Chapter 77: Pragmatism and the End of the World

By most accounts, I’m a fairly pragmatic person.

When I broke my wrist in high school, I asked them not to use scissors to cut off the shirt I was wearing at the time. It was one of my favorites and instead I convinced them to just pull my arm through the sleeve slowly. This wasn’t interesting to me at the time, but to them it was indicative of possible brain damage. An inconclusive cat scan and a cast later, I requested jam on my toast.

That said, even with my pragmatic outlook on life, sometimes I get angry and depressed. Let’s work small to big.

The Patent Office has work flow problems which they cleverly counter by creating retention problems. Companies complain about pendency, the government complains about irregularity (take the RIM case), the union complains about the Office ignoring them and the employees complain about being treated like factory workers. In the end, the only benefit of the whole mess is that we’re driving more innovation to China and India.

Whether or not you like him is immaterial; it doesn’t matter. The President and his administration lie to us each day and every day and we barely do anything about it. The Democrats are too worried they will alienate red state voters by saying anything at all, the Republicans have been hijacked by the religious right (they’ve only recently begun to care) and the Libertarians are all buying plane tickets to Mexico. The War on Terror (take a hint from the War on Drugs, these things aren’t actually ever won) has been co-opted into an excuse for people to do things they really wanted to do before but weren’t allowed.

Iran is enriching uranium. Does this changes things that much? Most former Soviet republics had thousands of bombs for years, just lying around. Did we get them all? There’s no way to know, but we do know the technology isn’t going away. The reset button is out of the box. We have the capability to end cultures. Not just lives, but cultures.

Life has existed on this earth for billions of years, and in ways that are of interest to most of us for hundreds of millions of years. To examine the tree of life is to examine thousands more extinctions than success stories. A species basically walks a drunken walk down a pier. It might make it a long way, but sooner or later, statistically, it’s going in the water.

What if we beat the odds? What if we don’t kill each other, something doesn’t accidentally kill us and we manage to persevere towards eternity? Maybe not the us that we see now, but so that our branch doesn’t end. Depending on which flavor of modern physics you subscribe to we’ll be greeted by a big crunch, a big bang or maybe even the complete heat death of the universe.

When you get down to it, it’s remarkably hard to be content to sit at a desk staring at a computer screen framed by a white wall. If we’re all just going to die anyway, if I’m just an automaton rambling about without any ability to change the “system”, then what’s the point?

I feel kind of dumb for saying this, but sometimes things bear repeated. Even with all the above doom and gloom, I’ve managed to discover something that easily shocks me back to reality. Requiring no effort on my part, I’ve found a single thing that suddenly brings back meaning to my life.

A smile from a girl.

Pathetic? Maybe. Monumental? Yes. The fields of cosmology and politics don’t seem as important compared to a passing look from a girl on the street.

3 Replies to “Chapter 77: Pragmatism and the End of the World”

  1. I agree completely. In the absence of the supernatural, love is purely biological and social. Anything that causes you to act irrationally or without logic has negative consequences not only for the individual but for the species as well.

    My intended point, which of course I never make, is that regardless of what I manage to convince myself about reality using logic and reason, it all falls down when biology takes over. The feelings associated with positive attention from the fairer sex are intended to give our life purpose, and they’re designed to snap us out of any greater purpose we might think we have.

    Existentialism is great, if you can keep it up. Fundamentally we’re all monkeys, so most of us can’t. I think Marky Mark said it best:

    “I’m just gonna accept my loneliness. And I’m gonna go to an even darker place of nothingness. From an even farther, more extreme nothingness on my own! Who needs you guys!”

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