End Game

There is nothing more sobering than a great deal of time spent in a hospital with the critically ill. Nothing more rewarding either. Too often I have despaired of human nature and railed at the awful political and economic system we are cursed with. Too frequently have I failed to see any innate goodness in the human race and have concentrated on our unthinking and brutal fight for survival.

A bit of time spent in a hospital redresses the balance. There is beauty there, and great kindness. 

It is vital to avoid cloying cliche, but as one prone to arrogance (at least of the intellectual variety) to spend many hours in the presence of people who really seem to care is a valuable lesson.

There is good in the world, it is not just populated by the corrupt and the greedy, the vicious and the venal.

I have spent a lot of time recently reading the philosophy of David Pearce and in those grim surroundings last night I can well see how salvation could work. David talks everywhere, convincingly and at length, about the urgent need to use our growing technological skills to ensure that all sentient life can enjoy “gradients of bliss”. That as a race we can leave behind brutish Darwinian struggle and re-engineer our very genome to make us kind, generous and altruistic.

Aldous Huxley paints a dire and unjustifiably pessimistic portrait of just such a society in Brave New World but I am convinced that it need not be like that.

Some people, I think, must just be born good. Perhaps all the way through. Some may be born all bad but most of us, I suspect, are a muddled mixture of good intentions which occasionally turns sour when our less attractive side gains the upper hand.

I have no doubt those good folk at the hospital last night are not always sweetness and light and yet at least they are showing us what is truly important in society. Healing, care, love. And what is not at all vital: greed and the amassing of great wealth, violence and jealousy and eny.

I have talked elsewhere at length, until I have bored my self and no doubt my audience, about the importance of having a worldview. I have expressed my desire to find, in spite of grave doubt, that philosophical idealism is in some sense “true”. That there is meaning out there in the cold expanses of the universe, that perhaps we are basically good and decent and eternal.

But equally I have expressed the view that we may become so. I have made clear, I hope, that my thoughts turn if not to a god, then to an ascent to the status of godhood. “Magic” though that may seem at our current stage of development, I strongly believe that intelligence may (indeed will) rise to these giddy heights in the millennia to come. If god does not exist, then make your own by becoming one. If meaning does not exist in the infinite bleakness, then create it.

That is the sort of bleakness I can live with. Because we can put it all right.

So my thanks go out to those good people last night, on any number of grounds. They are pursuing the common good, they are healing. They have given me hope and optimism that even if we are far removed from perfection, I can at least see what such perfection might entail in the future.

And best of all, they seem to have given a new lease of life to a splendid old fellow who happily seems unready to depart yet awhile.

6 Comments

  1. Very happy to learn that your friend has been able to recover sufficiently to continue in this life for a while longer, and every one of us can take away an appreciation of the fragility and uncertainty in circumstances like those you describe. I spent almost two years caring for and witnessing the decline of my own brother’s health a few years ago when a tumor was discovered in his brain; they called it a “glioblastoma,” and the doctors were able to perform surgery and treat him with chemo and radiation, which extended my brother’s life for that amount of time. The technologies and expertise of the medical professionals which accomplished this extension of his life seemed wondrous beyond belief.

    Along with the astonishing healthcare successes that extended his life beyond any previous hope or possibility, I was deeply grateful for the humane and empathetic care my brother received along the way, and while it was enormously difficult to endure the circumstances toward the end, as you indicated in your story, kindness and goodness were also abundant in a way that affirmed its existence generally in the world.

    It’s very easy to look out into the world-at-large and miss these qualities, since most often the tragic or the lack of empathy tend to catch more of the attention in our modern world, but when we look over the events of our lives and consider them broadly, we find evidence of the sort you report here, and it is reassuring to know that even someone who has held an opposing view in the past, can reconsider and acknowledge the existence of such goodness.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So true. I myself fall prey and too often in humankind’s outward appearance of greed, selfishness and unethical behavior. To the point where, when I do meet or see kind behavior, I am in awe. This should not be so. There are many good and kind people here on earth and health care workers are among the most caring. I myself have experienced this many times as you have.

    Funny though, at times they seem to be almost of a different species, yet obviously this is not so. So the question is why am I so consistently down on humankind and need reminders to stop and look at humanities good side? Is it Me? Am I the result of constant negative input seen nightly on the news and elsewhere? I hope that’s all it is?

    Thank you for reminding me that good caring people do still exist. I think I needed that!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “If god does not exist, then make your own by becoming one.” God exists, it is you 😊 No need to become anything, just need to act like one. Love everyone, including yourself. Whenever you have a choice, choose light. See meaning in everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such wise words and thank you. You sitting in what I so rudely called the “grim” Medway towns and me sitting a stone’s throw from equally umglamorous Thanet. We seek the same thing but I think you probably see the way rather better than I do sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not in Medway anymore! Moved to Ipswich, so now a Suffolk girl 😊 Grim weather here also though. Different people, different paths, most importantly we are all making progress. Keep on keeping on! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I worked in and around acute hospitals in the USA for 40 years, but not as as a clinician. I have the greatest respect for the clinical professions represented in a hospital. Any given clinician is not an angel, to be sure. But when a team effort is required to address an acute issue, all hands work together to address it, with established roles recognized and functioning. There is a spirit that resides in a hospital. I have written about it, here: https://pavellas.com/2018/10/05/the-soul-of-a-hospital/

    Liked by 1 person

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