I just ate two cinnamon buns because fuck the world.
That was the unprompted message I received, this morning, from an ordinarily nutrition-conscious friend. (A more recent update: his head and stomach are now hurting – presumably from the dietary assault, but one can’t be sure.) He wasn’t alone, of course. The events of last night were enough to make any rational person contemplate suicide by nihilistic sugar overdose. For my part, I went to sleep upset, slept fitfully and woke up feeling unmistakably depressed.
Now, in case you’re worried, let me assure you that I don’t intend to beat you over the head with my political views (as though you hadn’t already ascertained those long ago). Even if this is my own platform – where I deliberately hold the microphone – I don’t get to tell you about how sad the results of the 2016 US presidential election made me. Because that would imply that my personal sadness somehow matters. It doesn’t. On the list of people most adversely affected by today’s state of the world, I’m a lot closer to the bottom of the list than I am to the top.
But there’s perhaps literary value in framing these historical events through the lens of the relatively inconsequential dream I’m chasing. Unfortunately, (at outset) the story isn’t terribly uplifting.
See, one of my foundational beliefs in the pursuit of this unusual venture (a non-profit provider of financial services) is that “generally, people are good by default“. And not that I have the right to claim I know anything about why Donald Trump was elected as US President, his election strikes me as a really damaging blow to that belief.
Maybe those who voted for him are somehow unaware of his many demonstrable leanings toward racism, misogyny, bigotry, various forms of tribalism and overall divisiveness. I hope that’s it (please let it be so). Because if it’s the case that these people are aware of those things and either don’t care or (unthinkably) support them, then people are not as good as I thought. Sure, Trump lost the popular vote so there are a great many Americans (to say nothing of the world beyond US borders) who don’t stand behind his terrifying vision of what it means to be a human being. But…symbolically or otherwise, this really fucking sucks.
So why not wake up today and eat a small heap of cinnamon buns? Why not wake up every day and live as though one’s self is the only thing that matters? Because if my big dream is to live (more) in service of everything beyond my precious self – and all of its associated interests – but the world is going to respond by doubling down on feelings of “fuck everyone who’s not me”, then what’s the point? Might as well work toward getting disgustingly rich and building my own personal wall to make sure my neighbor never has access to my amassed fortune of cinnamon-laden baked goods.
That’s about how I was feeling as I drove to my first meeting of the day, with a wonderful lady who – coincidentally – happens to be an American expat. I would go on to learn that Cindy and her organization do phenomenal work to reduce the incidence of poverty in our city, through various programs aimed at helping people improve their economic situation. But before we got to that part of the discussion, she and I spent a few minutes in somber, wistful conversation about the political backdrop to our scheduled chat.
Cindy is at a later point in her career than I am – she mentioned having recently scaled back her responsibilities – which necessarily gives her a different vantage point on things, but perhaps one that’s cut from the same worldview cloth as my own. More than once, she apologized for my having caught her in a moment of sadness. She spoke of having built her career on a desire to “change the world”, eventually deciding that her best means of doing so was to “change the workplace”, which led her to found a number of employment cooperatives (worker-owned enterprises) in the interest of economic development. As with so many of the people I am fortunate to be meeting these days, she is someone who has helped countless others – consistently not content with providing only for self.
So today, just as I looked at the path ahead and questioned whether it’s even worth starting down, Cindy’s tone and body language implied the mirror inverse of that reflection (so to speak).
But after I met with Cindy (from whom I gathered a number of valuable insights and ideas, despite her – of course – humble concern that she may not have been helpful to me), I met a friend for lunch. This is a friend with whom I was originally connected when our career paths intersected. Her professional background (being not far off of mine) is relevant because as I explained my new venture to her, a really inspiring thing happened.
She got it.
About halfway through my story, she started finishing my sentences. She got my vision for the business model. She got the social void I’m aiming to fill. She got the value I can offer to customers. She got the value I can offer to prospective staff. And, best of all, she got really excited about the whole thing.
Yesterday was not about me. Neither was today, nor will tomorrow be. Cindy, relative to her many years of tireless dedication to a better world, has natural reason to feel deflated by the timing of this rather discouraging historical event. I have no sweat equity for which to grieve, so what I feel at this stage is of little consequence either way. But with a day of reflection under my belt – a day in which I was introduced to Cindy and her lifelong benevolence, and a day in which my vision caused a twinkle of enthusiastic recognition in a friend’s eye – I’ve come to a place of relative peace with the state of things.
Today, as yesterday, there are all kinds of people in this world: those who prize self above all and those too ignorant to recognize their own ignorance, but also those who believe in good for goodness’ sake.
Without the Cindy’s of the world, the case in favor of dropping everything and gorging oneself to bloated excess would be a lot stronger. But as it is, there are plenty of inherently good people out there – those who both do and believe accordingly. And if I don’t take whatever opportunity I have to actively be one of those, I’m not much different than the people whose vile self-centredness I might blame for my own surrender.
Donald Trump can have his presidency. Hell, he can have my cinnamon buns too.
Both of them.