Friday, November 28, 2008

The constant cynic

The "aware" become synonymous with the "cynical" as the world seems less and less welcoming. Why not, when all we see genuine uncaring and disrespect for life around the world? In the news all we see is floods and wars; in the streets, heartless masses unwilling to place emotional investment into the helpless, nameless stranger. 
This is where my views change from being those of a realist to some combination of pragmatism and optimism. I believe we are beautiful creatures. I believe mankind is good, that every man has the capability for divine kindness and every woman untethered compassion. I believe people are capable of acting not just out of self-interest, but in the interest of the beautiful whole. This is despite the obvious examples to the contrary; or maybe even because of them. 
I believe life is too painful second guessing ulterior motives, too damaging to believe that man is genuinely incapable of accomplishing anything outside of the realm of self-interest. So I choose to believe otherwise. 
Not to say that my optimism is a self-delusion; there are brilliant men and women and brilliant ideas. We live in a time of rebirth and great social change. There is reason to believe in the good. 

This video essentially makes my claim for hopeless optimism:

For those of you unfamiliar with TED, let me fill you in. TED is an annual conference where people from many facets of life come together and talk about ideas (those of you Campolindo natives from Brownlee's classes may remember seeing videos from TED.) They can all be found online at, and I suggest everyone takes a look. I will likely be dipping into TED for future note topics, so get used to it. 
Getting back to my point, I guess I'm just a sucker for the human spirit. I heard this amazing quote by George Santayana that goes, “The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.” What the quote seems to address is that the depth of the human condition lays in it lowest points. The greatest and strongest compassion, emotion, and spirit comes to fruition not in spite of, but BECAUSE of the weakness of man. 
We feel compassion for the defenseless, why? If we are self-serving, if we only look out for number one, why do we still maintain even a glimmer of pity for the weak, the poor, the completely overtaken and undone? This is why man will do so much more than survive; he has transcended our basic evolutionary instincts. We work to save the poor, sick, and needy. We don't leave the sick to die in the name of strengthening the gene pool, and we have no understandable reason other than what our heart and spirit tell us. We must. 
And so we face the great issues of our generation. They will tear us, break us, and push us to the ground, but the human spirit is too strong to be anything other than, not only victorious, but glorious in its nature and beauty and art. 
So, though mankind may be broken, evil, or weak, I choose to believe he is glorious and strong, good and pure in intent. I may be wrong, but I would rather be wrong, deluded, and sure of man's respectable future than right and a cynic for both the present, past, and future.

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