Wednesday, January 22, 2003

I’ve been generally happy lately.

I’ve noticed that there’s a direct and opposing link between my cynicism and my general happiness. I’ve always considered myself to be something of a cynic. I’ve long claimed that I was a realist and that pessimism was the proper viewpoint because, while an optimist is quite often disappointed, a pessimist is never disappointed and indeed, sometimes he’s pleasantly surprised. Ironically, it was always a bit of an optimistic point to have made.

But lately I’ve been rethinking all of that. I’m not over-fond of psychoanalysis, so I’ll spare you the gory details of it. But I think I’ve always wielded cynicism like a shield. Cynicism kept me from taking risks. That offered protection in a cruel environment, but it also kept me from excelling. There was no point in trying when I could get by without trying and all trying seemed to signify was the bitterness of lonely victory, or the stinging bitterness of lonely defeat.

My mother tells me that I’m naïve; that I don’t understand how evil people really are. But I disagree. It’s easy to see how evil people are. We live in a world where naivety is a rare virtue. In the words of R. Buckminster Fuller, at the start of his Synergetics: The Geometry of Thinking, and therefore totally unrelated to my subject except that it’s the proper turn of phrase, we must “Dare to be naïve.” Naivety is the thing worth battling for; it’s not the standby. Children may be born innocent, but they’ve learned to keep their guard up before they’ve begun to toddle. It’s rather like Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote regarding faith: “Well-adjusted people think that faith is an answer to all human problems. In truth, however, faith is a challenge to all human persons. To have faith is to be in labor."

I’ve found that faith and naivety are every bit as linked as is generally charged by their enemies. But I don’t find the fact so odious as I once thought I did. It’s pessimism I find poisonous; not faith. It’s calculation, and not naivety, which is worthy of suspicion. Metaphysics aren’t nasty, though there’s many a metaphysician who is.

Sometimes when I listen to myself say these things I wonder if it won’t be long until I’m singing Rome sweet home. I wonder if my early atheism had much to do with the unfortunate fact that I was born into an Anglican family. Though I know a great many good man has, and I know at least one good woman who does, I can’t imagine anyone taking Anglicanism all that seriously.

But before I go, my mom cracked me up tonight. Annoyed with my father’s habit of falling asleep in the chair with the television blaring in the background, she gave his chair a good kick and screamed: “When you die, you’ll go to heaven or hell, but you'll be damned if you'll get out of that chair!"