Nec Spe, Nec Metu

by Paul Mathers


I dreamt that a dwarf sycamore tree at my current house (which is not an actual tree at this house, but was in the place of my olive tree) had huge limbs falling from it. I had to chop them up while trying to keep vagrants from entering my garage.

In the morning, I was, again, depressed over the loss of my house. It was one of those mornings where you almost start crying from walking out the backdoor, realizing how limited a number of times you have left to walk out of that particular backdoor in this life. This was my marriage house, what we came home to from the honeymoon nearly seven years ago. I wanted to retire here some day… to an extent. As the quality of the neighborhood disintegrated, that became less joyous of a prospect.

Then, halfway through my workday, I was thinking about the books I’ve ordered with my birthday money. I’m especially looking forward to a book about Diogenes the Cynic, the philosopher of antiquity who lived in a storage container of his own free will and who is reported to have said:

“Humans have complicated every simple gift of the gods.”

And I thought, I am a straight, white male, age 18-55, in a First World nation with freedom of religion and, to some extent, freedom of political views. I am sad about losing my three bedroom house to move into a two bedroom house. This is hardly the stuff of high tragedy. This is, more accurately, the description of someone in some of the most privileged circumstances on Earth.

None of the pets will be put down or even rehoused (well, rehoused with us, I suppose. But we don’t have to lose the pleasure of any of their company is my point). We have a realtor who is helping us through the Deed in Lieu process which should make the process as painless/annoyanceless as possible. We haven’t even paid our first month’s rent and we’ve already had more help than either of us have ever had in a move before.

When I was in college, I had a friend with whom I would occasionally play a game called “The Blessing Game.” We would each get a bottle of Merlot and sit on her patio, usually late at night. We would drink our wine and list the ways in which we are blessed.

I had another compass that I recently was able to pass on to a friend who was struggling with some situations. I told him about a concept that I learned from a teacher in the theater (and later learned that he got it from Quentin Crisp). The concept was:

“Accelerate through the chaos.”

For example, if you’re balding, shave your head. In my experience, it’s a way of coping with, and even enjoying, our powerlessness in this world. Sometimes it works out to be the way to solve problems. We saw our financial dire straights about to fall on us, so we set into motion the mechanism of losing our house. This will likely keep us from being foreclosed upon and will move us into a bigger house, with all of our pets, in a better neighborhood, for cheaper. Like grain for the famine years, we store up wisdom in times of calm to prepare us for times of distress. Wisdom is a map to navigate troubled waters.

Of course it will be sad to leave this house. We have a lot of memories in it and we love it. We put a lot of work into it. But there’s really only so sad it can get. And, realistically, we were going to leave it someday one way or another. At one point I just expected that next home to be a small box placed gently into the sod and padded by lilies.

That’s the reality of our situation. Yours too. Don’t let’s get too attached to all of this.