Of all the jobs I have, being human is the worst. Day after day, I have to feel compassion for every living thing, to mourn every dead thing. Not just beloved family members I know or knew of, not just my adored pets and those I meet on the street, not just books that sit on the shelf calling my name, not just cars and boyfriends and ice skates that were once mine. And then, night after night, I have to dream that beyond the real world in which I am compassionate and mourn what is lost, there is yet another world where I am expected to have compassion and mourn all over again. In short, my job description as a human being is to experience and remember everything with emotion. It can be exhausting.
I think I would be better off as a rock. But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that I could rewrite the job description for humans. How does this sound? “Wanted: human being incapable of attachment to the subjects and objects of this world, and ignorant of their worth when they disappear.” That sounds terrible. Even to a rock. Because a rock can be what it is only because the minerals that constitute it are attached to each other. Break those silicon oxide bonds, and the rock is moon dust.
Maybe at the end of the day, when I wish I could quit my job as a human being, I should think like the rock I would rather be. I might realize how good I have it. All those emotions, all those thoughts, all those feelings are attached to each other so that they constitute me. And unlike the rock we might sometimes wish to be, we don’t have to sit around waiting for eons while sedimentary forces or volcanic heat produce compatible mineral structures as potential attachments that would help us grow into mighty mountains.
We humans live our lives. We go out into the world on our own to seek and choose subjects and objects to attach ourselves to on our own volition, becoming greater than what we were when we began this project of being human. True, sometimes we think we should have left well enough alone, that some of our attachments are more a punishment than a prize. But let’s go back to the end of that day, when we’d like to quit our human being job. Do we really want to sit there, unattached and unfeeling, like a rock in the middle of nowhere? Before you answer that question, go down to Human Resources and check your file. Looks like you’re pretty good at what you do. So carry on, enjoy your paycheck, and l’shanah tova!