What eats at me is me. Here I deliberately echo a (possibly apocryphal)
story about G. K. Chesterton, in which he replied to a newspaper’s question
"What's wrong with the world today?" with the terse assertion "I am." So,
then, in my own case, while lots of things (people, puzzles, principalities
and powers) eat at me 'from the outside,' what really nibbles me numb
comes from within the fort. My own inability to live as I know I ought
to—not only morally, but also intellectually and aesthetically—gnaws at me
roughly as follows: my own internal program for detecting the good, the
true, and the beautiful says: “aim right there.” But then, like a lazy,
distracted archer, by the time the arrow is set to the string and flies, it’s not
just wide of the mark a little (like missing the bulls-eye by a millimeter), but
far of the entire target (often way short, but sometimes long or left or
right). Of course the arrow lands somewhere, at which point another
internal program kicks in: quick, start drawing concentric circles around
wherever it might have landed. If only the Texas sharpshooter’s fallacy was
limited to Texans. And if only I was typing this post earlier than normal for
reasons other than procrastinating on what I know I should be working on
What eats at me is mosquitoes. As if trying to get to sleep on a hot summer night isn’t difficult enough, it’s nearly impossible when I hear the high-pitched drone of those blood-sucking pests. Holidaying in the Netherlands during a heatwave this summer, those vicious vampires were out in force. I tried covering up. Too hot; it’s hard to sleep while swimming in sweat. I tried imbibing heavily to poison my blood. Turns out mosquitoes like a drink too. In the middle of the night on the final night of the holiday, I lost it. It didn’t worry me that everyone had to get in at 4am to get to the airport in time. I was enraged and focused on just one thing: revenge. Flip-flop in hand, I leaped around the upstairs bedroom splattering those airborne a**holes against the white walls of our cabin. Needless to say, everyone else woke up and blamed me for the interruption to their much-needed sleep. It also eats at me when heroes are misunderstood and vilified. Worst of all though, after hopping back into bed, chuffed with myself for creating a grotesque mural out of eight of those suckers, I couldn’t sleep. Another high-pitched drone told me that there was still one left.
What eats at me are slow-walking pedestrians, people that loiter in the middle of a busy side-walk or busy steps, people who spell "a lot" as "alot," potato chips that are folded rather than flat, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, consuming the bottom half of a Lucky Charms cereal box (which has significantly more toasted oats than marshmallows...), warm pillows, and going to Subway® and getting a very stingy sandwich maker and leaving with a feeble Subway® sandwich. These things eat away at my soul and tear away the very fabric of my character.
What eats at me is politics. As I write this, I'm vaguely aware that a stage full of plutocratic 1-percenters are ostensibly debating the future direction of the country we live in. I understand that in October plutocratic 1-percenters on the Democratic side of the aisle will be presenting a similar show. Many think that the highest forms of civic virtue are found in political participation. I think someone coaching a community girls’ softball team exhibits more civic virtue. Most political action causes harm to some people; community softball games are at worst boring. At best what we’re witnessing are privileged elites attempting to convince others of the policies they think are best for people, but who will, regardless of whether they are successful in this attempt, then go on to attempt to implement those policies by force. (I say "at best" because it’s unlikely that they think those policies really are best for people.)
G. Randolph Mayes
What eats at me is how your faith in God or humanity can be suddenly shaken when it's you who gets the shaft; the way you developed profound sympathy for those who suffer from evil X simply because you now suffer from evil X too; how you became an insufferable evangelist for that (very dubious) solution to said evil just because it figured so large in your own life.
My reaction is always the same: Why does the fact that you are the one under the wheel suddenly make this evil so profoundly significant? You knew this was happening all along to other people. Was it all part of a tolerable plan just as long as it wasn't happening to you?
Of course I get that these questions make me a self-righteous jerk. We have little ability to care intensely about things that do not affect us personally. And our puny selves are just incapable of sincerely attending to more than a tiny fraction of the evil we know about. Nor do we seem have the ability to objectify our own experiences, to consider them as if they were the experiences of people we do not love. This is a version of what psychologists call the fundamental attribution error. The evil that befalls others is likely their own fault; the evil that befalls us is usually someone else’s.
Right up there with complainypants blog posts such as this one, I specifically detest selfies. I mean those casual, unprofessional photos that people take of themselves and post online. Too many of these clutter social media and I just can’t appreciate them, perhaps due to latent misanthropy or my own lack of photogenicity. Why do people take these? What good reasons could there be for them? Some people want to share a cute picture of a friend or pet, maybe they want to show you a beautiful panorama or funny scene. I get it, but wouldn’t the picture show us more with your distracting mug out of the way? If you really think the photo wouldn’t be better without you posing in it, then you need to ask yourself if you are posting it for others or to satisfy a selfish craving for attention. But I am being unfair, perhaps selfies function as evidence for your having been somewhere or with someone. But such photos can’t count as good evidence of anything, because photo-editing applications exist. Photos don’t lie but people do. Selfies can’t be evidence of how good we look, since what we post is carefully filtered through the lens of our own narcissism. Those of you taking selfies in public spaces, in full view of innocent bystanders: Do you realize how silly and self-absorbed you look? Ask someone else to take a picture with you in it for a proper perspective. Keep your selfies to yourself, please.
What eats at me is people not taking perspective: A conversation is a navigation of conceptual space. It should take place between more than one person, but when it does, we're usually forcing another to navigate our conceptual space without setting sail anywhere else. The old saying, "put yourself in someone else's shoes" rarely applies. The implication is simple: When we converse we don't take someone's perspective. Sometimes we might give someone our perspective to take as theirs. But there isn't much exploration of new territories. It's confusing because this seems like the most efficient way to have a conversation. Individuals could take turns navigating each other's spaces. And, even if they don't agree, they've explored something.