It’s Horrible, Terrible, Even Unbearable, but Always as It Has Been
Diagnosing the Protagonist Paradox.
Everything matters now.
The unfactual Facebook posts of a retired electrician in Kansas matter. The offensive jokes teenagers make with their friends matter. The weird perspectives some people share on TikTok matter. Who your long-dead ancestors were matters. Whether you believe who your long-dead ancestors were matters, matters.
How could you think we live in anything other than the most important, unprecedented, and urgent times to ever exist?
Maybe there’s already a catchy name for this, but I’ll title it myself anyway: when you find yourself convinced that you are definitely living through the most historic and cataclysmic of times with every new day, you’re experiencing the Protagonist Paradox. Isn’t interesting how right now is the most urgent and important time you’ve ever lived through, but so was last month, and so was last year, and so was the last decade?
It’s almost like your entire life feels urgent and important with each new moment. We’re masters at making our moment the center of all eternity.
Your childhood is shrouded with the timelessness of nostalgia. Once memories get locked into the glossy amber of nostalgia, the urgent and unprecedented feelings fall away. You’re not there anymore—you’re here, in this urgent and unprecedented moment.
Your childhood was full of urgent and unprecedented moments, of course. You may have grown up during the birth of the internet and the proliferation of home computers. Whenever you grew up, there was still war and there were still riots. Weird events that surely marked the dystopian sci-fi future we’re still fearing today also happened decades ago; remember Dolly the cloned sheep? Important people were assassinated, terrorists did terrorism, crack was invented (!), AIDS was the hot pandemic, and our government unlawfully killed its own citizens in the name of security. Funny how massive events just don’t have that je ne se quois—that unusual and foreboding air—when I’m not the protagonist living through them.
Every moment you live through is unprecedented and historic, by definition.
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