2003-01-23 5:11 p.m.
Morality erodes slowly.
People don't become corrupt overnight. Why don't they? Because everyone—including themselves—would notice. And, when people notice and become truly aware of something, they say something or take action.
This is why I think that people can allow terrible things to take place right under their noses: Yes, they are sort of aware of what is happening, but have not yet become fully aware of the depth of the situation at hand. There is a huge difference between the actions of those who truly grasp the direness of a situation—a profound understanding that rings true deep in the marrow of their bones, a knowledge which forces immediate action—and the calm inaction of those who are only sort of aware.
But, I digress.
The point is that morality erodes slowly, gradually. You don't notice your own behaviors shifting; you don't notice it happening to other people, either.
I often think of this when I observe someone driving in an unsafe or inconsiderate way. I think to myself: That person used to be a good driver when they started, otherwise they would have never passed the driving test. But, slowly their good habits have been displaced by bad ones.
I am not exempt from this shift, this displacement of good habits with bad or negligent ones. And it all happened so slowly, so gradually, so painlessly, so silently.
My drive to work today was a perfect example.
When I started driving nine years ago, I almost never broke the speed limit on the freeway by over 5 MPH. I never sped on city streets.
I still don't speed in the city, and I don't drive faster than 5 MPH over the speed limit on the freeway. My personal feelings about safety and social responsibility prevent such things. Except during my commute to and from work, during which I am an IDIOT.
Today I began by driving no less than 20 MPH above the posted speed limit on the city streets connecting my house and the nearest freeway. Upon reaching the freeway (Speed limit: 65 MPH) I quickly accelerated to 80 MPH and kept my speed between 80 and 90 at all times.
Eight years ago I would have never done this. Not even four years ago—not even two years ago.
OK, now back to my commute. Once I got up to an unsafe cruising speed, I had to make sure that my drive was even less safe. So, I started to shave with my electric razor. Now, as far as hairiness is concerned, I rank somewhere between a yeti and llama on Rogaine. So, shaving is a long and involved process—it takes me no less than 15 minutes to chop down the thick, black bristles that completely cover my face and neck. Shaving for me feels like one small man trying to deforest an entire rainforest by his lonesome self. So, of course driving too fast plus maximum–difficulty shaving does not exactly equal a training course in safe and responsible behavior.
And, keep in mind that my moral fibers are now in the steady, downhill spiral stage. So, I couldn't simply stop after I was done shaving and do something normal and safe like listen to the radio or pick my nose. I had to be even more of an idiot.
After I completed the high–speed shaving portion of my commute, I moved on to the complicated "I can't afford a dentist so I have taken matters into my own hands" dental hygiene portion of my commute. I spent the next 15 minutes or thereabouts meticulously scraping every surface of every tooth in my mouth with a dental scaling tool. I am careful to make sure I scrape each and every tooth—I even dig around in between the teeth, resulting in superior cleaning, bleeding gums, and a cool scraping noise.
The thing about scraping my teeth with a sharp tool while driving is that it is dangerous for three reasons. First of all, I might hit a bump and then stab myself in the tender, fleshy gums or inner cheek. Second, I might swerve into another lane and cause that ambulance that was rushing a bunch of retarded orphans and adorable puppies to the hospital to lose control and careen off a nearby cliff. Lastly, there is an increased danger of me getting in an accident—putting serious dents into my lunch plans for the day, and possibly forever. That would not be good.
So, it seems like the gravity of dangerous bad habits is too much for me to escape. I will soon find myself crumpled in a heap at the bottom of the downward spiral—broken remains, merely a hollow doppelgänger of a once idealistic and loving human.
And if you aren't careful to watch what you do, I'll surely see you there.
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