Lately, I’ve been going back and forth with a guy named John Zande (here), a silly man who has a silly theory about how It All Came About. Briefly: in Zande’s (I suspect less than truly sincere) opinion, the universe was created to provide suffering that the “creator” uses as sustenance. The whole universe. All the rocks, and stars and molecules and plants and you-name-it, suffer in order to provide sustenance to this malevolent “creator.”
According to Zande’s silly view, everything, but everything, serves the greater misery of everything else, and of itself. Even happiness and hope. You see, when those things are either withdrawn, or fail to come to fruition, the subsequent despair is all the greater by comparison. Got it?
I posited, and I think, demonstrated, that the opposite is a much likelier explanation. We get used to success, because literally more than 99% of what we do results in success. We’re so inundated in success that when we fail, we’re almost surprised at it. Every little act we do generally succeeds. We breathe and feel better; we change the channel and feel better; we change positions and feel better; we indulge in a hobby and feel better; we eat and feel better; we see our friends and feel better… and on and on and on, to much bigger things.
Most of us generally find work, have generally successful days at work, feed our families, and succeed at doing the things that we define as happiness-bringing.
Yes, there are setbacks, and there are tough times, but generally we do well here in America.
Around the world? Different story. Lots of suffering. Looked at in a vacuum, this could serve to bring about despair. Then we have the good fortune to look at that just a bit, and we find things like this.
Interestingly, here’s a tidbit:
Well done, human race. Well done. At the end of September, the Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication convened in Bali and, after reviewing the reports of its member nations, declared poliovirus type 2 eradicated in the wild. This was really only a bureaucratic stamp on a fact: The last case of type 2 polio was identified in Aligarh, India, in 1999. Thanks in no small part to the initiative of the world’s Rotarians — one of those “little platoons” of which Edmund Burke was so fond — polio has been eradicated everywhere on Earth except for two places where those who would eradicate it are forbidden to operate: Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s the Taliban’s gift to the Islamic world: paralytic polio.
The essay is by the great Kevin Williamson of National Review. Because it’s by the great Kevin Williamson, it’s worth the read in its entirety.
I used the eradication of polio as a fact in defense of my point with Zande. He, of course, replied that the eradication of polio meant that those who would have died from polio, but didn’t, lived longer in order to suffer even more, thereby sustaining his imaginary “creator” even more.
Yep. That was his “logic.”
Oh, here’s another little tidbit from Williamson:
Despite some recent setbacks, including funding troubles after the financial crisis and the emergence of anti-vaccine nuttery in the United States and elsewhere, measles and rubella are next on the hit list. Those diseases will almost certainly be a thing of the past a decade or two hence. [My note: And smallpox has been all but entirely eradicated around the globe. Can there be any doubt that we will conquer cancer, and a vast array of other diseases in fairly sort order?]
Mind you, the amazingly silly Zande will interpret this to mean that the disappearance of measles and rubella will simply contribute to the greater misery of humanity — by again lengthening lives and reducing premature deaths, and therefore leading to ever more millions of people suffering ever more — and further sustaining his wacky “creator.”
Williamson adds a bunch of highly readable additional analysis, and concludes with this:
There is much left to do: We have unsustainable fiscal situations in the Western welfare states, irreconcilable Islamist fanatics originating in points east but spread around the world, environmental challenges, and that tenth of the human race that still needs lifting out of hardcore poverty. But we have achieved a remarkable thing in that unless we mess things up really badly, in 50 years we’ll be having to explain to our grandchildren what a famine was, how it came to be that millions of people died every year for want of clean water — and they will look at us incredulously, wondering what it must have been like to live in the caveman times of the early 21st century.
Take that, preachers of doom and gloom!