Can you truly recall the feeling of being nauseous? How about a severe headache, like a migraine? Can you put yourself in the emotional position of being hopelessly depressed? To do so, or at least to understand these Exceptionally Bad experiences, has been a fascination of my latter-day rehabilitation.
Nausea is nature’s dealbreaker: when you constantly feel like barfing, there is little else you can do. Migraines, depression, deep-set hunger and cold can actually drive you temporarily crazy; you can say things you don’t actually mean, you can watch your body doing things you didn’t ask of it. You have effectively drowned in your situation and have no means of thinking outside it.
I mention this because I went to one of the most depressing stores in America today – the Walmart in Hudson, NY – and was overcome with snobbery and derision. These shoppers, these unthinkably obese, racist goons buying power-steering fluid by the case, are going to be lifelong obstacles towards electing people who will change this country for the better. They will vote for Hillary when somebody kills them, lops off their hand, and makes the dead hand pull the lever in the voting booth.
This judgment races through my brain within 5 milliseconds of being around these other Americans, and yet it shows an incredible lack of empathy, supposedly the benchmark of being progressive or liberal. These people could be living lives I once had but now cannot fathom: being one radiator leak away from no car and no job, chancing five years without health care, working all week without seeing their family. They could be caring for an elderly aunt who no longer recognizes them, worried about a son who won’t stop coughing, driving through the rich neighborhoods of Greenport and Claverack and wondering why life is so patently unfair.
They make decisions because they can’t see out of their particular situation, but what gives me any stranglehold on perspective? I went to prep school, graduated from a Public Ivy, hobnobbed in Manhattan in the literary elite, then moved to California to invent stories. I’m held together by a strong family, but owe vast swaths of functionality to an antidepressant and speed.
I’m trying to keep my side of the street clean. The drugs and therapy were implemented to erase misery, and now I’m trying a Buddhist perspective to actually attain well-being – but I also know my financial position allows for such introspection.
It’s amazing: you try to see things from other people’s point of view, but more often than not, you forget that YOU’RE the one with the flawed glass. It is you that has the migraine, driven slightly crazy by vague nausea, and while your feelings run strong and you’re utterly convinced that you’ve attained the moral high ground, your perspective ends mere millimeters from the tips of your fingers.