“The pessimist is commonly spoken of as the man in revolt. He is not. Firstly, because it requires some cheerfulness to continue in revolt, and secondly, because pessimism appeals to the weaker side of everybody…The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade all the other people how good they are. It has been proved a hundred times over that if you really wish to enrage people and make them angry, even unto death, the right way to do it is to tell them that they are all the children of God.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
My inner pessimist justifying himself:
- I don’t want to be caught out being a fool (But you would not believe the number of over the top doomsday predictions by environmentalists that are essentially forgotten and forgiven. In The Rational Optimist, author Dr. Mat Ridley remembers and is not so quick to forgive).
- I never have to risk having my heart broken. (Big one for men who want to be in control at all times.)
- I want intellectual credibility, the exclusive domain of pessimists. (Quick, name an academic optimist who is taken seriously or been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a couple of weeks.)
- You try being a rational optimist in a culture of postmodernist pessimists — and watch the meanie in the greenie bear his/her teeth. (You will be thought a fool and dismissed as having crossed over to the other side).
- I just know it’s more authentic and has way more integrity. “The world is seen clearly only through tears” and all that. (Actually, it’s one way to see reality clearly).
- If I’m a rational optimist where will the sustaining energy to be a transformative presence come from? (Can delight actually motivate me to help the world be a better place?)
- Who would I be without my guilt? (Living out my beach-boy surfer alter ego fantasy?)
- I really don’t want to entertain the possibility that what I’ve been calling “reality” is actually a fairly limited take on reality. (I’d rather defend my perspective than contextualize it).
I guess I’m not quite finished with this conversation about rational optimism. I’m curious about why Dr. Ridley’s book would have such an impact on me. We could argue all day about facts and interpretation of facts. This is less interesting to me than the question of whether my worldview has predisposed me to be a pessimist, and to consequently look only for those facts and stories that support my gloom. In other words, are the respective lenses of modernism and postmodernism, (for example), the real determinants of how I see the world? I’m not seeing the world as it is. I’m seeing it as I am — my beliefs, assumptions about reality, and core values determine the world that comes into view.
For example, the modernist worldview is essentially optimistic. This period was ushered in when people began to question the authority of church and her priests. They asked, what potentials might be unleashed if art, science, and the human enterprise were decoupled from the oversight of this oppressive institution and its God? The free exchange of ideas began to flow as the trade of goods and services expanded. Coal was discovered, new technologies began to flourish, fortunes were made, life expectancy increased, and life became more comfortable — albeit on the backs of colonies and slaves.
Modernists, like Dr. Ridley, tend to be pro globalization, pro open market, pro development and anti-government regulation. They tend to downplay some of the indignities of the modernist agenda, such as the ecological costs, injustice, and the ensuing spiritual void that is left after tossing religion out. (In fairness to Dr. Ridley, he’s not blind to these things, but is convinced that economic development can be the solution to injustice, not the cause of it. He also points out that coal replaced slavery in the evolution of our economic system, which you have to admit is pretty interesting.)
Around sixty years ago, postmodernism emerged in reaction to 500 years of the modernist agenda. It brought with it a scathing critique of the illusion of progress, of the free market system, of how the system privileged the few at the expense of the many, and of how corporations had gained the clout to control government regulatory systems. It is anti-status quo — “The trouble with normal is it always gets worse”, in the words of my hero, Bruce Cockburn. This provided a much needed corrective to modernist agenda, reminding us that leaving behind two billion human beings and causing the extinction of countless other than human species is hardly “progress”. But the postmodernist mindset, despite it’s obvious, if incomplete, success in promoting the rights of minorities, women, gay, lesbian, and transgendered, ended up being essentially pessimistic. Whatever else it stands for (and there is much) most of its energy goes into being anti-status quo. It’s against stuff. Along with that comes an unconscious suspicion of good news. You can never let down your guard. Somebody, somewhere might just be enjoying the status quo.
And, as Ridley points out, good news doesn’t sell, it doesn’t recruit support for causes, and the media aren’t interested: “ No charity ever raised money for its cause by saying things are getting better. No journalist ever got to the front page by telling his editor that he wanted to write a story about how disaster was now less likely. Good news is no news, so the media megaphone is at the disposal of any politician, journalist, or activist who can plausibly warn of a coming disaster.”
This is the worldview I was initiated into in the academic environment of seminary. After 35 years of this, I have to say, my outlook had become fairly grim. My point truly is not to denigrate the postmodernist worldview. But personally, I can’t bear the unrelenting gloom any longer. I’m interested in taking the dignities of both modernism and postmodernism and putting on a new set of glasses that brings perspective to both. When we are unconsciously embedded in any particular worldview, we default to ideology. How do we hold our stories about reality more lightly? In my next post I’ll talk about how an evolutionary worldview and theology is implicitly hopeful.
Seeing as there are so various families buying online and likewise exploring the internet market place, it has become increasingly famous to purchase medications online. So the next question is where can you get information that is reliable. You can find useful information fleetly and conveniently by going online. The most common sexual problems in men are erectile dysfunction and ejaculation disorders. A lot of doctors think about “levitra cost“. Did learned something about “buy levitra online usa“? Other matter we are going to is “buy generic levitra online“. In effect, a medical reviews found that up to three quarters of people on such drug experience side effects. Luckily, most cases of sexual dysfunction are treatable, so it is momentous to share your concerns with your partner and physician. Today, there are many options for men who suffer from erectile dysfunction. Get emergency help if you have any of these signs of a side effect to this treatment. Talk to your soundness care purveyor to see if it’s sure to make the switch.