There is a truth to the idea that the great stories are the ones that make you look at things a different way. If a book or a movie causes you to think about life, about the world, about people in a way you hadn’t previously, then it has done some good. But it is still someone else’s story.
Ultimately, you must write your own story. No one else will – or can – write it for you. You are the author of your own life, you are your own main character.
Thought, then, is what makes people worth it. It’s what separates us from everything else we’ve so far encountered. Thought. It’s so obvious, it’s something that everyone has heard. In fact, it’s a question that, I think, most people would answer the same way: what makes us different from animals? Thought.
Why is it, then, that people seem so determined to not think? What is the comfort in having your thinking done for you? Thought is the only thing that makes us different, it’s what brought the world to where it is now; why do we seem so determined to escape it?
Why must religion become a means to avoid thinking? Religion is despised by the intelligentsia because they recognize that it is the ultimate heuristic, the perfect method by which to avoid thinking for one’s self. But they’re wrong. There’s nothing wrong with religion, with a system of beliefs, even a system that centers on a being who is, by definition, not susceptible to proof or disproof. Everyone needs a system of belief, if for no other reason that no one person can know all there is to know about the world. Some things must be taken on faith, even if it’s simply faith that someone, somewhere, has demonstrated a truth, or the faith that one could, if one wished, demonstrate a truth for one’s self.
But this becomes bound up with the willingness of virtually everyone to simply give up thought in favor of indoctrination. Religion becomes a crutch. By purporting to have the answers to questions that are unknowable, religion is a powerful tool for suppressing thought. But only if a person lets it. As with so many other things, it isn’t the religion that’s the problem, it’s the people who allow religion to replace thought that are the problem.
That isn’t true, either. It isn’t the people that are the problem, it’s the choice they make to allow religion that role in their lives.
This is ignoring, of course, true malice – because religion can be used like that, there are always those who will wield religion to that very end. Why are some of the most driven people the people that the rest of the world would most like to be lazy? That’s disingenuous. Absent evidence to the contrary, it’s likely that there are no more driven people among the malicious than among any other type of person, they just tend to stick out more. Nonetheless, the person wielding religion as a cudgel to preclude thought would accomplish nothing if there weren’t so many people willing to be so cudgeled.
It’s tempting to say the people don’t want to think because thinking is hard, and people are, by and large, lazy. Virtually everyone will follow the path of least resistance, differing primarily in how much time they take into account when determining that path. This is the difference between the ants and the grasshopper. The grasshopper doesn’t work to store food for winter because it’s more fun to fiddle than to farm. The ants work to store food for winter because it’s more fun to strive than to starve. Both are following the path of least resistance, they simply differ in how far down the path they look for that resistance.
It’s tempting, but it’s also falling prey to the very same problem: saying that people don’t think because they’re lazy is simply lazy thinking. The question is why does laziness express itself as an aversion to active thought?
Or is it even laziness? Is there an innate discomfort to the results of thinking too much? I knew a girl in college who was taken aback when I made an offhand reference to nuclear war and the end of the world as we know it. If I recall correctly, I was pondering what it must have been like to be a person who was around before Hiroshima. To go to bed one night understanding that things would be pretty much the same tomorrow as they were today, and to wake up the next morning realizing that the potential existed for the civilized world to literally end.
To my amazement, she had no idea what I was talking about. It’s not that she had never heard of The Bomb, or the Cold War, or even the vast stockpiles of missiles on both sides. It’s that she had just never thought about the implications. Never thought about it enough to realize that we were always about thirty minutes away from billions of people dead and civilization utterly annihilated.
Implicit in my telling of the anecdote is the conviction that it’s somehow better to be aware of it than not. But when you come right down to it, the only real difference it makes is in how well one sleeps at night. My knowing the total nuclear destructive capacity of the world was roughly 12,000 megatons, mostly sitting on top of rockets capable of hitting the other side of the globe 20 minutes after someone decided to launch them didn’t make a difference to the situation, did it?
And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe there are too many things to think about, and too many of them are immune to the thinking. Maybe it’s not laziness, it’s habit. It’s fine to talk about the nobility of the considered life, but if all your considerations just end up at the dead end of “what have I accomplished,” perhaps it just becomes habit to not bother.
Are laziness and habit the same thing? I don’t believe so. After all, I habitually shower, shave, and brush my teeth in the morning – I don’t think any of those is a particular sign of laziness. Or, for that matter, a particular sign of non-laziness. In that case, at least, habit is orthogonal to indolence.
Or am I operating under a faulty definition of habit? Is something habitual simply because you do it regularly, or habitual only if you do it for no other reason than that you normally do it? In the former case, habit and laziness are, indeed, orthogonal. In the latter, habit is dangerously close to laziness – at least, it’s close to the kind of laziness that results in not thinking.
But maybe there’s no dichotomy, here. The emperor has no clothes, there’s no there there, so on and so forth. Perhaps laziness and not thinking aren’t cause and effect, they’re the same thing. Mindless habit is laziness – at least of the intellectual sort – and intellectual laziness is mindless habit.
Which leaves me precisely nowhere. Sound, fury, and their usual relationship to significance.
Regardless, it’s a depressing sort of train of thought. After all, if people aren’t willing to think in the first place, it’s difficult to convince them to think – they won’t be thinking about what you’re trying to tell them!
And, of course, all of this assumes that I’ve got some special perspective on the matter. That I’m, somehow, among the intellectual elite because I think, as oppose to the stupid proles who don’t. Which is the worst sort of trap to fall into. It’s beyond intellectual laziness, it’s intellectual laziness so profound and fundamental that it prevents you from ever recognizing that it’s just another form of the same problem. After all, if you know that you’re a thinker, then no one’s going to be able to convince you to become a thinker, are they?
I hate being the dildo.