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.