The Sunny Side of Life

It’s waiting for us.

It’s out there, the utopia, Jesus’ heaven on Earth, a better way.

Enough of us seem to think so, that it seems we have a gene for that, to use a twentieth century expression, for thinking so, at least. Questions abound, always, what does this statement of biology indicate? That we think it can exist – or the other part, that we think it exists “out there,” forever? Is that idea, it’s out there, a condition or an ingredient for something, the main reaction itself, or the by-product, the residue of some other interaction?

If it’s the first thing, a beginning, or a place to start, what brain process is it working to enable, that is perhaps not quite happening? If it’s the last thing, well, wishing for a better place, that is the residue of abuse. What was the middle thing again? Oh, God forbid. If that is the function itself, just to have the thought and then get back to work, just a happy fantasy, provided by your genetics to balance out the apparent failings of this world here . . . if that’s all it is? Wait, “all?” What am I saying?

Sigh. Well then, I guess I’m happy to have it, aren’t I? Aren’t you?

Thank Darwin! How hard would life suck without that? Eesh!

Tease me, please! All the mercies are not small. Hope, built-in with your DNA is no small thing, and give it up at your peril! The road to Why Bother is littered with the most miserable of corpses. I’ve always tried to prepare myself, always tried to be open to the idea that it’s possible that there is no better way, or that we’ll never find it if there is, but I am not “open” to knowing that for sure!

What’s the point in that?

I, were I your intelligent designer, have just worked out that you need this possibility in your programming, and I would not cut that corner: that’s yours, you keep that. I’m keeping mine, is the point, it’s one of my sacred cows, a premise for me.

If it’s not the case, well, science requires proving the obvious too. There’s still value in it. If it’s silly and we would be further ahead to grant the point and do the serious work of care and treatment in this nasty old world, well, I don’t think I’m taking a lot of people away from that, and anyway, you can still think this and do that. But granted, someone else is going to have to do any thinking involved in that, I’m off on this other thing.

But the dream is not the end, take heart! Yes, I’ve made an old time philosophical case to show we have the thought, that we would need it, true or otherwise, but that does not prove the reality cannot be, same as paranoia is not proof of safety. Just because we need the thought whether it’s true or not doesn’t prove it’s not. In fact – if we have a built-in meme that doesn’t care whether it’s true or not, if that’s true and necessary, then that suggests a function that must operate at all times, or under all circumstances, doesn’t it? In either condition! We need to think the better way is out there, even if it really is, because, well, what’s the point in an interactive world if you don’t know it is, or rather, we use deception sure, but the basic function of this organ is to perceive the world at least in some of the ways that it really is, and it wouldn’t what’s the word, exist, if it didn’t succeed at it to some degree.

Seems that change and hope are not always apparent looking outward, and that would be enough to give the idea of a better world an evolved reason to be. I’m just saying, if it’s true, if things really can be better, that doesn’t making thinking so dangerous or costly, matching thought to reality, that’s still the plan most of the time for an organism that enjoys viability! Of course, the basic version of this gene is, you need to think it to get you out of bed or get you in there not alone, to keep the ol’ genes alive and marching into the future and wow, put it that way, it doesn’t sound less deterministic and humancentric than the Bible, does it? Never mind!

Focus.

Anyhow, even the conservatives, even the Bible people, even those apparently committed to a static world as God made it and denying our power to affect things such as climate or war, even they have this meme, a utopia, even a sort of a map. Crazy as it is. Either there are many versions of the allele for what the utopia looks like, or there is no specific utopia allele at all, just the feeling that it’s out there and the urge to invent it.

Warning: employ some of your evolved, built-in hope: “not impossible” is likely to be as positive as it gets. I’ll try, but I’d have to be fooling myself, I think.

And again, take the mercies, none of which are small when you need them. If I prove to myself the utopia really is impossible, you won’t see this blog and this conversation never happened! Couldn’t hurt to have a go, right? Can’t dance and too fat to fly, as Mom used to say. I loved Mom, but she used to say some awful stuff, don’t we all.

OK, to it, what brings me here today.

So we have the gene for the urge. Do we have the genes for the utopia?

My entire blog has been an exercise in turning that question upside-down and saying: we have the genes for Nineteen Eighty-Four and we should stop selecting for them and activating them, and that feels like an answer to me, but I’ll grant it doesn’t to everybody. If you read me, you know, I think my version is the question we have in front of us now, and if we answer that, then maybe we’ll be in a better position to take the next step and start talking about positive things. But I suppose I should have a foray down that road, see if we can see around the first corner.

I always liked the following Tom Waits lyric –

Don’t you know there ain’t no Devil, there’s just God when he’s drunk?

But it seems my philosophy has taken me the other direction, it seems I see a world where there ain’t no God, just the Devil when he’s feeling sorry. Ah! There’s my way out of this!

Of course, we created both those entities. That is entirely up to us. I love Tom, but I’m tired of that world, his God must be wasted twenty-four seven. What, prithee, is the upside of assuming only good things about people or gods and then spending all your time trying to explain the discrepancies? Some folks are always selling, always spending their time on polish, improving the appearance of things that maybe require real, deep repair work. I don’t mean Waits, it’s just a meme. I mean the thought he voiced, not the particular individual voicing it, I mean something rational, thought-related, word-based . . . don’t get social on me now!

Sorry, the current pet peeve, taking me like a seizure. It’s not the person, it’s the thought. Don’t be listening to the mob, talking about people, specific people or groups of people! Don’t you know crowds are famously stupid? Find the smart few and listen to them talk about ideas, you know, like school and church – teachers, readers! Not your crowd of friends, talking about people! You know this, but we manage not to, but you know this and when you talk to me, I am going to hold you to it: crowds are stupid, yours too. Of course! A committee is a creature with six or more legs and no brain – so how smart is your crowd? How smart are the millions on social media, then?

You know this. You owe humankind that you act like it.

“Social” isn’t open-ended, it isn’t global. When you allow your people to talk such rubbish, when you go with the local flow, you are being social, prosocial with the folks around you and antisocial with the folks around you, and antisocial is where the power is because as I say every week, we have abuse-controlled genes – again, sort of assuming we don’t have the equal and opposite ones, because, well, empirical and anecdotal observation over six decades almost, I won’t lie. But maybe they’re in there. Maybe there are other reasons things appear, uh, one sided.

Wait – is my “genes for” meme wrong? Is it more like versions of genes, meaning we activate the mean version of a bunch of genes, that genes have two sides? If this is how things are, then there is no search to make, they’re right here, or right here buried, and if we managed to create an environment that touched those genes the other direction, then perhaps I would be having to wonder if it were possible to ruin a person instead of wondering if it’s possible not to.

Ouch. The truth hurts, so I guess that’s the case, or at least it’s my belief that it is.

Hey – do I do writing backwards?

Isn’t Hemmingway laying down a lot of personal pain and experience and it works because we all have those feelings . . . and aren’t I laying down global truths and having personal feelings about those instead? Trying, I mean, trying for truths and trying for universality . . . trying to be . . . “global-social?” Trying to transcend groupness, trying to find a “social” that isn’t largely antisocial. I don’t say “them” or “they” much, do I? I’ll plan to do so less, whatever that answer is. I know it’s usually “us” or “you” . . . hmm. OK. Maybe when I say “you” I’m often only addressing some version of “my people,” some group I feel I have a right to talk to or criticize. I’ll try to be more aware of that, I bet I’m failing that way. It’s supposed to be the universal “you,” but I suppose I complain about memes from here, about Christianity when a global version would be “religion,” like that. It’s xenophobia to specify some distant group when I need to talk about a group, though, so it’s not clear how I’m going to change that. Groupless language doesn’t exist, that’s one way to express our whole problem.

So, I haven’t gotten anywhere here, spent fifteen hundred words setting it up, then an obvious, single paragraph answer that adds up to my usual prescription, stop activating the worst versions exclusively, then maybe we’ll be able to stop fighting and talk about some positive future . . .

Don’t you know there ain’t no Devil, there’s just Darwin when he’s abused?

That’s better. Like I said, if I had proven there is no God, just the Devil hung over, we never would have had this talk. The versions of genes thing certainly echoes any psychological take on the situation, that when you take one option, the road not taken disappears, that I feel a need to search, because it is my cover-up in the first place, the answer I seek is written on a post-it note on my forehead, never to be seen looking outward. We have turned off our better natures, the genes we seek are the ones we have made invisible.

But it does mean they’re there!

Right?

It’s not no hope, right?

 

Jeff

September 29th., 2019

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