Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Are Human Beings Stupid? II

The mockery of, and disgust toward, mankind is so tempting that it can become a chiche'  The pride of the humanist, culminating in the rosy optimism of the 19th century, now seems like childish nonsense.  It seems to be the case, especially for those of us prone to cynicism, that we must force ourselves to see what is noble and praiseworthy in man.  Remember the beauty of our art-the achievements in music, literature, and the visual arts, and the developments in science and technology are staggering.  Considering our short-sightedness and the way emotions/instincts/drives can cloud our reasoning, we have done fairly well for our species.  Progress through cooperation and determination to be civilized often falls short of a utopia; however, it is the remarkable evidence of what sets us at the top of nature's order. 

Perhaps we do expect too much of humanity; finite creatures bound by subjectivity still screw with progress. The answer to whether human beings are stupid ultimately lies somewhere int a vast lush land between the "yes" and the "no."  The favored response to our bent toward folly; therefore, is to advance with humility-and a healthy ability to laugh at ourselves.

Are Human Beings Stupid? I

The simple, easy, and cynical answer to the question is, "Yes, of course.  People are ridiculous, pitiful,and silly." Perhaps a better response though is the fuzzy, non-committal "yes and no."  Let's consider another, similar question: Are dogs stupid?  Well, of course dogs are stupid. But dogs are just dogs; why would we expect more of them? Maybe the problem in considering man is our expectations. There are two angles from which to consider whether homo sapiens are stupid creatures; our expectations color our understanding.

A positive perspective of man would defend the mental powers of homo sapiens.  We can see how far above the animal kingdom man is--reasoning, self-awareness, power of speech.  Our brains are such complex machines: the pinnacle of nature's wonders!  We form technologies, we create through the arts, develop societies, and civilize our world; no other animal than the human animal sets about the environment in such a way.

Now the folly of man is a much more interesting perspective to take.  The tomes of anthropology cannot account for man's misadventures.  Wars, economic disasters, fallen civilizations, et al. scream out the inherent buffoonery of the homo sapien. Pull back to observe the quotidian, then marvel at the absurdity of it.  Life is full of mis-steps and poor decision to bring despair to the most ardent of humanists. In many ways, we are not that much further up the natural order from the animals.  Our primal urges to feed, mate, and survive have little to do with reason and more to do with survival.

Objectivity eludes us, we are trapped inside our subjectivity, limited to our own perspective, and never fully understand other viewpoints--we are masters at deceiving ourselves!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Life begins on the other side of despair.--Jean-Paul Sartre


Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.--Author Unknown


"Better to leave your mouth shut, and have people assume you're a fool, then to open it and leave them no doubt." --Mark Twain


Silence is Golden--Author Unknown 
"The first thing I ask myself with every piece: Is it preferable to silence?"--Nico Muhly

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Language can only deal meaningfully with a special, restricted segment of reality.  The rest, and it is presumably the much larger part, is silence.--Author Unknown