Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Struggle to Find Hope

a Spiral Dance essay

I slept well, but woke up early. Perhaps, as a result, or perhaps not, I am feeling rather cynical this morning. Remember that cynics are actually disappointed idealists.

I am disappointed in you, humanity. I am disappointed in so many of you individually, as well. You could do so much better, and yet you so often flinch away from the effort, settling instead into your little living hells, comfortable because they are familiar. Comfortable with suffering because enlightenment is just too much work.

I am not going to go into a rant that even I will find predictable, against the usual suspects, hatred, fear, murder, pain, suffering, doubt. I won't go into that rant because it won't make any difference. No one listens to such rants anymore, because the horrors have become normalized, and even those who would agree with you are eager to scroll on as quickly as possible.

I am not a believer in either the defeatist "biology is destiny" camp or the pseudo-Darwinian "humanity is inherently violent" camp; yet on days when I wake up feeling cynical, I can't really generate a coherent argument against the social and political consequences of entropy. But that's why I am disappointed in you, humanity, and you, people who choose to embrace entropy rather than defy it. You give in way too easily.

You disappoint me, humanity, because of your constant cowardly reluctance to look the abyss in the eye, and spit at it. Fuck nihilism. Nihilism is just another ideology, just another -ism, that looks at only part of the picture and thinks it's the whole. I cannot name a single -ism that does not make that mistake. You disappoint me, humanity, with your constant tendency to look at only one part of the elephant and think it's the whole elephant.

You disappoint me, humanity, because you constantly think too small, too provincial, and in the end too narcissistically. You are still primates, humanity, in that you embody the preconscious tension between group/mob psychology and the necessary urge to evolve, and all too often default back towards your personal comfort zone and simplistic easy answers to life's challenges.

You disappoint me, humanity, because you so often miss the whole point of what it means to be human: Biology isn't destiny, although it's the starting gate. We are given the gift of consciousness, which allows us to override and rewrite our biological programming. We are not locked into anything, we merely believe that we are. The elephant is much bigger than we think it is. Our potential is precisely as large as our imagination. We have the power to shape reality, and we usually fail to do so because we choose to be so small. Biology and biography are not destiny because we can overcome them. We can change our destiny because we believe we can. To do so, we have to defy the downward slide that is entropy, and walk uphill. Suffering is easier than enlightenment, because suffering slides downhill, while enlightenment means claiming the mountain in the worst weather, when you're already tired.

The mark of suffering that most individuals who work for and towards the light bear is sheer, constant exhaustion. It's an uphill battle, necessary and worthwhile and rewarding, yet the hardest work you will ever do. (Until you reach that point where you let go; then it becomes the easiest.) It can kill you. It can make you cynical. I am tired all the time, humanity, and it's directly caused by the majority of you refusing to take up your share of the load of the work that needs doing to make the world a finer place. I understand the anger of some social activists; it comes from exhaustion, frustration, and those days when it feels like no one actually wants to grow up.

Cynics are frustrated as well as disappointed idealists. We all have our days when it's too hard, there's too much to do, and the news reports how once again we have failed to grow up as a species.

Warfare has been continuous for more than a century now, because it's been made too easy. The technological advances since the Industrial Revolution have brought many benefits and changes to our modern world, but it has also made it easier to kill people in large numbers. Before the Industrial Revolution, war was always limited in scope; it is no longer. Terrorism is a word for warfare on a social scale, a different kind of battlefield. Extremists who use terror are always smaller in number than armies; but they are feared because their commitment is total, fanatical, nihilistic. Fuck nihilism again. The proper response to terror is to laugh at it, just as the proper response to the abyss of fear is to give it the finger, in fierce and laughing defiance. Fuck terrorism. You can't live in fear.

There are words I struggle with, when I am feeling disappointed in you, humanity, but the struggle is when it matters most:

Hope. Love. Faith.

Those are words that it is very easy to misuse, and when misused they turn toxic, deadly, violent to the spirit, even more than wounds to the flesh. So I always use them with vast caution. No one knows better than a bard or a wizard how easily the power of words can turn dark. Use them with caution.

Cynicism and disappointment are only fatal if you let them be. If you stop exploring the rest of the elephant, and give up, and stay in your cave. I am very disappointed in you this morning, humanity, but I haven't given up on you. You really need to grow up, and quickly. Take your hands off the stove, children, before they scar over and you can no longer feel the rest of the elephant. I'm not going to tell you what's on the other side of the door, you won't hear it, you won't listen. You disappoint in that, too, humanity. Children. But I will tell that there is a door, and the keys to open it are words that have to be used in the right tone, not with irony, despair, or the other faces of entropy. Entropy is going to tell you that have already failed. Don't listen. The keys to the door are those words, used in the right way, used in the proper frame of mind. Words which, when you get past cynicism and disappointment, even if it takes a lot of effort and all day, open up into the balm against disappointment, and the solution to terrorism:

Hope. Love. Faith.

Well, then, humanity. What the fuck are you waiting for?

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