll never be more than part of a chorus.

There’s nothing wrong with singing in a chorus except that you’re aware there are also people out there who are not of your same class, but think themselves so, will be far better at expressing the ennui of people like you than you are of conceiving of your own.

The last refuge of mediocrity is supposed to be ignorance of it, but in our wonderful world of progress, the standard of criticism has risen to the point where that is no longer possible.

The WiFi password here is ‘Shanghai’, except the server demurs to tell you exactly how it’s spelled. Deferring to their frequent experience, I understand that this knowledge is not at all universal, and yet it’s the biggest city in the world. Who wouldn’t know how to spell that?

In the United States, tens of millions of people. And then some number, I have no idea how many, can be aware of this while also being aware that neither this ignorance nor this knowledge is remarkable.

In Europe, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and before the rise of nation-states, almost everyone lived under a worldview that Christianity was correct and everyone had their place in it. Your suffering was proper and deserved.

Modernity has brought this same sort of secular awareness. Life is short, death is certain, and suffering is universal. Your own is neither more intense nor more interesting than anyone else’s. You don’t deserve to feel anything, even disappointment, when your experience is placed next to the whole of the human race.

I am one small flickering light among many other flickering lights, and although my pattern matters somewhat to the cohesiveness to the overall, on its own it matters not at all.

This is difficult teaching. Who can accept it?