Rich. Poor.

Being poor is the hardest job there is. 

Rich people, or a critical mass of them, don’t get this. They’re so busy running from their own dragons that maybe they just won’t get it. Their fears are the same, just papered over with illusions, and sometimes hardened into cruelty. An unwillingness to look in the mirror will do this. Our shadow selves grow strong and hard.  

We all know in our guts all is temporary. We all know that no matter what, we will simply end someday. What we know of ourselves will move on.

If we get ours, if we run the race of survival a fraction faster than our fellow condemned prisoners, we label that as virtue. But it doesn’t affect the outcome in the slightest. The prison has us all, until it lets go.

Being poor isn’t just about material things, although the daily fear of being devoured by nameless horrors is a constant lurking presence. 

Money and security, or the having of the one and the illusion of the other, does make this part of life easier. 

And there are scurrilous, venal, vicious bastards everywhere, rich or poor. Predators. People defective in a litany of creative ways.

Then there are differences dictated by culture and genetics, handicapping some more than others to lives of bad choices or simple bad luck. The poor will always be with us, Jesus said. How we see them, and how they see themselves, is always going to have an element of personal choice. 

But those who have enough, more than enough, and some confidence there will be a tomorrow, preordained to be brief though it is, forget the true nature of this world. 

But the end is the same for everyone. We come into the world naked and naked we leave it. 

“To die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier,” wrote Walt Whitman a century and a half before Richard Dawkins considered the luckiness of death as a radiant token of the improbable odds of having lived at all. Death — the harrowing fact of our mortality — is the central animating force of life, the one great terror for which we have devised the coping mechanisms of love and art. Everything we make, everything we do, is a bid for bearing our transience.”Maria Popova

The heartbreak of human failures across history to live in the honest heart of compassion is our central, mortal sin. 

The irony is deep and wide and so, so unnecessary. What if instead of grasping acquisitiveness,  justified with the illusion of superiority, we just look at those less fortunate with compassion. What if… 

There, but for the grace of God, go you and I. 

“Since sand and dirt pile up on everything, why does it look fresh for each new crowd? As natural and human debris raises the continents, vegetation grows on the piles. It is all a stage set — we know this — a temporary stage on top of many layers of stages, but every year fungus, bacteria, and termites carry off the old layer, and every year a new crop of sand, grass, and tree leaves freshens the set and perfects the illusion that ours is the new and urgent world now. When Keats was in Rome, he saw pomegranate trees overhead; they bloomed in dirt blown onto the Colosseum’s broken walls. How can we doubt our own time, in which each bright instant probes the future? We live and move by splitting the light of the present, as a canoe’s bow parts water.

In every arable soil in the world we grow grain over tombs — sure, we know this. But do not the dead generations seem to us dark and still as mummies, and their times always faded like scenes painted on walls at Pompeii?

We live on mined land. Nature itself is a laid trap. No one makes it through; no one gets out.”

—Annie Dillard


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