Sunday, April 22, 2007
Barry Schwartz gives a great talk at TED. Damn, this is so true, especially the part about the spike in depression. My office recently converted to electronic records so I can see the information on each person I see. I can say confidently that around 75% of the people who enter the office have a diagnosis of "depression". I noticed this after a few days and it astounded me. Everyone is depressed, but why does everyone pretend to be so upbeat all the time? I think Shwartz has a good piece of the answer.
I remember when I was a spiritualist, I was completely convinced that my life was a meaningful story with a cosmic narrative and a special purpose. Expectations for my life were nothing less than saving the world. At that time I suffered from regular bouts of depression. Since about 3 years ago, the time that I broke through and overcame the mind-rut of spiritual hypnosis, alot of the feelings of security are gone from my life. I miss actually believing that my life has a plan. I do feel rather empty and I long for the feelings of meaning I once had. But one thing I can say- I have not experienced *any* of the episodes of depression I used to when I did believe my life had a purpose. Atheism has cured me of depression. There are many reasons for this. One big one is that I now don't incessantly blame myself for not having an extraordinarily vibrant life. If you really think your life is a meaningful story, then everything must be caused by your malfunction. All religions and spiritual systems blame the individual for the sick nature of the kosmos- original sin, karma etc... it's all our fault, or specifically "my fault". Life would be perfect if we were just better. It causes massive guilt among believers.
Now since I've woken up, I don't really want a vibrant life, or care for those who have them. People with vibrant outgoing personalities are generally infantile ignorant minds enmeshed in a tapestry of delusion, enjoying the self congratulatory vibes of observing their status in dominance heirarchies. I enjoy observing them as living science experiments, for vibrant spiritual people are perhaps the biggest piece of evidence I have that spirituality is entirely contrived. But I don't want to be one of these people. I even have trouble with Sagan's and Dawkins' basking in the beauty of the universe. I see where they are coming from.. but the more "beautiful" the universe can be made to be seen if we squint our eyes and project our humanity on the glowing dirt fields of the cosmos, the more disgusting and horrifing the entire cluster fuck is. You're born, it seems beautiful and meaningful and you think you'll live forever, then the cosmic bait and switch- you begin to realize that the entire construct of your being was derived through a process of meaningless rape and pillage for one primary reason- to trick you into making choices which perpetuate replicators. You grow older and lose that naive vision (unless you force yourself to remain delusional), and you live the bulk of your years being older and ultimately experiencing a never ending cycle of disappointments leading to sickness and death, or sudden tragedy. For most people, the insecurity of life has forced them to believe in an ameliorating story (religion, spirituality) which smooths out some of the suffering from these horrid events of life. But for those of us who know that religion and spirituality are false, these delusional constructions of artificial meaning merely emphasize the sheer fucked-up-edness of the darwinian saga.
The cosmos ultimately is not beautiful, it's fucking sick. I don't care how you slice it.
I am a curmudgeon because I think human existence is an exercise in self-deception. A sham. A futile comedy of delusional puppets. Pretending to be excited about the nature of how things really are in this world is embarrassing to me. I feel embarrassed by vibrant and consistently upbeat people. It's not an honest reaction to the nature of things. It's not a state of mind any reasonable person should even bother trying to acheive, but it is the state of mind which perpetuates genes, and so it lives on. I do bask in the beauty of music, structure, and the entertaining mystery of it all. But deep down, when I am most honest with myself I know it's a hill of beans that atheists use to console their knowing that it's all futile. But what else is there to do?
This quote from Ira Glass is interesting:
I just find I don’t believe in God. It just doesn’t seem to be true, and no amount of thinking about it seems to make it true. It seems inherently untrue. And the thing that’s hard about honing that position is, as a reporter, I’ve seen many times how a belief in God has transformed somebody’s life. In all the ways I feel like you can witness God’s work here on earth, I feel like I’ve seen that. I’ve met a lot of people — it’s been the thing that’s changed them, that’s sustained them in a way that I wish I could believe. But I simply find I don’t and I don’t feel like it’s something I have a choice about. I could pretend I believe a God exists, but the world seems explainable to me without it.