Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Give me a little light, with all of that dark

What’s the best way to approach a rational view of life? Things certainly are pretty bad in many respects. The past 7 years haven’t improved my optimistic side. Do we simply become derisive of hopes or dreams? Does cynicism become the badge of rational, reasonable, logical people? In every fluffy, shady cloud, should we look for the hidden hurricane?

We know it’s there. You could say that such outlooks are indeed a mark of reason. We have learned from our lifetimes’ experience in a world full of religious fanatics, selling various versions of eternal Happy Days, that the better it sounds, the worse it often is. The more effort you invest in studying our evolved human nature, certainty increases that life is full of lies and deceit. It definitely is. Every person you have ever come into contact with has their individual agenda and it may or may not overlap with yours. Mostly, it doesn’t.

Few groups of people are likely to be as aware of this as atheists. Once you break down Homo sapiens’ Original Sin of bullshit (the creation of myths) then everything else is reasonably suspect. After all, everything is controlled by these superstitious cuckoos.

But I will maintain that the more confident you are in your rational worldview, the more you free yourself to allow some reasonable hope. I can be extremely negative, but if I abandoned all hope I would cash in my chips. Hope still needs to be closely monitored. You still have to look the situation over and apprise yourself of the downsides involved and always be ready for disappointment. Many times we will be frustrated, but the edge will be taken off it with the knowledge that we had it figured out and buffered ourselves – unlike those who had bought in with all of their cherished emotional savings.

We can live in a world of complete negativity, but that’s also a dangerous strategy for person of reason. You will never have the opportunity of enjoying a truly good thing, right in the moment of it happening. Worse, we have evolved to draw together in moments of positivism and to repel from the negative. In a simply logical sense, the negativity is probably going to get you closer to the facts of any given situation. But we are a social animal. If you chase off all the other beasts of your species, you have a difficult time passing on your genes.

And, after all, that’s what we’re here for. For those reading here who have no children and don’t intend to – you aren’t exempt. Evolution accounts for you too. Your job is to facilitate the continuation of your genes in others. Some of those genes will be extremely close to your own; others more distant, but still related. We really are all brothers and sisters and not in any religious sense.

Don’t put on blinders, but a nice pair of stylish shades can go a long way in helping you to do your genetic duty, with a little panache, before you punch your ticket out of here.


PhillyChief said...

Keep this shit up and you'll have to change your name from Evo to Emo. Buck up there, buttercup.

Lifeguard said...

I think excessive negativity is as bad as excessive optimism. What you need is a sober appreciation for reality.

For me, that has always meant believing that the true state of things is usually somewhere in between your highest hopes and your worst nightmares. Keep that in mind, look for the things you can change that will improve the situation, and don't worry about the rest.

I consider that the essence of being rational-- oddly, it sounds a little like faith too (with the obvious exception that you're not hoping the Sky Daddy will take care of things for you).

I once read an essay about chess legend Emmanuel Lasker that described his outlook as "cheerful pessimism." Sure, the glass is half empty, but, if you're thirsty, that's better than nothing. It's at least a start, right? That doesn't make you polly anna, it just means you're willing to see the possibilities in the situation and try and work with them.

John Evo said...

@ Philly - that's funny! Actually, you were one of the people I had in mind when I wrote this. But in the best sense.

I see you as a no-nonsense guy who can be extremely negative and forceful when facing the words of ignorance with which we are all so familiar. On the other hand, you look for the best of things and are perfectly willing to be pragmatic.

So, what's the deal? You so insecure that you can't have me call you my brother? Hey, I ain't heavy. Or is an age thing? OK - "we really are all parents and children". Better?

@ Lifey

I was a bit of a chess legend back in the day myself. Legendary mostly for grasping defeat from the jaws of victory. But I can certainly related to the description of Lasker. I have a problem with being cheerful, but every now and then...

PhillyChief said...

Well I read the whole post as being moody, not sunshiny. That was my point.

As far as me? Well I guess you got me pretty well. I'd say that although I expect most to be assholes, I give them the chance at least to prove they're assholes before I anoint them as such. Also, using Lifeguard's chess imagery, I see assholes not so narrowly that they should just be dismissed and ignored. No, everyone is a potential pawn to be played. ;)

John Evo said...

The only "moodiness" associated with the post was in feeling a bit drained by the constant negativity of some. It gets old. I feel no need to accentuate the bad in every single situation. I know it's there. I'm not delusional.

PhillyChief said...

AH! Now it all becomes clear.

bullet said...

"... bit drained by the constant negativity of some. "

I've been feeling the same way. Maybe it's a springtime thing.

I try to retain optimism, but it's definitely filtered through the lenses of pragmatism and cynicism.

Plus, like I tell my wife, the one who isn't prepared for the worst possible outcomes is the one who gets screwed when one finally happens.

But it is tiring.

Ordinary Girl said...

You need to go back to being the Happy Hominid. :)

John Evo said...

I try, OG. I try. See, I believe in saying things over and over until they become second nature. Like, "it's another day in paradise".

Seriously, I'm the same old Happy Hominid. I have my dark times, but I'd guess we all do. Anyway, this particular post is not part of my depression. It was more out of annoyance.

Lifeguard said...


Chess makes such a fickle lover precisely because she can make you alternatingly happy and miserable in such rapid succession.

One move and you're riding high, one measley oversight and your position goes to pot. It toys with your emotions and your self confidence.

John Evo said...

It toys with your emotions and your self confidence.

And I have enough issues so no more chess. It's the same reason I don't golf (to move from intellectual to physical). Some games are better avoided intirely.

Ute said...

And that's why I closed my blog and moved on to new territory. :) And I'm loving it already.

In real life I'm busy creating a Rational Sunday School for kids of atheists, field trips, service projects... you name it. The positive feedback from all sides is just what I needed after discussing faith, religion and atheism for months and months... :)

John Evo said...

Good for you, Ute! Stay happy and keep doing doing good things.