Bill by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

As predisposed as each of us may unsurprisingly be to view our own personal dilemmas in life as worthy of notice by others, the unvarnished truth is that when it comes to public empathy, nobody’s listening and nobody cares. While this may be taken as an unfeeling comment upon the popularly retailed big-heartedness of society, it is more likely than not a cold reality. To think otherwise is an illusion. Nonetheless I expect your instinctive reaction upon hearing such blunt remark is to come streaming to the campaign for all that is philanthropic in mankind. You may however be bound to leave such high-minded benevolence at the door of paid social workers rather than upon the pouting lips of well-wishers. How often have you passed with averted eyes the overwrought features of a co-worker? When did you take seriously the tormented outburst of a friend that he cannot go on any longer? When last did you contemplate what it means that charity begins at home? And even if you did for a moment flirt with these perplexities, what in the end were you truly going to do? Isn’t it all so much easier to let such puzzlements trickle down the street like so much slop in the gutter?

But it is not all bad. It for example squarely dispels any misapprehension that dwelling upon our problems will be resolved by responsiveness from others. In the first place, each of us without exception has sufficient distress with which to cope. In the second place, none of us has the time to dwell at any meaningful length upon other than our own painfulness. Ultimately the universe is personal and that means we must come to grips with our private trials alone.

The real misconception about life’s problems isn’t that nobody’s listening and nobody cares, rather the delusion that it would make any real difference even if they were or did. Allow me that I am here not talking of the material deprivations of life, the want of food and shelter. Clearly there are people and organizations who service such needs. But the problems of the soul cannot be so easily ministered to: the things that torment us in the middle of the night, the paroxysms of culpability and uncertainty that prickle during the day. We have only ourselves to look to in that regard. Eventually each of us awakens to our quarantined reality whatever it may be, no matter the magnitude of compassion from others if indeed any at all.

The sense of isolation which such a trajectory engenders is formidable. It does however paradoxically keep one’s feet on the ground. All that business about being “…a part of all that I have met…” is suddenly quite inappropriate and unnecessarily poetic. Virtually nothing will either contaminate or improve the essence of our being other than our own initiatives, and to seek reimbursement or deference from society as a whole is a decided waste of time. Our inner vexations are so secluded from the outer world that the prospect of commingling the two is purposeless. Furthermore the natural human inclination to seek the approbation of others, whether through attention or understanding, is tidily side-lined by the recognition that you’re on your own.

Nevertheless there is a certain empowerment by this forceful admission. The elimination of the frivolity and irrelevance of extraneous considerations at least provides a focus and drive for our endeavours. Ambition and the nutrients which feed it are likewise from within. To plunder the resources of the empty well of others is mistaken. In the end it doesn’t matter that nobody’s listening and that nobody cares.