How to Be Optimistic About the Future

I was watching Cosmos last night (the one with Neil Degrasse Tyson).

I still haven’t made it through the first season even though my wife and I were really into it when it came out last year. I think it was last year. We would watch it at the end of the day as the episodes came out, but eventually we got too busy with the wedding. Either that or the wedding happened and then we left the country. I can’t remember which came first.

It was Episode 11, The Immortals. It dealt with how life could have began on Earth and how it could have survived a lot of cosmic collisions by escaping on rocks, circling the sun, and then crashing back into water and regenerating. Tyson also talked about the first recorded poetry and the epic of Gilgamesh. At the end, he wonders about the future of humanity.

He said that in the next forty thousand years or so, if humanity survived, we would evolve to have more of the good stuff about us and less of the bad stuff. As a species we would be both smarter and wiser. It makes me think of the beginning of the first Transformers movie when the narrator says something about the people of Earth being young and dumb. I guess I haven’t thought too much about that lately.

I was having a conversation with my good friend about how in a few generations we might be able to travel through space and do cool stuff so really the point of life was just for us as a species to stay alive long enough until we could do that. But while I was saying that I started to think that really that’s a pretty lame point of life. It’s pretty much the same as being a virus, like Hugo Weaving says in The Matrix. But at least it was something to do. And then my friend said that anyway we would never be able to do that, intergalactic space travel takes too much energy, more energy than is in the universe, or something like that. I think he was full of shit, but at the same time he was a physics major and knows about that kind of stuff. But he also hates talking with people about the big things of physics because he says people have wild ideas about the possibilities and big questions that physicists like Richard Feynamn raise, but really we have just enough reason to believe any of them as we do any other random thought so it’s really not worth talking about. Which I get on a certain level, the level being that everything is pointless so of course a conversation about something no one knows or can know is even more pointless than everything else, but at the same time I was like mother fucker what do you know about this shit? But still I was depressed that populating the cosmos was the best idea I could come up with for the point of life anyway, plus it couldn’t happen because my friend said so, so I was sad.

But last night when he was saying that we would evolve into better people if we stayed alive long enough, I thought, well shit that makes good sense. Because as I get older, I become better even though I don’t try. So if humans as a whole are like humans as individuals, even though we’re not trying very hard, we could eventually get better.

It’s like I always say, Time is our best friend and our worst enemy. Time heals all wounds. Getting anything done is effort over time. I always say all those things, which is why people don’t usually enjoy having conversations with me.

It’s easy to get depressed if you think of the current human race getting the technology to populate the cosmos because then we’d have whole planets with the words “Made You Look! Your Ad Here” written across them. However, if you think about humans a thousand years older, well they might be less obsessed with profits. It’s at least possible, which is sometimes enough.

After I thought about all that, I thought, well, what should I be doing? The obvious thing for me to do is to teach a kid how not to be a huge dick to the whole world all the time. And then I could teach the kid that it’s important to teach other people the same thing, or we’re all fucked. And then if the kid taught the same thing to the next generation of kids and so on, maybe that would have been something useful to do. But I hate children, so maybe that’s not going to work.

No I don’t really hate children I hate parents. And children are annoying most of the time because their parents are bringing them around when you are not in the mood to deal with some stupid fucking animal with no manners but that the parents want you to treat like a human. And then you can imagine the child growing up to be a huge dick all the time anyway. And their loud and I don’t like noisy things.

But no I’m not really opposed to that plan of action. Teaching kids something useful in the hope that eventually humans as a species will grow up is probably a good idea. What else though? I was just starting to think I should just write a dumb ass book already and try to make some money off of it again. Now I’m back to thinking I should do something that matters, like be a scientist or something. Well it’s hard to know what to do.

What I did think about today though is that it’s no wonder I don’t know what to do, and that most people are unhappy. It has something to do with the fact that our brains have evolved very quickly, our technology has evolved even quicker, and our bodies are still full of animal chemicals like adrenaline and stuff. Should we all evolve into Vulcans with no emotions? Maybe it would be better for everyone. But that’s not what I mean.

What I mean is that maybe I am wrong about the way I am looking at modern life.

I have been thinking of my future as going into the woods and living a self-sustaining life in New England, chopping down trees and doing things that are directly connected to surviving in cold, heartless nature. I’ve been thinking of doing this because the way that I live now is so disconnected from the true functions of a normal earthbound being (finding shelter, finding food) that it’s no wonder I can’t be happy. Maybe the truth is that my body still thinks it should be scrambling around for food and shelter, so it is not happy with me being employed and buying my food from the store and paying rent to secure shelter, but I shouldn’t be listening to my body. Maybe I should be listening to the more evolved part of my self which is my brain, which could work together with other brains to create a better future for my species, which is the highest aim of evolution.

Or is it the highest aim of evolution? Is life about providing the best future for your offspring or just about having offspring that survive? And what defines “best future.” Well, I guess all things being equal it would be fine for humans to revert to chopping their own firewood and building their own houses or whatever, basically being as sustainable as the tribes of the Americas before they were destroyed by European pathogens. That would be a “best future.” Except if you’re thinking really long term. In the real long term, Earth is only a temporary living situation. So the species will need to evolve to move around space if it’s going to survive forever. My good friend says he’s sure that no humans will be around in ten thousand years. That’s not depression, though, that’s stupidity, I think. I think anyone who thinks they know something they can’t know is being stupid. When I think there will be no one around in ten thousand years, I’m thinking that because I think there probably shouldn’t be any of us around in ten thousand years, being stupid and pointless as we are. But when he thinks that, he thinks that because he thinks he knows that. I don’t know if you can see the distinction.

But anyway, I thought while I was feeling weird at the subway station today that I should stop trusting my feelings. The body and the mind are one and the same, but feelings are just chemicals after all. Just because I feel like I am wasting my life by going to work at a restaurant, it doesn’t mean I am. Just because I feel like I should be out chopping wood by myself, doesn’t mean that that does anyone any good at all, either.

Hm, don’t trust your feelings. Don’t feel, just do. Well, I don’t know exactly what to take from these new thoughts especially since I was just about to get back into the Tao Te Ching, but if I do figure something out, you’ll be the first to know.

5 thoughts on “How to Be Optimistic About the Future

  1. i love watching Cosmos. i feel small when Tyson talks about the cosmic calendar. it’s humbling. and i completely agree– i told a kid once: be anything you want, just don’t be an arsehole. it’s been done… i think that’s why i really think russell brand is onto to something. we can’t change anything if we can’t change ourselves first. and this means a spiritual evolution. most think it’s a technical leap we need which is pure bollocks…

  2. Reblogged this on listen to the babe and commented:
    I love– no, that word is too weak– I deeply appreciate a well-written thoughtful blog that talks about things that most people think are boring. Like how to live a better life. Or a dissection of our species. But in a non self-help kind of way. And without using quotes.

  3. As we are evolving, other things and beings are also evolving. Each to its own direction, adjusting and competing with others, or simply destroying each other. So can we be sure that we will be better in the future? What we think now as better in the future may be a lousy state when the time comes.

    The future is now, my friend. Live it, enjoy it, make every second count.

    • Sound advice, my friend.

      For how to be pessimistic about the future, see the rest of the blog.

      I think we can be reasonably sure (barring an incident that wipes out all knowledge of human history) that if humans are around in 40,000 years they will at least be more open-minded and therefore more compassionate and therefore better.

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