In our hero narratives, there is often a person who is just like you and me, who discovers that they have a secret power. Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter come to mind. It turns out they’re not just regular Joes, but are instead Chosen Ones, with the power to alter the course of history. Our actual history is full of people like this as well, because they do exist, although they are slightly less common than lottery winners.
This seeps into our minds. If we are not Chosen Ones, and therefore cannot alter the course of history, then there is no point in doing anything. Which is halfway correct. I suppose you could vote, if you felt like it.
But I think we often overlook the power of small lives. During your day to day, you encounter people, you might feed a pet, you might add 500 words to a novel. You might raise a child or make dinner for a significant other, you might enjoy a beer with friends or make small talk with coworkers. You can teach people in prison how to read, you can pick up trash on the side of the road, you can (as Peter Singer recommends) donate 10% of your income to whatever organization you think is doing the most good. You could build a time machine in your backyard, or plant a garden, or learn the different types of birds in the trees near the condemned houses on your block. You could squat in an aqueduct or listen to the rain outside your window. You can lift weights and you can boil some broccoli. There are all sorts of things you can do. Read a book on the history of Mexico, watch a movie made in 1985, listen to the Esalen recordings of Terence McKenna, play a video game. You can actively not give a shit about things that don’t matter, and it’s through that practice that the real things that do matter start to come through.
Nihilism and apathy are the wrong words for what I’m suggesting. It’s more of an active engagement with the short life you’ve been given, imbuing every moment you can with as much fullness as possible. The concept of “as above, so below” is functional here, and if you fix the below of your life, all of you, then the above will work itself out.
The learned helplessness of problems that are too big are specifically meant to psy-op you into doing nothing at all. Feeding possums becomes a radical act. Doing ten pull-ups is an incredible victory. Finishing a book all the way through is an accomplishment.
Appliances are not meant to last. Batteries are meant to die. This is so that you can be sold a new thing. The same thing goes for ideologies. They are meant to collapse, to present problems so big that all you need is the newest, most refined ideology to replace it with. All you have to do is keep letting yourself be crushed over and over again. There’s an app for that.
What’s the solution? There isn’t one. There are many solutions.