‘pity this busy monster, manunkind’: Just what is it that we all are so busy doing?
pity this busy monster, manunkind,
not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)
plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh
and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical
ultraomnipotence. We doctors know
a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go
- e e cummings
e e cummings is expressing his pity for all of us. He’s sorry that we are so busy. He’s sorry that we are obsessed with a misunderstood idea of progress. He’s sorry that we are stuck with an eternal belief that we’d be happier somewhere else, with something else, or someone else. He’s sorry that we find ourselves more important than the stars, stones, and trees.
We lose track of what matters: the small things become the big things (“electrons deify one razorblade / into a mountainrange”), we are trapped by illusions of what is real and what isn’t (“A world of made / is not a world of born”), and we all crave the “good universe next door” where everything is different. Where everything must be better, right?
The reason we fall into this trap is the way we perceive progress. Progress is a hard thing to track — though we sure try with all forms of Scientific Management and data analyzation, and these sort of things work to determine our efficiency towards reaching a goal, but how do we define this goal? For progress to exist it needs a goal, or a destination.
Progress is actually defined as “forward or onward movement toward a destination”. This is where our mistake is made: in how we define our goals. We are moving too fast and allowing society to set our goals for us: money, a new pair of shoes, the weekend, or a new job. Why trapped by a “comfortable disease” called progress and we lose touch with mankind.
Our wishes become “unwishes”, we don’t really desire them, but they keep us working, give us something to look forward to — something to make “progress” towards “wherewhen till unwish / returns on its unself” and we realize this wish was a unwish, not something we ever desired at all, but a unreal destination to that existed only to create an illusion of progress in our minds.
So pity on us all, all us busy monsters, comfortable with this disease of continual progress towards an undesirable end.