Hard times, good stories, and rich lives

I believe it was Hemingway who said, “hard times make for good stories, and good stories for rich lives.” But I don’t remember where, or even whether, he said or wrote this line.


Regardless or who said or wrote this line, or something like it, I love the sentiment. And it’s particularly relevant for the hard times ahead. Never mind happy motoring, an activity that’s just about seen its last. Soon enough we’ll need to start thinking about how to feed ourselves and our families. There’s damn little high fructose corn syrup in your future, and quite a few hard times.
You can buck up, buckle down, and revel in the moment, generating good stories and therefore rich lives. Or you can take the Hemingway out. As always, the choice is an individual one.
And remember: If you can’t laugh at yourself, and you can’t laugh at the apocalypse, you’ve got dark days ahead. But if you can laugh at yourself, and you can laugh at the apocalypse, you’ll never run out of material. Peak oil? Runaway greenhouse? Just a couple more scenes for the world’s tragic stage. And tragedy is just another word for comedy, if you can find humor in yourself and the apocalypse.
If your finest efforts fail to fill the existential abyss, if your dark nights are filled, for lack of a better phrase, with “soul” searching, if you feel as lonely in life as we all must feel in the final throes of death, welcome aboard. And take heart, because you’re in great company: Schopenhauer and Nietzsche describe the feeling well.
Reason has its rewards. But it has its costs, too. The combination of reason and knowledge is nearly too much to bear, unless you take the long and humorous view.
If you’re inherently incapable of getting funny, you can get busy. There’s a lot to be done, and we’re running short on time. If you’re a modern human, you’ve likely lost track of near-term necessities such as hunting food, splitting wood, hauling water to the woodstove, making clothes from plant fibers or animal skins, building a house, tending the garden, and storing food without fossil fuels. It’s time to start learning some skills that will allow you to survive, hard times and all. While you’re at it, you can work on story-telling.

Comments 3

  • Luckily for some of us, it takes as little as two weeks to go feral. Just ask my advisors …

  • Many years ago, my grandmother used to tell me about “going to the store days” when she was a little girl. They only went once a year because, at 15 miles, it was too far to make it to town and back in a single day. Transportation was by mule and wagon and there weren’t any roads, just cart tracks. To a kid who was living in the “25 miles for a pizza” world, this was surreal.
    Fast forward 40 years and it’s not so surreal any more. Add another 40 years and imagine wide-eyed children listening to a crazy old man talk about traveling 50 miles for lunch.
    Yes, some day even our most mundane tasks will be fodder for a good story.

  • It occur to me while reading George Monbiot’s latest that you can’t laugh at yourself and you can’t laugh at the apocalyspe, until you can laugh, and mean it, at Marx’s simple truth: “Individuals make history, but not in the circumstances of their choosing.”