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The Best We Can

November 5, 2013

I am old enough that I used to watch Phil Donohue. He once had a guest who had written about being raised by parents who were madly in love and didn’t seem to be nearly as interested in the children as they were in each other. She insisted, however, that she wasn’t bitter, because as an adult, she realized that her parents were doing the best they could. “And that’s what we’re all doing,” she declared. “We all do the best we can.”

If that’s true, should it be reassuring? Is HB really doing the best he can at any given time, and is he going to have a better “best he can”? Is my grumping and snapping the best I can do?

The best-I-can theory reminds me of The Vanishing, in which a psychopath decides that the only way to prove our actions aren’t predetermined is to do the worst, stupidest, cruelest thing you can imagine. After I saw it, I felt a desperate need to sit outside with my friends and have a drink. Not so different from how I felt when HoneyBadger was at his worst, and yet I resist believing that our best self and our worst self are the same thing at any point — that every horrible thing we do is just the best we could manage at the moment.

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