Thoughts on riding the bus

Dear M,

I'm not saying every person who rides the bus is a villain, but at least 80% of all villains ride the bus.  Live or work by a bus station anywhere near the city of Seattle and you'll see that this hub of devilry is responsible for delivering the vagabond, the hooker, the lunatic and the junkie to a single location; and anywhere you see the green and yellow Trojan Horses gathering you'll probably see a corollary gathering of the police.  The police are there because something horrible has happened, and is about to happen, and is going to continue to happen.

The refuse of humanity collects at these spaces and then branches outward, toward shopping centers and hidden alleys, toward beautiful women and innocent children, toward fancy restaurants and overworked hospitals; miscreants apparently with a single goal in mind -- to make life merry not by building anything beautiful, but by attaching to beautiful things that better men built and then ruining them.  Stealing, harassing, fighting and stinking are the repertoire of these subhumans, and it's the fault of our ideals alone that they're here in the first place.  We could have thrown half of them in jail or an asylum or to an island somewhere off Siberia, or had the worst offenders executed.  But we decided a while ago that everyone was made in the image of God, that nobody was above anybody else, and because of this we have to be compassionate -- to everyone except the people whose lives they make worse.  The belief in God is gone but the sentiments still remain.  We believe in evolution and refuse to call anyone an animal.

Unfortunately for us the bus is our future, and this sanitarium on wheels, despite its most obvious drawbacks, is likely to become almost mandatory.  The idea that the standard of living we're experiencing now is permanent, and that the majority of us are going to continue buying cars and driving ourselves to work while the rest of growing humanity keeps learning to drive, is at this point too farfetched to be believed; and the recycling business is unlikely to keep pace with our using up of natural resources.  The price of cars will climb with the number of miscreants to feed, and we'll most of us end up in the bus line -- which is why I advise cleaning it up now.  Take the worst lines with the most unstable offenders, fix all our worst buses to carry said passengers, and drop them off somewhere other than the stated destination -- say, off a cliff and into the ocean.  This would remove the greatest obstacle to riding the bus in the first place, and would leave us to worry about waiting in bad weather instead of being accosted by animals.

Aside from the fantasy of divine brotherhood (something the overwhelming majority has never really believed in), there is of course another argument for the one-sided "compassion" of the liberal toward the bus fiend, and it goes that any one of us could have been horrible.  This I insist is a lie.  The idea that any one of us could have been anyone else is ridiculous; and the belief that we would have all made the same choices given the same circumstances completely disposes of the idea of dignity*.  

The whole reason we admire humans on a spiritual level is because we don't make the same choices; and if there's any reason God made the worst of us, it was only so we could better cherish the best -- the divine practice of chiaroscuro.  Some of us were made for the pedestal and others were marked for the trash heap.  Some of us believe the only way to end up on the pedestal is by throwing our time and our love and our resources at the trash heap.  In the end these people, and not the miscreants themselves, are responsible for the state of our bus stations.

There are of course ways to avoid this hellish future of mass transportation, and nearly all of them are ugly -- I include here such drastic measures as a global one-child policy and the neutron bomb.  But I would argue these are no uglier than the sentiment expressed in give me liberty or give me death.  There are always two sides to this whole argument of war and peace and birth and abortion and life and death and riding the bus, the first of them being that life is valuable because it's life, and the other being that life is valuable only because it's good -- or at the very least not too painful**.  One of them is on the side of evolution, which says the life force itself is more important than how you feel about it.  The other of them says that the way you feel about it is more important than the life force in general.  One of them believes, in faith and in hope, that the existence of the life force will eventually bring about good things -- which is mostly true.  The other believes, out of human dignity, that if you don't have something worth dying for, you don't have a reason to live***.

They both sound opposite but they're on the same side.  One gave us the will to go on until many of us became too good to go on; and the people who are too good to go on give us reasons to keep going on.  The question is, if I draw the line at the bus, does that make me better or worse?  If I decide to throw away my life or someone else's to keep us from living like the animals, does that make me more or less human?   


*The first time I did meth was a shock.  You chop the stuff up and get it into a line and put the straw into your nose, and instead of getting a quick ticket to bliss, your nasal cavity ends up catching on fire.

When nobody tells you to expect this it's terrifying; and you believe, if only for a quick second, that somebody sold you the wrong stuff and you could very well die -- a sharp pain which comes out of nowhere and you aren't completely sure won't last forever.  After a few seconds of cursing and panic the burn begins to subside and a quick jolt goes through your entire body; and you stand up straighter than you've ever stood before and your heart begins to race and you get this feeling like you just won the lottery and you want to run a marathon -- which is only heightened by the fact that you weren't expecting the pain, and the pain had led you to believe you might never experience the jolt.

Meth doesn't go away like coke does.  It lasts a long time; and for those of us who were expecting a let-down after a half-hour, we were treated to something that wouldn't only last longer, but would keep you awake for the whole night -- after which you would need more meth to get you through the day.  The difficult thing about meth is quitting it.  It was cheaper than cocaine in the early 2000's and punched a lot harder; and like coke it ruined your appetite, your judgment, and your nasal cavity; and unlike coke it ruined your interest in water.  Within a few months I was a gaunt and shivering mess, and the family I was living with, a friend of my family's headed by a patriarch playing both a saint and a doctor, eventually found I was using.  He was upset.

At this point it didn't look like it but I had options.  I could hand them the keys to my car, stop using drugs until I moved out, abandon my "friends" and start going to church, or I could give said family the middle finger, hit the road and the streets, and keep snorting this white stuff and live like a junkie.  I chose to hand them my meth, and the reason I picked it is because at my core I want to live in a middle class neighborhood in a clean house with a hot shower around good people and solid food -- an option many people (and all our bums) would have thrown away and do many times throw away supposing they're asked it.  And if they didn't throw it away they would embrace it, fail to maintain it, and then eventually ruin it.

When people ask me why I'm hard on street junkies, I tell them this.  The reason I'm not a bum is because I can't be a bum.   I'm constitutionally incapable of it like I'm incapable of stabbing myself in the eye or purposely running over a baby: because the things I can't change about myself -- my innermost preferences -- forbid it, just like the preferences of the street junkies and bus villains forbid them from being our doctors, or from seeking a shower.

There are men who look at these bums and see nothing but potential.  Whether these uplifters are religious or not I call them evangelists.  But an evangelist can only inspire; and if the man he's trying to inspire can't see the value in the inspiring there is nothing you can do for him.  The overwhelming majority of the bums fed at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission aren't helped by the "help."  An evangelist can only plant an idea in your head.  It's the job of the listener to make it grow.  A reformed bum is always his own hero.  The best thing you can do for the rest of them is let the police shoot all the dealers.

**There's a whole theory, propagated best by Schopenhauer, that the whole of our desires, including the thing we call love, is pain.  It runs (in short) that everything we want is a kind of discomfort, and the more we want something the more uncomfortable it is, and when we want something the most and can't have it it's agony -- something I agree with wholeheartedly.  Even if we discount the worst of these things, which is loving a woman you can't have or losing a kid or a good wife, what should we count holding your tongue when you want to say something true -- but you shouldn't?  Somewhere in your soul someone or something is applying a thumbscrew.  To control yourself is a man's game.  The people who give in to their feelings may not always be wrong, but one thing is sure -- they can't handle pain.

***The difference between the martyr and the suicide is smaller than we think.  In the end neither of them were willing to live if they couldn't have something they want.  The difference between them is that one of them benefits us by their suicide and the other one hurts.

We call the "suicide" selfish because he thought it was too painful to live.  But who's more selfish than the person who celebrates martyrs?