THE UNEXAMINED LIFE

Journal

[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED]

BY RUI CARLOS DA CUNHA

ὁ . . . ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ

~ Σωκράτης

Sometimes, as I walk down the road, I imagine getting in a fistfight, a dispute or an argument with people that I pass. I am on guard for a challenge, an encounter. The funny thing is that I weigh less than one hundred forty pounds. I always have. A man of slight build, a runner's physique, which is lucky for me since I can run away. But the problem isn't being little, a man of small stature, but having what some call triggers, a need to defend a weakness, ever since I was a small child. Back then, the threats were real from children and adults alike. My parents and older brother loved me but didn't like me much. I wasn't like they were, easy-going. I took things seriously, trying to create order from a world of chaos over which I had no control.

The world is still like this, dysfunctional, out of balance, but I am older now, wiser, able to reflect on the past, these experiences I call mistakes but I can never return to clean up the mess I made so long ago. Oh well, who cares? People get hurt along the way. No one cares to hear an apology thirty-five years later. Either I say sorry in the moment when I see I've let someone down or hurt them in some way, or I let go of the harm done to me as a small boy growing up in a world hell-bent.

Forgiveness is not a word commonly used in my vocabulary. Forgive and forget doesn't make much sense to me but then I fantasize about vengeance, about getting revenge through some form of malice. But even this, these thoughts, circumlocutions, go around the heart of the matter, pain. The experience of painful events causes trauma to develop and scar. Like a wound that can't heal on its own without help, a bandage can cover over the past until memory slips away. My mind lurks in shadows uncovering old mossy rocks to find events lost within memory. The pain I feel is not of a physical nature, but metaphysical, beyond this world of trauma. It is a sickness from which I suffer.

But then, we all suffer and some of us recover quicker than others. Some may call this karma, a dubious, specious argument attributed by some to past lives. I try to live this one life in this world without hope or desire for a life after death. That, to me, is inane. Ridiculous! But the facts still remain that some people bounce back from loss, pain, fatigue with a short nap, no more than that. Others end up in mental institutions and are deemed insane, beyond reach of doctors or the will of society. Nothing can tempt them back to the madness of the workweek, the harm, the microaggressions encountered by people of ill-intent, lost on the path. To inflict harm is their way of dealing with past events, mistakes made by others, through intention, by omission or commission. Acts in this life create karma. Anything else is beyond all reason.

As an adult, I fantasize but I have never gotten into a fistfight. I imagine successfully defending myself from others, either through words and wit, or deeds, physical actions using martial arts. The malice I imagine in my mind harms me. This, too, is not healthy. Unless I carry out some grand misguided scheme. The thoughts in my head create a spiral that I descend like a staircase or a curved slide. It takes time away from thinking productive thoughts. But I rarely have anything productive to offer the world. Just these strange musings from a tiny man who has no interest in becoming like Napoleon, either as a complex or as a man.