Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Tragedy of Hope

We're all so desperate for meaning.  But what is it?  What is meaning?

It is something beyond ourselves, outside our individuality, other than our personhood.  It is what Ernest Becker calls our immortality project.  We have a sense that, if we can find some "meaning" for our lives, that "meaning" will continue on after our bodies cease.  The "soul" is that meaning.  So is religion, culture, science, economics, all the projects we contribute to, by "advancing" them, or preserving them, or practicing them, reviving them, spreading them, improving them, revering them, honoring them.

That is why many people cannot contemplate the reality of climate change.  Climate change stands a good chance of killing off all the humans on the planet.  There is good evidence to suggest that a climate where the global average temperature is 4 degrees centigrade above the current will be inimical to human life.  What is a person to think if all the effort they have put in to their immortality project will be for nothing?  What is a person to hope for if they admit that there will be no humans around to appreciate the religion, culture, science, family...whatever...they spent all their life's energy on?

Even most of the scientists that study climate change cannot contemplate the possibility.  They hope that, somehow, their efforts - their studies, projections, statistical analyses, models - will make enough of a difference that it won't get to that point, or that the point will be somewhere further off, or that everyone will get together and do what is necessary to make it not so.

But "everyone" is so afraid to contemplate the future suggested by all those studies, projections, et cetera, that they will not ever be able to "get together" and do anything about it.

The tragedy of hope:  "The scientists say that if you step out in front of a speeding train you will be killed.  I hope they're wrong."