Creative fatalism

Although it is expensive to know one, a lawyer can make an entertaining pet, and in an age like this, he may have one hundred and one household uses. Delectable, are many of the phrases he derives from the law. Among my favourites is, “an abundance of caution.” I close my eyes, and wonder at what a large family of cautions would look like; or a political rally where all are holding their cautions aloft; or a subway platform at rush hour, with all the countless cautions waiting for their train.

Left to myself, I do not think I could produce an abundance of cautions. Perhaps when I was younger. By now I am settled into an incautious old age, and thanks to the Batflu lockdowns, &c, do one thing after another without the advice of a lawyer, to say nothing of the company of one.

This is my retirement savings plan. A penny saved is a penny earned, and so cutting out the expense of lawyers makes a rich pension indeed. Out of an abundance of caution, however, I try to maintain myself without positive money. This is my strategy to avoid being sued.

But in the world outside of the High Doganate, the cautious prevail. I think of a friend always counting his change. As only “debit cards” may now be accepted, he can throw caution to the wind. In our brave new world of electronic transactions, even gold is reduced from “hard” to “soft.”

This is not as new as might appear. Years ago (many) I had a job for which I was partially paid into a gold account in Hong Kong. This was to dodge taxes in another Asiatic jurisdiction. Too, I liked the idea of gold, which does not badly rust like so many other metals, or tarnish like silver coins, in sometimes unsightly ways. However, being some kind of “economic journalist” then, I knew how to access statistical tables.

It turned out that there were ten times as many troy ounces of nominal gold, stored away in the world’s safest places, than there was solid gold to be found — on the same planet. Ninety percent of this gold was paper, then, and would be electrons today, on some leftist creep’s fickle server.

I was mildly scandalized. My gold was as whimsical as my Mighty Dollars. It was underwritten not by something in real shiny bars, stacked in Fort Knox, but by the public imagination. Several billion people, “liquid” or not, agreed not to ask too many questions; wisely, perhaps, or they would all go mad. That the whole of the international economy was the equivalent of a monstrous pyramid scheme, was something they would rather not know.

My curiosity on this account was matched by many other idle interests. These have continued through the years. For instance, I was once curious about a cancer, which was treated in various excruciating ways, such as by chemotherapy. One might read pages and pages about it, in impenetrable jargon; which I’m sure people do when they think they might have it.

But having done all this, I discovered, one’s prospects of survival were approximately the same as if one hadn’t. Surely, prayer would have been less intrusive upon one’s weak and failing body. And it would also be cheaper.

Or, why give up smoking if you’re dying anyway? Or drinking, if your liver is shot? Or do anything that makes you unhappy, when you have little time left to enjoy?

“Wellness” doesn’t read the New England Journal of Medicine.¬†Why should you?

I’m trying to avoid mentioning the Batflu again, but that isn’t easy. Rather, I will recommend “creative fatalism.” This is slightly different from “moronic fatalism,” such as I observed among construction crews back in that Third World — before “an abundance of caution” was imposed on them. (I was for giving them Darwin Awards, instead.) They would no more wear helmets than safety belts, on their bamboo scaffolding up in the sky. Their attitude was, “if it’s not my day, it’s not my day.”

Similarly, the bus drivers hanging out over the road to starboard. This was to make room for Buddha to drive. I doubted their doctrinal reasoning, for if it were Buddha driving, he ignored speed limits, and steered recklessly. (I preferred the Zen attitude that was, if you meet Buddha in the street, punch him.)

Let me suggest there are precautions one should take, like not making out with Typhoid Mary. Please don’t accuse me of imprudence. But there are risks one should be willing to take, in light of the fact that we’ll all die anyway, and you can’t take anything with you to Heaven. Not even your stamp collection. Not even your collection of Vatican stamps.