Been thinking about the challenges of life recently, and it seems to me that mostly they boil down to two things: a certain universal problem and the universal mistake humans make in handling it.

Living in the world is often a challenge. And while some have it a lot worse than others, no one has it easy. I was looking for a common pattern in the universe’s seeming hostility to human happiness, and I think I have largely found it: time itself.

We suffer when we experience loss: loss of our friends and family, loss of our health, loss of our safety, and loss of that which brings us joy, to be sure. But we suffer equally the less tangible losses as well. Loss of access to the past, represented by the feeling of nostalgia. Loss of security and predictability, represented by anxiety and/or anger. Loss of opportunity, represented by regret. Loss of belonging and connection, represented by loneliness and isolation.

Time means change, and while time seduces us with the idea that change can be for the better and sometimes is, very often change is for the worse, for there are many more way for things to get worse than to get better, and the universe as a whole is indifferent to which happens. And every negative change as far as I can see is a type of loss. This ultimately becomes the challenge of living as a human in this world we find ourselves in: acknowledging and dealing with loss.

But then we compound the problem with our ill-chosen reaction to time and loss: the elective blindness I sometimes call fictionalism. When we don’t like the world around us, we simply choose to pretend the world is different. There is a tiny percentage of people struggling to clearly see the world as it really is, no bias and no bullshit, trying to achieve maximum clarity using logic and rationality, but the vast majority of “you humans” are buying stock in bullshit by the metric ton.

Death a bummer? No problem, we’ll pretend to know that death is not the end. Bad people getting away with murder? I’ve got your fix right here: let’s pretend that bad people get justice in the next life. Life feeling out of control, like you can’t get ahead? Let’s pretend it’s all the fault of foreigners. Feeling bad about doing alright while others can barely get by? Let’s pretend that everyone who doesn’t succeed is lazy, so that you can ignore them without the guilt!

The list is never-ending: for every problem someone has with life as a human, there are usually several patch-job fictions humanity has invented to hide each unwelcome truth from our sight.

Fictionalism at its core, whether embraced consciously or subconsciously, has this single message: if you don’t like a truth, just deny it. Pretend it away.

Republicans do it. Democrats do it. Religions do it. Cis people do it. Trans people do it. Capitalists do it. Socialists do it. White people do it. People of color do it. Nearly everybody does it; inserts a desirable lie into their minds to hide from a painful truth.

And then they all fight each other. Since each person chooses a lie about a different piece of reality, they each can see truths that the others cannot. Republicans, for example, can see the truths that the Democrats hide from, and call them on it. Meanwhile, the Democrats are seeing the truths the Republicans are hiding from and attack them for that. Each human can see truths that others deny, and so each person can legitimately criticize every other. And yet, since each person is unwilling to examine or confront their own fictions, no progress ever gets made, with anyone.

Thus we have societies where each group is justifiably trying to get each other group to admit where they are wrong, but where each group is also fundamentally unwilling to look to their own equal transgressions. And so, instead of trying to unite humanity to take on the real problem of time and loss, humanity is in a perpetual state of conflict, trying to tear the blindfolds off from one another while trying to keep their own blindfolds firmly in place.

Which, so far as I can see, has always been the state of the human race. Almost all our issues as a human race stem from our enemy: time, and our own desperate embrace of various fictions to deny it, with every problem this denial adds to the mix.

I don’t know if we can ever conquer time, but we certainly won’t while we as a race embrace fictionalism. There is a cure for fictionalism available to all of course: embrace accepting logic and reason for discovering truth instead of believing whatever fictions promise what you wish were true. The solution is not really all that complex. But does the human race at large have the capacity to choose to stop lying to themselves? At this time, I am highly doubtful. I see no force strong enough to make them, even as they die because of their embraced fictions.

Since I am of the teensy slice of human beings that don’t seek comfort by choosing self-deception, I will have to take my comfort in this: to fix a problem, you first have to identify it. Perhaps with sharing my realization that time and fictionalism are the root problems of humanity, I’ve contributed what I can.