Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Guilty of nothingness

Three years ago, I served on a jury in Chicago. It was a civil case, and it lasted only eight days, but I gained some insight into how the jurors in the recently concluded Dan Ryan construction trial must have felt. And I know how they're about to feel, now that they can return to the real world.

They are going to realize that their lives don't really matter all that much.

First of all, the case will be appealed and probably overturned. So those months spent listening to boring testimony repeated over and over again? And the weeks of earnest deliberation? Meaningless in the end.

Second, they will return to their jobs. And they will see that, no, the world didn't stop just because they weren't around. Their presence, no matter how vital it may seem, isn't actually required. Someone else can pick up the slack and the wheels of capitalism will keep on turning.

People like to think that their jobs define who they are, and so they work--punch in day in and day out in a neverending cycle of slaving away for someone else and consuming products that can never provide happiness and keeping up with everyone else that's trying to keep up. In the U.S. especially, there's this attitude towards MY JOB that implies that we shouldn't have more than two or three weeks off a year and we should feel guilty when we actually take a personal day.

As for me, I'm trying to figure out how I can live without actually contributing to this system. I often ask myself, what would you do if you knew you only had a short time to live? Would you continue working where you work, stressing out about stupid things? Because the thing is, we actually do have only a limited time left. Turn on the news for a reminder of all the people whose lives were cut short today. What legacy did they leave behind?

So, the scary thing isn't quitting my job and giving this whole country the middle finger. It's figuring out how I want to live--what I want to do--while staying productive and happy and out of the poorhouse.

In the meantime, I gotta get going or else I'll be late for work.

Ah, screw it, I'm calling in sick. There's lots of Court TV I can watch.


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