Fred Clark of Slacktivist wants to know why anyone would have written the virus on his computer.

Is it from boredom? Because that’s just nuts. The world is a vast and glorious place. Your hometown, however small it may be, contains more secrets and mysteries and wonders than you will ever have time to explore. Your local library contains more life-changing, luminous books than you will ever have time to read. All five seasons of The Wire are out on DVD. You haven’t seen even half of the AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies. There’s a Habitat work site within a short drive of wherever you are. And a food pantry, a farmer’s market and all manner of shelters and clinics and tutoring programs in need of volunteers. There are streams, highways and creatures awaiting adoption. Your elderly neighbor could use a hand with a few chores. And if you’re anywhere near my latitude, then there’s garlic and kale and lettuce to be planted and weeded and tended.

“Why?” he asks in all the naïveté of his comfortable suburban middle-aged middle-class existence.  One can hear the house and the wife and the kids and the dog emanating from his tone.  One can imagine him waking up bright and cheerful, hopping out of bed, and announcing to whichever of them was closest, “There are so many great things to do today!  Where shall we begin?”

It’s odd: Fred Clark is usually so good at plumbing people’s motivations.  He often looks at petty or hateful actions and presents his conjectures as to why anyone would behave that way.  But in this case he’s drawing a blank.  Allow me, then, to explain.

Books, movies, and television are all very well, but an existence spent solely consuming them is a dim half-existence.  Humans are creators.  We must contribute.  If we do not, our lives will always be empty.

Clark is full of suggestions on how to contribute.  Let’s begin at the bottom.  Gardens go in yards, which come with houses, which belong to people with money.  So scratch that off the list, along with all the things that need to be adopted.

As for the rest, someone as marketable as Clark perhaps needs to be enlightened about the phenomenon of rejection.  Strange to say, even if you are offering to do whatever is needed for no pay, people can and will find the deal unacceptable (or will turn you down in favor of one of the dozen others offering the same deal).  The homeless shelter, the tutoring program, Habitat for Humanity: All of them will turn you down.  Even the old lady desperately wants help—but not your help.

My particular salvation is art.  I’m a tolerable illustrator and, as long as I don’t charge anything, I can generate a steady stream of requests from people who are not tolerable illustrators, and even some who are.  But there are plenty of people out there who lack any opportunity to contribute, even for free.  What ever they do, whatever they want to do, runs in circles pent up from an indifferent world.

And yet we must contribute.

It’s amazing how quickly your view of something can change.  An institution perhaps once seemed admirable, something you’d long to be a part of, but once they make it clear that you are worthless in their eyes, their value tends to take a downturn in your eyes.  Soon the world itself seems to scorn you and you, in turn, scorn it.  If they won’t accept your contributions, honestly meant and contributed through legitimate means, you’ll force something on them whether they like it or not.  The consequences for them are irrelevant; did they show any concern for you?

There you have it: Vandalism, including Clark’s virus.  The illegitimate contribution of those who were not allowed to make a legitimate contribution.  Everyone will give something back.  It’s in our nature.


Image from Wikimedia Commons.


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