February 17th, 2016
Over the last 10 years I have noticed my entire personality move towards the cynical end of the spectrum and this transformation has occurred, no doubt, from the confluence of both my scientific training and my humble dabbling into such areas as philosophy and literature. Let me explain.
While it is a cliche to say that the most important trait of good scientific training is a liberally sprinkled dose of deep skepticism, there is some truth to it just as there is some truth to all cliches. Generally this skepticism is confined to specific scientific disciplines or, if allowed to fester any further, still limited by the confines of all things technical. This skepticism teaches not to take everything that one is told at face value, to check and recheck and to try to separate facts from fiction. When applied to scientific disciplines it imparts the self-correcting and self-doubting characters which are so central to their existence. It also teaches, as a corollary, to develop some degree of humility as one can never be too sure of one's own positions. And it also teaches, ideally at least, that an opinion is only as good as the force of its argument, its merit is divorced from its agency. This is all well and good for scientific disciplines but this kind of general skepticism does not go down well in society. People derive a lot of their self-worth from the statuses that are implicitly granted to them through the mere accumulation of years. They become old and with age they automatically seem to assume that their ideas also become wise. They win prizes and get promoted and really start to buy into the delusion that they have important things to say. Of course, in their delusions they are helped by the unquestioning minions who form the bulk of our regimented social structures. I am skeptical of the wisdom of people and I wonder how much of them is actually them and how much is merely a sum total of others. Since I fail to automatically ascribe wisdom and worth in this fashion, I also fail to ascribe automatic respect. They take this attitude as arrogance and I can only scoff at their ignorance! Respect, I have long maintained, is merely charity in disguise and I find it very hard to be charitable. What is generally taken as arrogance is in fact merely apathy. Apathy towards whatever an individual may think his/her opinion is worth. In a mutual conversation I will be the judge of how much they are really worth.
A healthy reading habit is not good for anybody and it certainly has not been good for me as far as my being a well functioning social member is concerned. There are patterns in human behavior and in history which are revealed by books. Circular, mindless, repetitive patterns which end as abruptly as they begin. An individual doesn't exist for an incredibly long time and then ceases to exist forever. And between these two eternities and for a very short duration he goes about mostly following orders in predictable patterns which have been laid out for him by forces larger than him and beyond his comprehension. What kind of an existence is that? Not only is his life pointless and ridiculous in eternity, it is also pointless in this life. Of course he tries to make it better by actively cultivating many delusions. He really does seem to believe that things matter, that his ideas matter, that his life matters, and that his possessions matter. It is all rather amusing as I sit around sometimes thinking about how much I know about my own ancestors from only three generations ago! Virtually nil. They ceased to exist and with their cessation almost everything that they might have thought important and eternal. Vanished into thin air just as I will. At least I do not harbor any delusions of grandeur or permanence and I do not take such ideas seriously in others either. Out of politeness, decorum, social propriety, and a fear of being throw out, however, I refrain from telling people how pointless their lives are. And sometimes I wonder whether there is camaraderie to be found in this view of life, whether happiness, if only in the form of mockery, can emerge from this effluvia and I am sure that it can and it does. Even with the incredibly intense cynicism which dwells within me, I find myself inexplicably content, even happy. And in the company of similar minded people who, above all, do not take themselves and others too seriously, I have often found such moments of joy which might appear fictional to those who are hilariously and permanently tied to the many yokes that they have chosen for themselves.