The American Caliban (substitute) wrote,
The American Caliban

How, then, shall we live?

Lately I am often proved wrong.

Intellectually I like being proved wrong, because I like learning. Although it's more important than it should be for me to be right, when I manage to tamp down the ego and accept a different viewpoint it's a very good thing.

And when one of my depressive or pessimistic beliefs is sunk it's cheering. Not frequent, but I hang on to those.

The last year or so has been full of "evidence to the contrary" and most of it has been unpleasant. Whether it's been an educational or destructive experience remains to be seen.

I've always thought I could trust people implicitly if we got along, and someone showed me that wasn't true. I'd been screwed before, but not by someone I respected like that, and it's still shocking when I think of it. The aftermath was in some ways worse, because the ambiguous reactions of other friends made me question the quality of my friendships and the validity of all those feel-good assumptions I had. The statement "I can trust my friends without worry, and they will stand up for me when I have clearly been wronged" was invalid. Still not over it.

Similarly, I'd also had the habit of believing what others said if there wasn't evidence to the contrary, and assuming they were mistaken rather than dishonest if such evidence existed. That one was blown up and sunk also. It's been hard to me to see that there's a continuum from the pathological liar who is ill to the sociopathic liar who uses truth and untruth as weapons, and that a lot of people are in between those two bad extremes. It's been another huge trust failure. The people who lie because they want something to be true, or because they know what they are expected to say, or because they think someone else will feel better, arrived in force this time.

The hardest grade I got, though, was on my world view. Events, people, and various therapies have conspired to show me that I've had it wrong the whole time. Something about my whole relation to the world — particularly socially — is just cracked. Social relations are clearly more brutal than I had seen before, and the gulf between what others say are their values and how they live is far bigger than I'd been able to grasp. I'd always seen relations among friends and families as community. This was the year I saw them as an economy, where people exchange tokens for desired things, and where the money is only visible when you're poor. As much as I might have faux-cynically said "People do what they want!" a million times before, now I lived it.

So I managed to remain socially innocent until I was 40, and by 41 I'd learned for real the things others seemed to learn in their teens. It doesn't feel like a good kind of "proved wrong", though.

I never wanted to believe people who said cynical crap. You know, people would say to me that you get what you take in life, or that you need to be pushy and dishonest and maybe a little threatening to get the girl, or that trust is a mistake, and I'd write them off. "I don't know anyone who behaves that way and gets anywhere," I said, "and the people I like and spend time with don't." Wrong, and wrong.

Before, I saw basically good people trying and often failing to do the right thing. Now, I see the apes stealing each others' fruit, abandoning the injured one to the tigers, and raping each other. And they're doing way better than I am; I've been proved wrong.

Damn it's cold out here.
Tags: culture, experience, innocence, monkeyjizm, optimism, pessimism, society
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