Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Thursday, June 07, 2012

No Reservations

We're all looking for life worth livin'
That's why we drink ourselves to sleep.
-Uncle Tupelo, "Life Worth Livin'"

I think it's easy to become pessimistic about life.  The cynical view is so often vindicated, and things so predictably turn to shit.  Once you get past a certain stage of intellectual development, you lose the ability to see anything as straightforwardly good.  For instance, breasts.  This is a major loss, much like the loss of knowledge caused by increased methodological rigor, except that there is no prospect of reclaiming innocence once it is lost.

There are ways of dealing with all of this, and an important one involves being willing to make judgments in spite of the fact that those judgments can never be entirely right and can never be entirely justified, or even defended (except as a pis aller).  But while those judgments are necessary, they are hard to embrace.  You have to lack a certain self-awareness in order to make judgments with the strength necessary to carry them out. It was said that in East Germany, "Of the three features–personal honesty, sincere support of the regime and intelligence–it was possible to combine only two, never all three."  Similarly, in life you can never combine (A) an awareness of the limits of your worldview with (B) a worthwhile course of action and (C) sufficient confidence in (B) to pursue your chosen course of action in the face of obstacles/objections.  You basically have to suspend (A) for a while in order to get things done, and, crucially, you will never know whether this was the right choice.  "Do I dare disturb the universe?" is not a trivial question.

This is just an unpleasant fact about life, but every once in a while you find something that brings some lightness to life, some Belgian yeast (or, inshallah, bacteria) into a sea of light lagers.  Elisa points us to a phenomenal episode of Radiolab that you can enjoy without reservation.  William Gladstone!  Homer!  the perception of color!  As a human, you have been given the ability to play with ideas, to turn them over in your head, to prod and admire them.  Use it tonight!

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