There’s a story that I wrote before I became Cancerful, one that I’d been working on for a long time (I’ve continued to work on it while being Cancerful, and hope to one day work on it post-Cancerful). It’s a story about our world, and about mankind’s place in it. It’s not a short story. It’s a long one, but a good one (and a scary one, and a funny one) that I’ve realized is pretty much nothing more than my attempt to process the insanity of what is happening to us, and around us, and because of us. Climate change, cultural wars, species extinction (including, possibly, our own)– you know, those easy Sunday afternoon conversations.
The name of this story, which is about the end of the world, is this:
“Well How D’ya You Like That?!”
This has always been the name, and I’ve always known it is the right name. But it wasn’t until just now that I thought about why this is the right name. Why would I would give something so serious such a silly title?
The reason is this: the question is unanswerable. And maybe the predicaments the story is about (climate change, cultural wars, species extinction, etc.) are unanswerable too.
Maybe some dilemmas are actually unsolvable. And maybe that is our real dilemma. And this is where I began to see the connection between that story–and that title– and having brain cancer. And this is why I am writing this on this blog.
If some dilemmas/questions/problems are unsolvable (i.e., brain cancer), I find that the reaction I lean toward (or at least try to) is something akin to “Well how do you like that!” Now, this isn’t a cop-out, or an attempt to laugh off or ignore with feigned ease things that are clearly and unarguably terrifying (climate change, cultural wars, species extinction, brain cancer…)
Rather, the feeling behind this beautiful (and beautifully funny) statement-question is essentially just marveling at the spectacle of life– at the impossibility, magnificence, horror, and beauty of the world– all at once.
Cancer: Well How D’ya Like That!?
For if there is no answer to a problem–if there truly is no answer– then why not occupy ones-self with the beautiful unhinged perplexity of the problem itself? Rather than A) turn away and ignore it, or B) invent solutions to it that you know not to be true. (Even though these latter options are certainly attractive, and have their obvious benefits, it is not in my mind’s charge to wander down those paths.)
As much as I’d like to ignore, I can’t.
And as much as I’d like to believe, I can’t do that either.
Some people (many people) might find that tragic, but I would say to them:
The willing acceptance of unknowing (and, particularly, the unknowable) does not exclude you from truth. (In fact it will, in many cases, lead you more quickly toward it.)
Neither does the recognition of horror– of the often unavoidable pain, and suffering, that the world churns out– lead one away from the ability to see, and feel, and bask in beauty.
And so, with my eyes wide open, I look at this world, at the hand I have been dealt, and I smile.
Because I can see. I can smile. I was dealt a hand. (Two, in fact.)
I was given the gift of life! And then I got Cancer! And… well…
Well how do you like that?!
Isn’t that something?