Saturday, August 31, 2013

True Believer

The little guy in the middle is me.

I have always wanted to be a true believer.

This is not strange considering my family history. My grandparents were members of the American Communist Party. This was during the Red Scare, McCarthyism and the height of the Cold War. They believed so deeply in the equality of mankind and the injustices of Capitalism that they were willing to sacrifice their Academic careers (my grandfather lost his job teaching at Cornell and became a Janitor), and privacy (the FBI opened their mail regularly and sometimes put the letters back in the wrong envelopes). They were willing to sacrifice everything for their ideals. Their children did the same.

My mother and her brothers grew up during the height of the civil rights movement and there were plenty of glasses of Kool-Aid to partake in. Good, moral ones. The march on Washington (50th anniversary was just a few days ago), sit ins, women's lib, the fight against poverty... there were many causes worth being invested in. I come from a family of IQs over 150. I come from a family of total failures. I come from a family of true believers.

And that is what I want. Seems strange to say. I don't want to be successful. Financially successful, that is. I was raised to see money as a necessary inconvenience. A thing you need to accomplish in order to do the things you really want to do. Grandparents were Commies, remember.

I was raised to see real success in an Aristotelian sense. In Aristotle's Nicomacean Ethics he uses a term. "eudaimonia". Early translations were "happiness" but over the last few decades it has more correctly been translated as "flourishing".

Flourishing: developing rapidly and successfully; thriving. This is what I need. I need an external cause to devote myself to. I need some Kool-Aid. I need some Kool-Aid which will not make me sick.

I tried the trendy causes of today, as my ancestors did before me. Organic? It has flaws and I tried it for years. It was and is a load of crap. Alternative Energy? I am pro but see the massive alteration of any energy cycle as potentially dangerous. Additionally, there will be little advancement in this area until the technology advances. We will win when we make a discovery. Secularism? I would love so much to drink the Kool-Aid of secularism. I just don't think it exists. Removing superstition and poor reasoning is what the education systems are for. Over the last few decades we have made advancement after advancement toward a more secular world. I, for one, think we are doing great and am just waiting for tomorrow which I think will be glorious.

I have always wanted to be a true believer. I have always wanted a calling. Like a priest is supposed to have. I want a cause which is good. No, great. I want a cause which I can feel good at participating in. I want a cause that I feel is so noble in attempting that it is glorious even to fail.



  1. This explains a lot.

    No, seriously, I understand the need for one big overwhelmingly righteous cause. I think TS Garp did too, but like him, I have nothing to offer.

    I'm personally trying to get over my species-ism, but if were looking for a Huge cause now, I'd go towards better learning systems for our children. So many types of kids are excluded by the enforced education we endure-- I speak as barely-a-survivor of elementary school, and it's far worse now.

  2. I think the competitive nature of capitalism coerces us to hoard knowledge. A greater goal is to encourage others to teach people what they know. Along with that, a healthy dose of skepticism to sort out the nonsense from the facts. For me, humanity is about learning and teaching.

  3. I don't think you need to be a "true believer" to have a cause. There are lots of inequalities in the world, for instance, and lots of things that can be done to move toward making things more equal. So much the better if you do it with skepticism in your heart: the cause can be motivation rather than dogma. Principles don't have to trump evidence.

    I wrote quite a lot about this, specifically about how you can help climate change and secularism without being a 'true believer' but I hit your 4k character limit. I don't want to spam your comments, but I'd like to talk to you about this stuff. Are you interested?

  4. Sure. I love any information about these issues.