As much as I want to think getting older hasn't stolen some of my enthusiasm for life, I believe that it is only inevitable that we become cynical over time. We have certain expectations of the way the world should be, and over time we test those theories against reality. If we're any good at reality testing, then some of those notions will prove to be false. This is ultimately how we learn anything. There is the world as it should be and then there's the world as it is. No one who lives in this world long enough can help but have their ideas of the world changed by what stands in front of them. That can only be good if it means we live in a more realistic model of the world as we get older, but it doesn't make it any less painful to go through that process.
I've been thinking about cynicism because of a few discussions I've had about faith recently. It came up again when reading Vaughne's article on faith. We've talked about God and faith a little bit, but he (like most people of faith) was unmoved by my logical arguments. There comes a point at which I'm no longer interested in convincing anyone of my position on faith and reason, and I've been clarifying my own position so I can state it clearly if asked. After reading his article I don't think he and I even have the same definition of faith. My definition of faith is knowing or professing something to be true without sufficient evidence or by appealing to emotions and/or authority. His definition of faith seems closer to that of hope or determination in the face of uncertainty. To him faith and hope are the same, while to me they couldn't be farther apart from one another.
Whenever we have this debate he realizes there's no evidence to support his claims, but he still uses anecdotes and pseudo-science as evidence. He'll then turn to his personal experience to claim that his faith is true "for him" which makes no sense because his faith makes claims about the way the world works. Presumably, we both live in the same world his faith professes to know a few things about. I don't claim to know any absolute truths, or even if there is such a thing, but I do believe that some things are more likely to be true than others. My only criteria for determining that is the amount and quality of the evidence to support a position or observation. I'd rather not believe in things that are unsubstantiated. Not everyone thinks that way, but I do. It's funny that most people of faith have pity on me. I may be called jaded or cynical. I used to fight those terms, but now I embrace them.
I have been thinking about this concept of realism since my mother got into a car accident a few weeks ago. The idea of realism and delusion was brought into stark focus when another car rammed into ours. I immediately had to get myself out of a surreal state of disbelief and remind myself that this is real; a car just rammed us out of no where. Mind you, we were just sitting still at a stoplight, listening to music, and waiting for the light to change. The way that car hit us was something out of a nightmare. I'd experienced many scenes in stories where a person is just driving along and a car smashes into them. In the immediate aftermath of the collision, I had to shake off the notion that it was just a bad dream. I had to quickly to determine if my mother was hurt, if I was hurt, and try to think of what to do next. After I snapped out of it, I saw my mom was still in shock. That shock I'd experienced was in some ways a naive delusion. It was a coping mechanism that helped us get through the immediate situation, but once it had served its purpose it was time to get back to reality.
I imagined there was a time in his life when he became a medic in order to help people. Maybe not, but I'd like to imagine that at one point this man was naive about the world. But now he's just going through the motions. It was very disappointing for sure, but does that mean he couldn't still do his job and be an asshole? All those bad experiences that turned this guy into an asshole might have also given him valuable experience that he was now using to make sure my mom was well taken care of in her time of need. All of this is of course speculation on my part. He could have been an asshole from day one, not to mention my assessment of his skills could have been highly skewed because of the emotional nature of the situation and my lack of knowledge of emergency medicine. After I had some time to think about it I'm not so sure that his disposition isn't one I should have expected. The sorts of things he sees on a daily basis would probably do a number on me, but that's one of many reasons I didn't get into his profession. I certainly wished he had a cheerier disposition, but he was still good at his job and that is all we really needed from him at the moment.
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