Wednesday, October 31, 2018

raising paralytics

One might argue that all parents know that they are delivering their children from the blank constancy of nonexistence into a world that is certain only to change, and that it’s impossible to be sure of anything except that life is not permanent and is prone to radical, sudden revolutions. This is true, if a bit more determined, in the case of climate change. Bringing a child into a world staring down the throat of its own deadly excesses is both as reasonable and irrational as having a child in any other frightening epoch, and there have been many. — Elizabeth Bruenig, October 12, 2018

If you are a critical person, you are probably aware of two things:
1. How much better everything could be and isn't.
2. That things are not as they appear to be.

Two corollaries follow from the first awareness. First: you, unfortunately can easily tend to see the dark sides of the cloud—whatever the opposite is of a silver lining, you live in that world. You are able to see the ideal—the purest form—and you can quickly measure up the distance between that ideal and the milieu within which you are existing. What is weighs on you, because it is not what it could be. From your particular vantage point, you can see how much better things would be if they were just a little more ideal and less real.

Second, this idealism often constricts our imagination into: either it must be this right way, or it will be forever the wrong way. Once we have charted that terribly long and winding path between where we are now and where we ought to be, the sheer improbability of ever reaching that distant ideal often forecloses other, truly viable solutions. But they are not the ideal, so how can we possibly settle for them?

This second awareness causes a more subtle disruption. For if you recognize that things are not as they appear to be, then you realize there is a possibility the phenomena themselves are deceptions. If you are aware of the existence of deceiving phenomena, this probably generally means that you are unwilling to be taken in—and you will inevitably, like all humans, probably be taken in.

As an intelligent person, you are taught to cross-examine everything: from the statement your classmate made in seminar to your GRE questions. A test means a question is presented that is designed to make a fool out of the too-trusting person—"passing the test" means refusing to let yourself be duped. Those of us who have never been fooled are declared intelligent.

But the beginning of wisdom is perhaps at an altogether different point than the basis of critical thinking.

Wisdom seems to take not just as a possibility, but as a given, that we will be fooled. The wool is going to be pulled over our eyes, and that's just a fact. Good on you, deceiving world for taking us in with your endlessly marvelous bait.

Wisdom tends towards remembering that things could be better—but hypotheticals are a charming illusion for restless minds. What's good (what's best) is what is in front of us. Wisdom seems to remember that what is good is abundant, and really the only way to become wise, is to not make the good better, but to love better what good is in front of you— to offer the love you have to a world that will inevitably spit it back in your face.

We are trained to be intelligent and smart by being the people are who are always a few crucial steps ahead of hecklers, keeping several yards out of spitting range. But wisdom in the flesh was once spat at, so perhaps we are trained to be intelligent in vain. The smarter you are, the harder it is to let yourself be got. But the wise are constantly being gotten the better of—and I think they laugh, all the same.

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