Excerpt from Diminishing Return by Joseph D. Newcomer

The following is an excerpt from my last novel. It is one of the parts of the book that makes me proudest of the message I was attempting to convey. I feel as though it is even more relevant today than the day I wrote it. If you feel the same, please share it with your friends.

“It can be difficult to not hate people for their decisions and for how their decisions, ultimately, affect your own life. Even though I understand the logic and reason, even though it makes me appreciate that she might share my ideals about how meaningless life is becoming, has become, I still struggle to not judge the dead girl for trying to kill herself. I try not to feel disappointed in Shaffer for continuing to knowingly lose his memories and, eventually, his entire original being on entertaining himself with pretend lives. I also cannot stand that this judgment and disappointment even enters my thoughts, it gives me a bitter loathsome feeling about my own narcissism. Only semantics separate our concepts of what is real and important. Calling his lives “pretend” because of my own hang-ups is only, truly, a deflection. What I honestly feel is an addition to my compounding loss. I will miss my friend. I will always wonder who the dead girl was before she pulled the trigger. These are my burdens, not theirs. These selfish notions are not useful thoughts by which to base their character. You can’t decide how other people should feel and then be disappointed in them for not feeling the way you decided they should, but we all do it. Other people are not you, you shouldn’t want them to be, it’s not possible, and you wouldn’t like them if they were.

While it would be easy to write them off for their choices simply because I disagree with them, the harder thing to do is to understand, to allow myself to empathize with a choice when I don’t believe I would have made it. What you’ll learn after all of this lack of time and seeing people that you love and respect, intelligent people, people you know to be reasonable and decent, as they make choices that you can’t believe or accept, is that people just want to belong. People want to belong somewhere–school, a career, a circle of friends, an actual physical location, with a specific person. When that want isn’t satisfied by something most people would consider normal, that want can easily allow itself to be satisfied by something that may even be detrimental to the person it drives–drugs, cults, the past, the Pause. Time stopping hasn’t taken that want from us yet, but I worry that being able to live in past, that being able to search all of time to find where we feel we belong has falsely convinced us that our want is being satisfied. I remember feeling that way, satisfied, and most times I wish I still did.

My want to belong wishes the people I care about felt the same way as I do now so we could share in that commonality together, here in the Pause. The best parts of me hope they are just able to go on with their lives forever, feeling satisfied regardless of why or how, without the burden of my ideals, however justified or unjustified or wrong or right they may be.

I know that you’ll stand on and hold firmly to your belief that (what you consider to be) the poor decisions of others, come from weakness, but it is not weakness. The ability to allow yourself to believe in something that may only exist to take advantage of that ability is the same thing that allows you to care about anything. I can’t fault Shaffer for allowing himself to feel satisfied and happy, even if I don’t think that it’s real. This ability we have to convince ourselves that the things we consider to be “right” are absolutely correct is the strongest innate ability that we possess. It is real to him. It is as real to him as my belief, that it is not, is to me. The way he feels is real. His emotions are definitely real and they seem a hell of a lot more enjoyable than mine. I mean, who the fuck am I? Aren’t we all just guessing?

I also don’t blame her, like I’ve already said. If a person doesn’t find someone, some where, some thing, or some time to be a part of or to belong to; if a person doesn’t feel like they have the option or ability to try to any longer, it doesn’t mean that want goes away. They must feel that they are only left with two options to end that emptiness: destroy the world around them, or take themselves out of it. While it kills me to think anyone would feel that way, how I feel about it doesn’t make it any less a reality for people that do. We learn to accept and love our prisons, but only because they are our own. It is impossible to fully understand anyone else, but if you can, at the very least try to validate how they came to their prison before you choose to disregard their entire being, you’ll learn a greater deal from them than you would have otherwise. If it is ever possible to give someone a reason to feel as though they are a part of, or that they do belong to someone, some thing, some where, some time, give it to them, and maybe you’ll allow their want to be satisfied in a way that saves you both.”

From Diminishing Return

by Joseph D. Newcomer

c 2019

Read more about Diminishing Return in these posts.

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