I’m kicking this back to the top from June, 2010. I had occasion to re-read my thoughts on sex earlier today, and then I went back and looked at this essay. I like it better today than I did last summer, and I hope you will, too. –GSS
Reasons to be cheerful, part zero: The ground we stand upon is firm and the lever of the human mind grows ever stronger.
I need to take this someplace else. I am madly off-topic here more often than not, this for the past couple of years. I think I may be in the third act of this spectacle of ideas I have made of my life, and I can’t even say, yet, if it’s a farce in three acts or a tragedy in five. I would prefer an epiphany, to say the truth, a symphony, a grand opera composed of nothing but the simplest and most obvious of abstractions, an idiot’s guide to what every last idiot among us has always known forever, has never once doubted, and has always, always betrayed — until now.
But that’s why I’m cheerful, I think, despite everything. There is still so much time left to us, amidst the crush of on-rushing events. I am thrice lucky, I know it: I can see and I can understand what I am seeing. I can think and I can transcribe my thoughts. And I live in a time when the thoughts of everyone in human history who ever thought productively are instantly available to each one of us — on demand, no charge, quantities unlimited, with every taste in depth and rigor satisfied and then some.
This is an amazing thing. It’s never happened before, and it remains to be seen how deeply humanity is willing to set its roots in the boundless praries of the mind. But the simple fact that this is possible — and that people all over the world are taking advantage of it — is a profoundly important reason to be cheerful, no matter what despair might be unearthed in the day’s events.
Clearly, Barrack Obama is incompetent. That’s scary enough, but I have believed that the man is a malignant narcissist since first I paid any attention to him. This would be an ideal time not to have a boob who may well be a feral tyrant in the White House, but on top of any damage the president might do, we are confronted by the impending collapse of the European Union, the bankruptcy of California and many other states and cities, the foreseeable foundering of the U.S. economy — all this on top of predictable responses to Obama’s weakness in Iran, Korea and now Turkey. This is a good time to put your head in the sand, so I am thrilled to see so many people doing the opposite instead — striving to learn how we got ourselves into this ditch and how to dig ourselves out.
I can see three tomorrows from here, and each one of them seems to me to offer more reasons for optimism than despair. As I get time, I’ll go through them in detail, but here they are in summary:
- Future number one: Nothing much changes in the grand scheme of things. This is the most likely scenario by far.
- Future number two: We go through a sustained economic collapse, like the Great Depression or Japan’s Lost Decade.
- Future number three: SHTF — The Shit Hits The Fan. A re-org, as it were, perhaps just in what had been the United States, perhaps everywhere. I consider this hugely unlikely, but it seems like something that might be worth thinking about, if only as a precaution.
Why would I be cheerful about fates like these? Because we have so much leverage. Not political power; political power has been the enemy of the human mind forever. What we have is the power of reason, when we dare to cultivate it — and the praries open to our plowing have never been more vast, never more rich, never more fertile, never more accessible to anyone who is willing to dig and husband and harvest and thrive.
We’ve spent all our lives — all our history! — clawing for things, for the tangible, the graspable, the hordeable, the hideable — the things we snatch away with an animal’s cunning and then cringe forever in animal fear that they might be snatched back. That much was wrong, and that is what we are learning at last: The things that matter most to the human mind, the things that yield up every kind of wealth, spiritual and physical, in vast uncountable cornucopian abundance — those treasures of the mind can never be pawed at or swiped.
We stand at the cliff’s edge of greatness, and, suddenly, one by one, we are daring to dive, to submerse ourselves in all the wisdom of all of human history and to come back to the surface as new men, as new minds, as the radiant and resplendent brand new thing we should always have been — had we ever once been willing to dig in and do the work.
People are doing that work now, one mind at a time, all over the world, and that alone is reason enough to be of good cheer. Our governments have screwed up very badly, but the solution to all human ills — the inconquerable human mind — is honing the blade of the plow in preparation for the cultivation we have tried so hard, as a species, never to do.
There is this: We are perched, too, on the cliff’s edge on the singularity. When will it come? What form will it take? These questions no one will be able to answer until it has already happened. But that’s the worst fate that could befall us. Wars and rumors of wars, poisoning our own habitat, financial collapse — these are nothing, really, nothing we haven’t lived through before. But if we miss the singularity, it could take us anywhere from decades to forever to climb our way back to the top of the cliff.
If you want something to worry about, it’s that — humanity so completely destroying itself that we miss out on the chance to graduate, now that we’ve almost earned the right to move on. But that’s the point: At the precise moment that we need the mind the most, people all over the world are waking up to the life of the mind.
Too few of them? Too late? Too hopelessly lost in centuries of carefully-crafted gibberish ever to find their way back to reason? Hide and watch.
Here’s my answer: If I can improve my own mind every day, I am acquiring the very leverage I will need to move the earth and to rebuild it as I would have it, as it should have been all along. I am but one man, one mind — but my name is legion. There are thousands and millions of people like me, some of them immeasurably brilliant. And we are all of us unchained in the praries of the mind at last — free to learn, free to grow, free to thrive.
Free to stare fate in the eye — and defy it.
Free to have the world our way, all the way, all the time.
It advantages you nothing to worry. But it profits you everything to think…
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