From Man Alive! – “A calculus of morality on a first-grade number line.”

From: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind.

Extract from Chapter 7. A calculus of morality on a first-grade number line.

You live an easy life, and that has made it easy for you to be thoughtless and glib about your values. You say things like “Whatcha gonna do?” and “Life’s a bitch and then you die,” and you don’t realize that you are making outrageously misleading statements about ontology and teleology – about your own unchangeable nature as a human being. If you are casting about in your mind for a slang expression that would have meant something to the father of Fathertongue, the man who gave you the first treasure in that huge cache of incomparable wealth that you could never have produced on your own, try this on for size: “Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.” But even that doesn’t fit, because once the bear eats you, it’s lights out. Game over. Forever.

When you are starving, there is no room in your mind for cynicism or boredom or superciliousness or ennui. You don’t waste your time crafting ridiculous arguments conflating unlike things, and you don’t deface, deride, damage and denigrate the very values you need to sustain your tenuous survival. A starving human being can think of many different things, but it seems hugely unlikely to me that any of those notions would win the approval of the smug jackasses down at the Student Union. They – and you – have the luxury of living off of a legacy of inherited wealth, in the form of the accumulated intellectual and economic power of thousands of years worth of carefully-curated Fathertongue. And like most heirs of unearned wealth, they have lived their lives – at least the life of the mind – as unrepentant wastrels.

And the truth of the matter – and I’m willing to acknowledge it, even if you are not – is that the only reason you are willing to attend to what I have to say now is that the people you trusted to manage your inherited wealth of Fathertongue have squandered your legacy behind your back. You are not staring starvation in the face, not quite yet, but there is an icy dread in your gut suggesting to you that things could get very ugly very soon. I am not a kind man, not at all, but I am not so cruel as to say, “None so deserving.” But, brother, you really did ask for what you fear you are going to get, and, if you do, you’re going to get it good and hard. You have time to learn to do better. While you are still alive, you always have time to learn to do better. But I think you ought to get very serious very quickly. Starvation is pass/fail, with no retakes if you blow the test. If the world turns against you, it will not give you an A for effort, and it will not grade your performance on a curve.

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