Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readJul 16, 2018


You muddle through as best you can.

Every morning you slide into a society you had no hand in constructing and don’t really understand, like an awkward introvert arriving late to a party full of strangers who all know each other.

You interact with the whole thing through an interface of culture, language and etiquette that was invented by people you don’t know who died a long time ago. Any time you want to interact with someone, like when you’ve got an interesting idea you want to share or because they’re looking especially beautiful in the light of the street lamps or whatever, you’ve got to plug into this whole network of information which is dictated by past events ranging from how their parents treated them when they were little to the migratory behaviors of Anglo-Saxon settlers in fifth century Europe.

You shove a sloppy effort at communication through this thick veil of unknowable variables, and whatever happens is called conversation. They say something back like “What do you do for a living? I manufacture fish poison,” and you say “I turn a gear at a factory that makes gears,” and they say “I understand society perfectly and everything makes sense and we’re never going to die hahahaha,” and then you say something like “I know right hahahahahahaha,” and you just want to scream or punch them or kiss them full on the mouth, or anything to make a real connection happen beyond the vapid small mouth noises of gibbering naked ape monsters.

You stumble away vaguely frustrated and muddle on. Maybe you turn on one of the glowing rectangles you own, and maybe it tells you you’re ugly unless you wear the right kind of makeup. Maybe it tells you you’d fit in much better if you were rich and famous. Maybe it tells you the government is dropping smiley-faced bombs on smiley-faced peasants in Boingbonkistan to spread freedom and democracy. Maybe some talking head thinkbrain looks you right in the eye and explains why it’s good for you to work hard for not much money. The screen is full of strained, plastic smiles and calm, confident tones of voice, which are nothing like the confused desperation behind the eyes of your neighbors.

You muddle your way outside and look at all the other human creatures scuttling around on their leg stalks. Maybe you walk past a dead accordion angel with sailboat wings in the gutter, and you stare at it for a while wondering if the stars in the sky are still there. Maybe you remember what it was like riding your tricycle as a little kid, and how good and how real it felt.

Maybe you decide then and there that you’re just not going to anymore, you’re not going to keep pretending and faking your way through a fake civilization made of fake ideas with a fake smile on your fake face. Maybe you turn around and say to the people walking by, “I’m not doing this anymore.” And maybe they say “But but but what about the gear?” And maybe you say “I do not care about that gear.” And maybe they say “But there’s that new fish poison factory opening down the road and it will need gears from the gear factory.”

And maybe you say something back like, “Well I don’t know. I’m just muddling through the best I can here, okay? I showed up as a little baby and you all told me what to think about things, and then a whole muddled confusion happened and now I’ve got these calloused hands from the gear and when I’m really honest with myself it hurts to live. I want to fall in love and learn the songs of skybirds and sip train smoke through intravenous tubes. I want to swim with the manta whales and the barking wolf sharks. I want to grow a flower in an old boot and have a frivolous abortion. I want to get into fights with broken bottles in a dusty tavern and get a bad facial scar and choke a man unconscious with my legs. I want to dream like there’s no tomorrow and write poems like there’s no today. I can’t lie anymore. I can’t keep pretending to be shaped the same way as the cardigan clowns on the sitcoms. I am a howling beast. I am too alive for this cage.”

“But but but but but but but but but but but but but but but but, what about the gear?” they might say.

And you may end up saying “Ah yes, good point,” and go back to the murk for another few years before you catch another glimpse of that three year-old on that trike. And that’s okay. You muddle through. You muddle through and move toward the light whenever you spot it.

And it is real. In the name of all that is holy, I swear to you that that light is real, and that it leads to the other side of this mess. Upon my broken wings and my broken hands, I swear it from the bottom of my peacock feather heart. Keep muddling through, beautiful ape monster. Keep muddling through.




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