I’ve employed many coping mechanisms for living with depression over the years. Admittedly, some have proven detrimental, however, there are many that have proven to be quite beneficial. One such mechanism, is skepticism. In essence, I question everything. In my world, the glass is neither half empty, nor half full, and I’m cautious of anybody willing to suggest otherwise.
For the record. The glass is mostly sand. The water is mostly air. Both are fluid, whereas, the people who take a position on either side of this mind-numbing debate, tend not to be. Funnily enough, the human body is 60% water, and yet, many of us are seemingly half empty. Let’s fix this.
Man has been reduced everywhere, serving the hive like an ant or a bee, toiling away at mechanical tasks and never approaching a knowledge of the whole, or performing great work. There are no Renaissance men because there is no Renaissance. Or is it the other way around?Glenn O’Brien, How TO BE A MAN
Where have all the Renaissance men gone? I don’t know, but we need more of them, and while we’re at it, let’s find more Renaissance women as well, it’s the 21st century after all. We need more interesting people. We need more expert-generalists. We need more skeptics. In a world of inflexibility and division, we need more fluidity, and perhaps more than ever, we need a Renaissance.
Three wise monkeys.
There are at least two sides to everything. Right? You can answer, “yes” or “no.” Even a one-dimensional space is connected by a pair of points, however, I’m too impatient for binary, so let’s speed things up. Human evolution took a million years to make it this far by way of “yes” or “no.” I’d like to see real progress in my lifetime, but I’m afraid there isn’t enough time for that, or is there?
We all know that, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” but I bet you didn’t know that:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,Maria Edgworth
All play and no work makes Jack a dull toy.
When you ask better questions, you’ll discover there are infinite sides to everything. Let’s explore an example.
Maybe there’s an afterlife, after all? I don’t know. Life after death is one of the most bemusing inventions of mankind. We’re fixated on mortality and will employ outrageous methods to avoid it. A certain amount of witchcraft is necessary, and while the coven may differ, the recipe is always the same; one dash of God, one dash of belief, stir for a lifetime, sip before death, et voila.
Science, the kind beyond sorcery, is slightly more complicated. Can we live forever? Probably, or at least for much longer than we currently do, in this world anyway, but who really wants that? Think about it. I mean, really think about it. Most of us can barely handle four years of Donald Trump. Life is messy, let it build up forever, and you might discover that in your next life you’re a fulltime janitor.
Then again, I’m not talking about immortality, I’m talking about an afterlife. There’s a difference. You know, the pearly gates version, where, as the story goes, even folks like Trump can’t sneak their way in, unless of course, Putin happens to be the gatekeeper. This version is a little more out there, although my skepticism leads me to believe that anything is possible.
The issue, however, isn’t one of logical probability, it’s one of logical inconsistency. In order for an afterlife to exist, so too must eternity, which of course, necessitates infinite possibilities, but as we know, the recipe doesn’t allow for this. Put more than one God in the caldron and you’ve spoiled your tasty afterlife. There’s no amount of “CoeXisT” bumper stickers in this world, or the next, that will ever allow these two ideas to stick together, or you know, coexist.
As such, if you do believe in this version of the afterlife, open up your hearts, better yet, open up your minds. Embrace your Muslim brother Ahmed and your Christian sister Becky while in this life, because you’ll be spending a lot more time together in the next, like, an eternity.
Either we shall find what it is we are seeking or at least we shall free ourselves from the persuasion that we know what we do not know.Plato, The Republic
Is it better to drown or burn to death?
So, what’s your point?
Well, for starters, closemindedness limits progression. That’s a problem. I’d like progress, remember? When we sling shit at one another over Twitter, we regress to some former version of ourselves. We all love our primate predecessors, but we shouldn’t strive to be like them. The world changes quickly. Man, science informs us, changes slowly. It has taken nature a million years to get us here. Let’s try to keep up, shall we?
More frighteningly, closemindedness can be extremely dangerous, especially if you’re the crusading type. How many men, women and children have died in the name of God? I don’t know, but the answer is, somewhere between far too many and far too many. What about communism and capitalism? The slave trades? The Holocaust? People are certain they have all encompassing truths, until suddenly they don’t.
“Oh, well. It wasn’t my idea,” the perpetrators say.
Really? You sure acted like it was. If you adopt an idea as your truth, it doesn’t just become your idea, it also becomes who you are. There are perpetrators, and there are victims, but humanity always pays the greatest cost. Are all Germans Nazis? Are all Nazis Germans? No, but anybody who chose to be a Nazi was a Nazi.
We need better answers, not truths, answers. If we’re going to get them, we need to ask better questions. We need more skeptics.
Here’s a good one that we all like to ask. Would you prefer to drown to death or burn to death? I don’t know, but we’re all going to find out. Global warming, climate change, whatever you prefer, is a great example of humanity asking the wrong question. We fiercely debate its existence, but existence isn’t the right question. The right question is, why is there a debate at all?
As suggested earlier, humanity is fixated on its own mortality. Here we have a situation where we’re literally staring down the barrel in a game of Russian roulette and it’s our turn to pull the trigger. So far, we’re like, “Meh, what’s the worst that could happen?” Well, you might blow your brains out. I don’t know about any of you, but I’m sweating bullets.
In this particular instance, if you ask the right question, you’ll trip over capitalism. So long as this is our truth, man will eat his Big Mac, sip his Coca Cola, and when he’s done his daily ritual of increasing his likelihood for diabetes, he’ll roll down the window of his F-150, toss out the garbage, and turn up the air conditioning. He’ll do so, because he is man, man, the crown prince of creation. So far.
Am I a capitalist? Sure am. For now, anyway, and that’s the difference. I think this is the best answer for now, but it isn’t the best answer forever, and it certainly isn’t the truth. Like Plato, I know what I do not know. Do you? Adaptability causes change. Change causes progression. Let’s keep progressing.
One foot before the other. If we can find a better answer to capitalism, we might be able to find a better answer for global warming. So long as we have capitalism, however, we have game theory, and there will always be a winner and a loser. Knee jerk before our opponent, and we might lose, but if we don’t move at all, there might be no game left to play at all. What a bummer.
Like any good skeptic, I too questioned the merits of global warming, until one summer I couldn’t play tennis at my yacht club, because the island had flooded. I wish this was a joke, but it’s not. Talk about worlds colliding. The good capitalist in me was shook by this minor inconvenience. “No tennis?” I asked. “I pay all this money,” I said. “Raise the island. Build a wall,” I suggested. Oh wait. Just, oh wait.
Will a wall save capitalism?
Right now, recent polling suggests that 58% of voting aged American’s are opposed to building a wall along the US Mexican border. The other 42% want Trump to, “Build that wall! U…S…A! U…S…A!” Ok, cool. The only wall that matters right now is the one in their minds, because the fierce division that exists is ripping the country apart. Believe it or not, it’s much more difficult to put something back together again, than build a wall. Beware.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Remember when the United States was instrumental in taking down the Berlin Wall? Now, that was cool. Democracy won out over communism. Capitalism won out over socialism. Do you see where I’m going with this? A wall can’t keep out defectors in the same way that it can’t keep out immigrants. Most importantly, it can’t keep out ideas. Ideas are fluid. They cannot, will not, be detained.
Let’s make America great again. We can start with fewer walls. Now that’s a “U…S…A!” chant I can get behind. I’m not holding my breath, so in the meantime, let’s have a Renaissance.
How can I start a Renaissance?
That’s the right question. There’s no modern Renaissance, because we already know-it-all. There’re no modern Renaissance men or women, because we’re all know-it-alls. The first step, the only step really, is to become a skeptic. Simply, admit that you know nothing, question everything, and be willing to learn.
If you do this, the next right question becomes, what do I do with all this newfound freedom? I can’t tell you, because I don’t know, but I can share some of what I do.
Smile as much as possible. Even on your own. Try it right now. Feels nice, right?
Listen more than you talk.
Get off your phone in public spaces. Despite what your parents told you, your grown ass can talk to strangers now.
Speaking of strangers. When you get in the back of an Uber or Lyft, take interest in your driver’s story. You’ll meet some very interesting people. Perhaps you’ll find out Buddhism is much more your jam than Christianity.
Entering new or unfamiliar social settings, try to learn about the interests of the people attending beforehand. You’ll have much better interactions.
While there, remember the names of the people you meet and at least one pertinent fact about their life. Shake their hand firmly, but not like a lunatic. If you can’t remember on your own, make a note of it in your phone. Do so, privately.
Keep your political opinions to yourself. Be mindful, even with loved ones. We’re all wrong and come across as idiots when we discuss or debate openly.
A man should always compliment a woman. By now you should know what to avoid bro #metoo. Stick to things like, “That’s a fantastic idea,” “I appreciate your contribution,” or if you must, “I love that new outfit.” If it’s someone you’re sleeping with, a simple, “Wow,” will go a long way.
A woman should, whenever possible, try not to belittle a man. Men are driven by ego. Do this and there’ll be fewer serial killers and mass shooters in the world. It’s not your fault, but it’d go a long way. If it’s someone you’re sleeping with, make him feel wanted.
Men are different than women. Men, inasmuch as possible, learn to understand these mystical creatures.
Women are different than men. Women, inasmuch as possible, learn to understand these brutal beasts.
Develop new hobbies. It’ll make you much more interesting to others. You’ll be more successful. You’ll have more friends. Believe it or not, you’ll be more empathetic. The world needs much more empathy.
Read more, and while you’re at it, develop favorites. Do this for fiction and nonfiction. Read them again and again. Mine are, Homo Deus and Love in the Time of Cholera. Harry Potter is unacceptable, however, J.K Rowling can be a favorite author, and The Bible is fantasy fiction.
Do the same with movies and music. If you’re the kind of person that just loves too many genres, have a favorite for each. You’ll learn more about yourself than anything else.
Never be the smartest person in the room. The best way to do this, is to obtain smart friends.
Never be the dumbest person in the room. The best way to do this, is to keep a know-it-all in your circle.
If something impacts your life, attempt to understand it. Better yet, master it. Start with your taxes. You might free up an extra $1,000. Then go learn about compound interest and invest in something with an annualized interest rate of 15%. Keep this up for 30 years and watch that $1000 you were throwing away every year magically turn into $500,957. Don’t use this money for the down payments on your children’s houses, reinvest it for them when you pass, or invest it in their education.
Ask for forgiveness, even when you feel like you’re the one that’s been wronged. It’s likely both of you were in the wrong in at least some capacity. If your ego gets in the way, at least accept their apology, it will go a long way.
While you’re at it, forgive and forget.
Oh, and love a bit more.
If you’ve followed along correctly, doubt everything you just read. I’ll be the first to tell you that I know nothing.
The only thing any of us can know with absolute certainty is who the five best rappers of all time are? Think about it. Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan and Dylan, because he spits hot fire.
It’s all sad but it’s not bad,