It’s not easy to be optimistic these days. Anyone that is overtly optimistic could justifiably be labelled as delusional. Each time I make an effort to look on the bright side, there’s a hurdle. Like just now; I never knew who Jordan Peterson was before viewing a YouTube video in which he is debating Sam Harris. After just a few minutes, a knife cut right through whatever optimism I was harbouring in that moment.
Essentially, Peterson laid out a proposal that “man” (because in his world it seems that women don’t matter) rises up in a hierarchy of power, and this rise is propelled by truth, with god’s gentle guidance. Has no one informed him of the tens of thousands of lies uttered by the former guy? Making matters worse, I then learned that he’s transphobic. I already know too much about this cretin, I have no desire to learn more about him, and he tanked my optimism regarding the potential of our human species.
Yeah, homo sapiens. Not impressing me much these days. In the New York Times, stories related to the death of an elderly woman of no less than ninety-six years old, in a country where the life expectancy for women is eighty-three years, included these quotes from the people in the street; “It’s very hard to take it in” and “You wonder what’s next?” What’s next? Spoiler alert; More people are going to die. Sorry, not sorry.
Meanwhile, here in a country that Forbes ranks as having the highest average IQ in the world, I got on a bus in which the entire rear section was empty, while fellow homo sapiens jammed the aisle from the driver’s seat to the middle section, preventing anyone from moving farther back into the vacant rear section. Thanks to this highly intelligent population we were all jammed in by the driver, who himself could not figure out how to use the PA system to encourage everyone to move towards the rear. At subsequent bus stops countless potential passengers could not board and were left waiting, as they looked through the bus windows at the big empty space at the rear.
So much for the theory that nature abhors a vacuum. Disproven on bus 19, bigly.
Seeking a sanctuary from this growing pessimism, relaxation beckoned. To relax, few things beat a deep-tissue massage, so off to the spa I went. As usual, before getting on the table I changed out of my street clothes to have a shower and a fifteen-minute soak in the jacuzzi. While in the shower I heard another patron start the jacuzzi, which has a fifteen-minute timer. But as I approached the bubbling water, there was no one in it. Why did they start it? Were they concerned that it might not be working? And who is leaving all the spa bathrobes, towels shorts and sandals all over the locker room? Are blind people patronising the place who cannot see the hampers for the used garments and towels and the bin for the sandals, or are they just stupid?
Homo sapiens surprised that a ninety-six-year-old woman has died, homo sapiens who can’t figure out how to move to the back of a bus, over seventy-four million Americans who voted for Trump in the 2020 election? How can anyone retain any degree of optimism when faced with these realities?
Sebastian Maniscalco famously asked the question, “What’s wrong with people?” When he went on to explain that question with several illustrations, I identified with the guy standing in line behind the inept customer at Subway who was asking the staff, “How does this work?” More than once I witnessed that in real time. Similarly, there are sound reasons why I’ve read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces more than once. I’ve been entangled in many such confederacies myself, more times than I care to count. To their credit, Maniscalco and Toole have managed to provide a balm that soothes the mental pain created by the dunces that are everywhere, transforming the idiocy into entertainment; comedy. The welcome release realised in laughter.
Yet comedy does have its limits. Antics on a bus and at Subway are sad to watch, yet not exactly devastating. But the collective idiocy that empowers a dotard (as Kim Jong-un described him in Shakespearean prose) like Trump to rule America, that level of idiocy with global ramifications can be overwhelming. More than comedy is required to quell that pessimism.
Where then can the cure be found? So far the discovery of a growing number of enlightened people is helping me to avoid losing all hope. Progressive thinkers both dead and alive provide encouraging perspectives that broaden my thinking. Diving into their writing is a useful sanctuary that takes me far from the world’s daily banality.
There is no way I will ever get through every worthwhile piece of literature, but I am confident that at least I’ll die while making a humble attempt, despite the surrounding confederacies of the dim.