I Know

She was a nice-looking woman and she was sitting alone reading a book, so I pulled up a chair to her table and said, “Mind if I ask you what you’re reading?” She looked up and smiled and said, “This is the new green report on air pollution. From what they say the air is pretty bad.” I sighed and thought, “Oh, here we go again.”

“Okay,” I put in, “now just where is this bad air?”

“It’s everywhere.”

“Can you prove that?”

“Of course. Smokestacks and cars put smoke into the air and it mixes with all the other air. That’s obvious.”

“I see. So, we’re breathing bad air right now? It doesn’t look bad, and I don’t smell anything bad. Are you having trouble breathing?”

“That’s just why it’s so bad. It’s undetectable.”

“Hmmm, I see. Kind of like God?”

“That’s right; you know it’s there, but you can’t prove it.”

“So how do you know?”

“You’ve gotta believe.”

“So if all you’ve got to do is believe, why are you reading that book?”

“Because it strengthens my belief.”

“What about the author? Did he write it to strengthen his belief?

“No, he’s an authority. He knows.”

“So if you weren’t reading that book your belief would be weak?”

“Right. We don’t really want to believe that things are as bad as they are.”

“You mean that if you didn’t read that book you might go on living a carefree life, breathing the air without guilt and enjoying yourself?”

“Exactly. And then things would get worse and worse because nobody would stop the polluters, and after a couple generations there would be no more good air for anyone to breath.”

“So let me get this straight, we do have some good air now, but it’s getting harder to breath all the time, and your main concern isn’t for yourself, but for future generations?”

“Of course. Without future generations there would be no future.”

“What about your future? Isn’t that a future?”

“No, I don’t have a future. Here today and gone tomorrow; it’s the same for all of us.”

“Won’t it be the same for them, too—the future generations?”

“Welll, oh, now you’ve made me upset. Why did you have to sit here? I was enjoying my book.”

I stood up and said, “I love this air, I love my life, I love my future. Happy reading and goodbye.”

As I turned to go she shouted, “I’m not happy! I’m not! You selfish bastard!”

I stopped at the door, shrugged, and said, “I know.”

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