We are all going to die, but so what, we are alive now. The Universe will come to an end, and long before that the Earth will be consumed by the Sun and all life fried, but so what, we are alive now. Given those obvious limitations on the permanence of our efforts some people sink into despair, but I don’t. Those very limitations make the fact that I and those I presently interact with are alive now all the more meaningful. We are miracles of the Universe just as we are at this place and time, and that should fill us with awe and satisfaction.
Just now I look at my open hand, and when I mentally choose to close it, it closes. When I think when that distant TV screen changes to another scene I will open my hand, and I just did that, it demonstrates that I can have choice, and I can relinquish my choice. Both of those things are within my mental choice and control. I think I think, therefore I think I am. I demonstrate to myself that I have self-control, and therefore I not only think, I have self-control, and having demonstrated those abilities to my own personal satisfaction I don’t need to listen to endless quibbles about my having free will or not. I have free will to my own satisfaction, and as soon as I have finished typing this sentence I am going to have a sip of tea. … There, I sipped some tea.
Just before I started this post I had read in Leslie Stephen’s An Agnostic’s Apology, “Optimism would be soothing if it were possible; in fact, it is impossible, and therefore a constant mockery; and of all dogmas that ever were invented, that which has least vitality is the dogma that whatever is, is right.” I would assume Stephen, being a Brit, would drink tea when he had the chance, and it would seem he would feel optimistic that bringing a cup of tea to his lips and sipping it would give him that warm sip of tea satisfaction. That may seem trivial, but isn’t all life just filled with trivial thoughts, aspirations and actions, like those, and isn’t it also obvious that these little things are what make our lives meaningful, especially when they involve other people? Something comes to our attention that we want, some problem, sometimes a great problem, but usually a tiny problem, and then we set about solving that problem with mental or physical actions, and that gives us satisfaction. I would ask Stephen, where is the impossibility in that, and where is the constant mockery?
We can choose to be happy with what life has to offer us, or we can choose to be miserable, the choice is ours. There are things in this Universe over which we have absolutely no influence, and we can choose to be miserable over that fact, or we can choose to admit it, and then go about participating in those things that are available to us and interact with them. I can’t pick up a bit of rock on Mars, although I have had conversations with people who did, but that doesn’t bother me. I just had another sip of tea, and that pleased me. I have influence over those tiny bits of the Universe that are available to me, and those are the ones, the only ones, I can appreciate and enjoy.
I can have considerable optimism over the things that are within my ability to interact with as they do my bidding, and I can have optimism over those distant things over which I have no influence. The fact that I have no influence over them means they will do what they are going to do, and I have no responsibility for their behavior and I can take pleasure in the fact that the Universe is what it is and does what it does, and it has provided me with things to play with. I don’t propose that as a dogma that I will enforce. I accept the fact that whatever is beyond my influence I will not influence and whatever those things are they will do what they do; it is right for them. The Universe accepts it as part of its grandeur. I am content with that.