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I don't know about you, but the Urban Man tries hard to take responsibility for his mistakes. You know, like all the therapists and self-help books say, "Don't blame fate, don't blame your mother. Don't lay your problems on mysterious forces beyond your control...not even on your friend Pete.
They rightly tell you to own it up and suck it in. It was you who never returned that call, you who failed to transition from telecom to precious metals, you who failed to maintain quality communication in your relationships, or apologize to Pete when it was, you know, possible."
Still, I have to say, this system sucks. I mean, wouldn't it be better if we could blame fate?
The other day, for example, I had "one of those days." Yes, it happens even to the Urban Man, who's generally so lucky. At 8:20 a.m., I found an overdraft with overdraft charges. At 8:40, I hit "reply all" instead of "reply," alienating three colleagues. When I tried to apologize I found that I'd failed to charge my phone. At 8:41 I failed to purchase gold before it hit a grand an ounce. At 8:54 I realized I'd missed an 8:30 conference call. And come 8:59—when it might yet have been a sweet dawn, brimming with hope and possibility—I glanced in the aquarium and saw that all my goldfish had died overnight. Was it plague? Murder? Suicide? Or was it because I hadn't changed their water in six months?
I tried to take responsibility for all these things. I really did. But then I told myself that modern life was overcomplicated. Thanks to modern technology, there are more and more ways to screw things up every day.
And hey, maybe I was haunted by some angel of misfortune or demon of chaos.
Soon I found myself envying the people who lived back when they could blame evil spirits or bad karma for things going wrong. You know, like in the Greek days when they could blame Zeus or Athena for having a hissy fit. Even in the Middle Ages, they could blame Old Nick.
But these days, most clergymen tell us that not even G-d Himself has anything to do with the things that go wrong in our lives—not even the big things: not even car wrecks, earthquakes, or bad diagnoses. Then certainly, we can't blame heaven when we hit "reply all" instead of "reply."
I thought "Hey, back in the old days, if a man needed to improve his luck, he could burn some incense, sacrifice a sheep, or dress in sackcloth and ashes—all relatively inexpensive fixes. These days, we have to lay out the big bucks for therapists, drugs, and motivational seminars. This is an improvement?"
Unfortunately, that same night, at a cocktail party, I found myself standing next to a famous songwriter. Trying to make small talk, I mentioned the apparent ease with which he spun up new tunes—seemingly every week. I said, "What does it take you, like an hour to write a new song?" Of course, the moment those words left my mouth, I recognized their astounding stupidity and I saw a shadow pass across his face.
Now this was a tough rap to lay on fate or bad luck. If only I could have cried out that I had been momentarily possessed by the doppelganger of inane conversation or at least the alcohol of my apple martini. But now, as the songwriter turned away, I want to assure my listeners that I became a good modern human once again. I sucked it in. I accepted responsibility. Not just for the social faux pas, but for the whole rotten day: for the overdraft and the uncharged cell, the miscoms, and clumsy financial decisions.
Only...not for the dead goldfish. The Urban Man swears that was caused by dark forces beyond his control.
Copyright © 2009. Marc Porter Zasada.
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