Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The backdoor to cynicism

Good evidence shows that humans have a natural tendency toward optimism but the modern age salutes accuracy of information, a complete listing of facts in support of and facts against a certain course of action, as the best way to see dangers coming and head them off.  These two directions can clash and yet we can have a need for them both.  Accuracy is, however, only possible up to a point.  Besides, if we attain a high degree of accuracy, we will forget the details anyhow.  We find in this age of greater detail, that we still tend to collapse information into some sort of summative judgment of "superior" or "ok" or "not good".

Seeing the world as it is, clearly and without disguise, can encourage me to growl at well-meaning people who clearly care about me.  "Why don't you find something useful to say?"  "Try to come up with something original."  "Better yet, tell me something I haven't already heard that will restore health and vitality."  All the while, I am improving my grouching and grumping skills under the guise of seeing clearly, directly, without tricks of lighting.

It is possible to sidestep attempts at truth and just focus on emotional uplift and satisfaction.  I first saw this with my grandmother, (the only other person beside me now, I ever knew to be prescribed nitroglycerin pills, in case of a cardiac emergency.) My grandparents got strongly into being professional wrestling fans when I was about ten years old.  I didn't know much about any martial art but as I watched my grandfather remain silent through the matches while my grandmother gasped at the dastardly acts of the villain and heroics achievements of the hero, I could sense very clearly that there were more relaxed approaches to the events and less relaxed approaches.  The fervor and clearly encapsulating aspects of the drama shown by the vigorous booing and cheering of large segments of the audience obviously did not have the searing, impassioned, hypnotic drugging effect it had on some of them.


Later, I had a chance to experience sustained wrestling with dedicated, determined opponents, chosen for the similarity to me.  I saw that no human being can wrestle, as we say, "all out" for 60 minutes.  In college, I saw a seemingly tough young ex-Marine try his hand in his first training match as a college wrestler.  His unbelieving grasp as he staggered to a corner of the training room, "Mother of God!" was probably his first experience reaching the utter end of his strength.  There were many times when my own hands and arms were so tired that I could not work my hands at all for 15 minutes after the 15 minute match.

I am too small to have ever experienced the full strength and power of men of the size of professional wrestlers my grandparents and I watched on their little black-and-white set.  I know that in high school and college, many of the heavyweights weighed twice what I did.  I have had chances to learn of the size, agility, reflex speed and general athletic acuity of really top-knotch athletes.  I can see that my grandmother had been swept into the drama of the white hat standing up to and winning out over a very black-hearted bad guy, enacted by men with all the experience and ability of extreme athletes who later underwent special training to appear to deliver blows to each other which, if real, would quickly be fatal.

It has been helpful to see that any aspect of life can be dramatized to increase its attraction to large numbers of those willing to pay for a good seat at a good story that shows that, yes!, virtue can triumph although it will just be by a hair.  Any and every sport, political discussion, delivering a version of what happened in the world today, nearly any activity can be re-purposed to be exciting, enthralling, maybe addicting.

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