The Hollywood movie trope is that a person should never give up. That, if he comes upon an impenetrable wall, he should keep beating his head against it until he has broken his skull and his brains are oozing out a hole in his head. Because, according to the trope, if you don’t give up and keep fighting you are guaranteed to succeed. All of those famous celebrities succeeded, so of course the other 350 million people in America will end up just as rich and famous as them, if they just don’t give up.
My way has always been different. I’ve always done what sensible people really do, which is to assess whether an obstacle can be overcome given the appropriate amount of effort, and, if it can’t, to walk away and go do something else. Because the fact is that those rich and famous celebrities are maybe 0.001% of the population. The rest of us don’t get the insanely high level of luck required to overcome impossible odds. And the ridiculous movies we watch in which ordinary people overcome obstacles that simply cannot be overcome are just entertainment. Anyone who thinks they represent reality probably also believes in Santa Claus.
Sometimes walking away is difficult. Often it hurts. When you walk away, you are surrendering your right to something that blind justice cries out for you to have. You are letting the bad guys win. But the alternative is to be trapped in the blind alley of futile effort, your life stalled while you remain motionless. So you swallow the pain of injustice and walk away from it in order to find another place where the injustice is distant and your memory of it can fade enough to give you peace.
Because that is the key to walking away: creating maximum separation between yourself and concrete evidence of the brokenness and wrongness of the very laws of nature, which so often, in so many people’s lives, do cause the bad guys to win and injustice to prevail. And please don’t chant the empty slogan that right always triumphs over wrong. You know that’s false. You’ve known it ever since you were four years old and punished for retaliating against that boy who pulled your pigtails, while he got away with it, because the teacher saw you retaliating and not him assaulting you. If you are truly open to the lessons of life, then you know how essential to a good life it is not only to walk away, but to sprint at top speed away from everything that causes you visceral distress because it brings what St. Augustine called the profanity of profane history too close to home.
Which is also how I’ve learned to deal with people who are toxic to me. Walk away from them. If they stalk me somewhere else I’ve gone (as one person and his co-conspirator recently did), walk away from that too. Because there will always be a realm somewhere where such people are barred entry. At the very least, they will be barred entry in my realm because I can bar it to them. And in the meantime, I can have the peace of distance in many other places in the world.