1944: Hell is other people.
April 2020: All this time, I thought the problem was viewing myself through the lens of others’ subjectivities. Now I come to find that the problem has always been me. Take away other people, and all I do is play video games and eat Sara Lee frozen desserts. Hell is knowing this: I’m never going to refinish those goddamn kitchen cabinets, and I have no one to blame but myself.
1963: Evil is not interesting, but instead stems from vacuity and stupidity; evil is banal.
April 2020: Ditto what I said there, but also, every single thing is not interesting. From this Hannah Arendt-shaped divot that’s formed in my couch, I hereby declare the banality of everything.
Ca. 360 B.C.E.: The human soul is a charioteer trying to drive, simultaneously, one bad horse and one noble one.
April 2020: This holds up for like a week. The noble horse asks your elderly neighbor if he needs help with anything. (He doesn’t.) The bad horse charts a rough looting strategy for the inevitable riot phase of the crisis. But numbness sets in quickly. Pretty soon your noble horse is just compulsively refreshing your state’s infection and fatality webpage. Your bad horse is too lazy to pick up the binoculars for a better peek through your other neighbor’s bedroom window. The human soul is a charioteer sleeping 14 hours a night but still napping 4 times a day.
1637: I think, therefore I am.
April 2020: I was so lonely and disoriented, I started doubting the reality of everything, even myself. But if I didn’t exist, then how could I already have over a dozen subscribers on Spotify? I started a podcast this month, therefore I am.
1927: The human essence, Dasein, can only fully comprehend the meaning of its life when faced with the certainty of its death.
April 2020: Hoo boy, was I wrong. When faced with the certainty of death, people freeze dozens of gallons of milk. They make jokes complaining about their “coworkers” (who are really just their children and pets, because, working from home, get it?). They record parody performances of “One Day More.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s adorable, I love it, but we’re not exactly achieving hard-won glimpses into the meaning of existence.
1883: In the absence of God and conventional morality, the übermensch creates his own moral code.
April 2020: Oh my God, people, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: 5/8ths of a college degree and a plane ticket to a warm beach town do not make you the übermensch. Just follow the CDC guidelines, for Christ’s sake — that’s our new secular morality. And yeah, I said “oh my God” and “for Christ’s sake.” Deal with it.
Ca. 500 BCE: Courteous, respectful support of one’s parents and elders is the foundation of civilized society.
April 2020: Nope. Your parents have chosen this moment to revive their teenage sense of invincibility, and for some reason they go to Costco like twice a day. The only way to get through to these dum-dums is to lose your shit. Just shriek at them until the ringing in their ears paralyzes them, and they have no choice but to stay home. Filial piety, my ass.
1844: Angst, the constant anxiety that is a defining feature of the human condition, stems from our consciousness of the unfettered freedom to choose.
April 2020: Great point, former me! Turns out when you have no choices, all your anxiety just melts away like snow in spring, or like glaciers in any season. That’s why this past month has been so existentially carefree!
1776: The invisible hand of the market will ensure that each self-interested economic act performed by an individual will ultimately benefit society as a whole.
April 2020: Shoot, y’all, in my day we didn’t even know about viruses, so how could I have foreseen a ventilator and mask shortage? My bad. If it’s any comfort, I tried to be a rational actor in a logical, self-regulating market, and now I’ve been out of toilet paper for three weeks. So let’s call it even?
Ca. 375 B.C.E.: Society would be best ruled by a class of philosopher kings.
April 2020: Still kinda feeling it.