As part of my therapy session today, I was questioned about my cynicism, my views on humanity, faith and god.
Those who know me in “real life” know me as one of the most cynical people alive. At work I am “the voice of cynicism” and am known for having coined the most cynical definition of a cynic: one who sees the world as it is – not as it should be.
The reality is, I’m not – what I am is a hopeless romantic, a fool on the yellow brick road and an utopian dreamer.
What I also am, is someone who’s life has not been easy, who has faced more than his fair share of shit and who looks around and does not see anything changing. I’m not beaten … I am a fighter … I’ll fight till my last synapse fires … but there are times where I’m sure I am -| |- that close.
My view of humanity is shaped from my experiences, obviously, but it’s also shaped from my countless hours spent in the Queens room of the State Library of Victoria bent over tomes of books researching and studying everything I could to make sense “of all the shit”.
History shows me a bleak landscape of the achievements of mankind. With every achievement, something has been lost. What really disappoints is that it shows me how little we have achieved, and how much we have lost.
Unfortunately, I do perceive the world in a very bad light. Given the opportunity, people will choose to take advantage of another. Given the opportunity to be an ass-hole, people will be one. If you removed the fear of retribution, punishment or judgement – 98% of people will happily screw over their fellows.
If you were told that if every tax payer placed 10% of their salary into a charity, we could eliminate world hunger within 7 years – would you do it? How about if the government didn’t give you a rebate for those charity dollars?
If Political party A offered to increase taxes by just 1% and that they could eliminate the country’s debt, clean up the healthcare system and provide assistance to the poor, would people vote for them? No chance if Party B was offering a 1% tax discount for just one year. No chance at all.
Even if you can pull one person out of the crowd and explain to them why Party A is better and succeed in explaining how they will be better off by it – as soon as the individual becomes part of the mob, they are as useful and intelligent as a Fox News reporter.
One of Star Trek’s draw cards was that it sold the most utopian view of humanity. We want to believe we can reach an enlightened state – a state where we have a society that is egalitarian and wise and where our “negatives” become our strengths.
It’s a dream we all want – but one we secretly know we’ll never achieve.
This is not to say there aren’t beautiful, wondrous people out there … there are so, so many … but not enough to make a statistical difference.
My views on Religion are filled with similar vitriol. I was raised Roman Catholic, in a strict, observant household. The irony of that still stings. I started seminary classes. My parish priest was an old school ex-missionary priest. He returned from 20-something years of “preaching the good word” to the Africans, took over the parish and was quickly on his way up through the local ranks. So, perhaps his rough and ready attitude and inability to deal with my rebellious and curious mind is what started me down the path to seek further answers.
I searched. I questioned. I enquired. I got in trouble. WTF? It was blasphemy to question things? So I started reading bible guides. That lead to history books. Which lead to philosophy. Which returned me to the bible and then to comparative theology and the tanakh, qur’an and others.
You know what I found? More questions.
They all told the same stories. They all gave the same hope. They all taught the same fears.
What was different? The people who ran organisations in the name of the faith.
Were they doing so to help humanity? To lighten the path? To guide it? To enable them to reach the level of fulfilment and enlightenment needed for paradise?
Time and time again, there was no such evidence. Instead I saw wars, deaths, scaremongering and intimidation. Those days have not changed.
So my faith wavered … but it still clung onto “god”. After all, if all of these faiths revolve around the same construct, there may be some truth among the haystack, I just need to find the needle, I thought.
So I hung onto the concept of god. I searched further a field and soon I found myself as part of the “new age” community.
Here, I felt welcomed, loved, accepted … one of them.
Maybe because of this all encompassing acceptance I was swayed so heavily, and so easily that I did not realise I had become part of a cult in a little under a year. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything like WACO, but the experience left me with a few more scars … so I left the community, but kept the spiritualism. The indoctrination took some time to shake off though.
I spent years going back to theological and philosophical texts – searching over and over … I experimented with buddhism, pagan, wicca, pantheism and so many more … but in the end, I had to face off my heart – and discovered there was no faith in there. I was not a believer.
It was, I must admit, a sad day for me.
I had walked through the valley of the gods … I had stared at their many, many faces … I had read their stories and played under their gaze. But as I walked out of the valley, I found myself in the shadow-lands with nothing but eternity before me.
I am still suffering the effects of that existential depression.
Thus, my views on humanity and faith are bleak, to say the least.
What does all this mean?
I don’t know.
It doesn’t define who I am. Nor does it define who I am not.
Who am I? I’m still searching for an answer to that … but the loss of faith does make the search harder. The loss of faith strips you of meaning. What does it all mean? What’s the point?
I’m talking about now having to deal with a basic resigned anger in relation to the realisation that the confrontation of basic issues of existance lead me to believe that it is all meaningless and thus resigned to an eternal, unresolvable depression at the sheer meaningless of life.
Death is an apparently inevitable occurrence.We are all told this. We all “know” this. It is one “truth” that I cannot swallow though, one that I have always fought with all my being, no matter how much I know in the pits of my deepest darkest places, that it is indeed true.
Freedom, in at least a philosophical sense, refers to the absence of external structure and control. Yet, as humans we do not enter a world which is inherently structured. In an attempt to bring order to the chaos, we give the world a form, a structure, a set of definitions which we ourselves create. In so doing, we actually limit the freedom that we utilise. As humans, we further create “order”, “laws”, “ethics”, “societal norms”, “religious values” and other such nonsense to help us mange the world and those we share it with … yet all at the cost of the liberty we once had. How can one claim to be free?
Within this confine, therefore, no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are thus nonetheless alone. Whether my emotional being is well adjusted or not, I fear, makes no difference to this realisation that we will never truly be able to emotionally connect to others – the gap will always be there.
So, I ask myself, if we must construct our own world, lose our liberties, live in a swarm of 6 Billion beings where each of us is ultimately alone, only to end up with an inevitable death – then what meaning does life have?
While I may wish that a spiritual world, an afterlife, even a deity of some form, existed – I honestly do not believe that this is true. I will acquiesce that it is possible that my acceptance of my atheism, after years of agnosticism and comparative theological study may very well have induced, if not heightened, this reaction … but … the reality is that this fear … the underlying niggling of this “existential crisis” … has been bubbling away for many, many years.
I have always tended towards idealism. I joke, however, that I am an pessimistic optomist … simultaneously able to see the world as it might be … and how far it is falling short of how it could be. I have become extremely cynical because of it. My therapist has remarked on my keen, even bitter, disappointment and frustrations which occurs when ideals are not met. More so when I have set them for myself and haven’t reached them.
Once, I was a dreamer, a ‘visionary’, even an evangelist for change – spouting ways of change, methods of improvement, means of bettering – but the constant inconsistencies, arbitrariness and absurdities of society at large infects those that may indeed be attracted to the initial thoughts and movement so that they too are infected and rotten away.
How much difference in the world can one person’s life make?
How much difference in the world can my life make?
How much difference in my own life can I make?
I don’t have the answers … but I am making an effort to find out.