A Few Parting Words from the Top of the Bottom

As I approach the end of my college career, I’ve managed to achieve a certain sense of clarity. I don’t know why, exactly. I’d like to think that it’s because I’m maturing and learning as I age. I’d like to think that it’s the product of an education at the finest University in the world. More likely, though, it’s simply that I’m getting more sleep. Whatever the reason may be, many truths have been made manifest to me. All right, just a few truths. Well, just one truth, really, but it’s one more truth than you came up with, that’s for damn sure. Ahem. The truth is: No One Knows Anything.

Clearly, I don’t mean that entirely literally. If it were really true, then I couldn’t know that it was true, now could I? That would make it a paradox (like the Terminator movies, except nowhere near as lucrative, and without any Austrians). In saying that “no one knows anything,” I am engaging an oft used (but hard to spell) literary device known as hyperbole-exaggeration for effect. I mean, speaking for myself, I know quite a few things. For example, after four years here at UC Berkeley, I now know that no bureaucracy can be trusted. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But what I really mean is that no one knows anything that’s worth a goddamn (but it sounds so much more profound when I say it the other way, in capital letters).

When we were kids, to a greater or lesser degree, we looked up to our parents. We thought of them as “grown-ups,” who knew all the things we didn’t know. Where babies come from. Why you shouldn’t pick your nose and eat it. Why Uncle Eddie had to go away for fifteen to twenty. But those were just facts and stories-they would tell us those when we were ready. Quite apart from those details, our parents also managed to exude an aura of knowing, “What It’s All About.” They moved through life with a confidence and an assuredness of purpose that suggested they had a handle on things. It was comforting to us little folk that someday, we would also achieve this state -we would “grow up” and be handed our rulebook, and then we’d be able to play the game with just as much worriless aplomb.

And now, I’m older than my parents were when they got married – only a couple of years younger than they were when they had me (oh, joyous day). But I never got any fucking rulebook. I never achieved the state of effortless grace that I perceived in my parents. And now that I’m (ostensibly) an adult, I’ve gotten to know my parents as people, and it turns out that they never had it either! It’s all a crock, and always has been. The fact is that no one really matures -adults don’t have any better a handle on life than kids do. They’re just better at faking it. Parents, teachers, priests, coaches-they’re struggling just as hard to make it through the day as you are (well, maybe not as hard as you, Barry Kurtz). Sure, they taught you to tie your shoes and do algebra and molest small boys (depending to some degree on the priest) and kick a goal. But were they ever able to answer the questions you really wanted answered? Did they ever have an answer for, “How do I ask that girl I’ve got a crush on out on a date?” or “How do I make the other kids stop making fun of me?” or “How do I kick this habit?” or even, “How do I be a better person?” or “How can I be happy?” No. Those are the things you have to learn on your own. No adult guidance was ever afforded, or could be. Because no one knows the answers. No one knows anything. Sure, some of the religious types out there will always say, “God knows the answer!” “My Lord shows me the way.” But we all know that’s a bunch of hooey. Just like everyone else, they’re pretending that they know what they’re talking about. They’re playing a part, too -they’re just overacting. If you need evidence, you need go no further than your news medium of choice. Do our public figures – our role models – know how to get through life any better than we do? Hellzno! Latrell Sprewell, a “professional” basketball player. Tupac Shakur, a musician. Jim Bakker, a religious “leader.” Bill Clinton, our president. They don’t know any more than we do. Probably, they know less (and believe me, it possible to know less than nothing). Look at Jerry Springer, for crissakes. The man makes his living capitalizing on the fact that people love to feel like they know more than someone out there.

Some of you may say that I’m being excessively negative. Some of you may say that life is more than faking it – more than going through the motions. Well, I don’t think so. I think it is quite cheering to realize that no one is in any better shape than I am. Okay, I guess that is a little negative, but who asked for your opinion anyway? Didn’t you read the fucking column? You don’t know anything, remember? Who the hell are you to criticize?