A Matter of Perspective

A couple of days ago a friend who was cutting my hair said, “what are we going to do for your birthday?” and I said “well, I don’t know, that’s still a few months away,” and she said, “Tom, it’s May. Your birthday is in June,” and I said 😲.

A year ago, next month, I became Tom 5.0. The big five-oh. Fitty. You know. “Old.”

It’s okay, I put it in quotations for a reason. I’m not an old guy. I don’t feel it (except in the legs but that, as Chris would say, is another story). In fact I feel better, overall, than I ever have before in my life. I am ready for each new day. I am hopeful for the future, not only for myself but for my country and my planet. As I always say, humanity is a constant liberal progression towards something better. Or, as Rutger Bregman said in the first words in the book I just started, “In the past, everything was worse.”

According to the copyright, he wrote those words first in 2014, so he probably hadn’t taken Trump into account yet. 😉

Still, Bregman undoubtedly meant “in the long run,” which is indubitably true. His next line is even better: “For roughly 99% of the world’s history, 99% of humanity was poor, hungry, dirty, afraid, stupid, sick, and ugly.”

As a friend of mine said to me “boy, Modesto sure hasn’t changed much.”

But it’s true. Humanity, as a whole, is a whole lot better than it ever was before, and it’s only getting better still. Sooner than we expect we’ll have universal health care in America and, with a little forethought, some form of wide-ranging basic public income. We’ll have to, honestly, because of robots. The apocalypse is coming, but it’s not what ya thought. Arnie ain’t coming back in time to tell us of the future except, maybe, to say, “Come on over, it’s great over here!”

You just said that in an Austrian accent, didn’t you?

But, just like humanity, I’m still getting better, too. I’m 51 in my mind already. Every year, when the calendar changes, I start calling myself the next year of my life, about six months early. I figure I was born in ’68, this is ’19, and those two milestones are 51 years apart so I’m 51. When June 29th rolls around it’s never a surprise, I’ve been that age all year. So, in reality, the only thing to dread is the fact that I’m only 7 months away from being 52, but 52 is such a really cool number that 52 is nothing at all to dread. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be the mirror image of 25, and 25 was a pretty cool age. Maybe I’ll do all the stuff I did 27 years ago (except shots, no shots) but do it better. Isn’t that what time helps us all do? Everything we could do before, within reason, plus more things, and better.

I guess that’s how I look at it, anyway.

At any rate, this is just stuff that was on my mind today, about a week after I wrote other stuff. And I didn’t mention Marvel until I was almost done writing. He was asleep behind me when I started and he slept through most of the first three paragraphs. At that point, everyone got up and me and Moxie and Ludo and Marvel went outside to pee (well, they did) and I scooped up their poop. It’s not a glorious job, but it’s worth the trade off –> hours of golden happiness and no poop in the house. Win/Win.

I’m gonna go get the boys walking now but I thought I’d pass along the idea that Marvel is finally starting to join me in the office without constantly whining which is a start to my triumphant and more regular return to this. To you.

And also to let you know that the world is getting better, and so am I and so are you.

Those are all pretty cool things to share, I think, when one has nothing much to say. 😊

37 thoughts on “A Matter of Perspective

  1. Sorry, Tom, you know I think we’re damned.

    You’re good, getting better and all, but humanity in a constant liberal progression towards something better….sorry, I don’t buy it. We should be, that’s what the numbers are saying, but in reality, it all sucks. Universal health care? Hm. I don’t see it coming yet…

    Now, get your ass back here. You’ve been away for too long. I need your optimism so I can stop being so dark for a second.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m trying, sister, I’m trying!

      But, yeah, I see that. I understand it. It’s almost impossible to see it when your in it. 500 years ago folks thought, “this is as good as it gets, and it’s going to get worse.” But things got better, for a lot of humanity. 200 years ago folks thought “”this is as good as it gets, and it’s going to get worse.” But things got better again, for a lot of humanity. Humanity, overall, is doing better now than they were 200, 100, 50, or even 20 years ago. The number of people rising out of hunger and poverty and squalor keeps improving, and it does so because of visions of liberalism, the same reason they always have. Conservatives in the moment, in any moment, fight to keep things “as they are now,” or as they imagined they were “then,” but liberal visionaries keep saying, “no, there’s something better.” Decades later, things are better and we hardly notice. Why? Because things are always bad, too.

      We’ll never see perfect, god forbid, but we always see better. We will again.

      And UHC? Wasn’t even on the radar 20 years ago and, now, it’s the #1 topic of conversation in virtually every political debate. It’s coming. And sooner than most think. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure we do. I mean, look how smart you and I are. Maybe not everyone gets it, but a lot more of us do the further down stream we get. Just you wait. 1000 years from now we’ll both look back and laugh at how far we’ve come. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You’re hopelessly optimistic, Tom, and I love you for it.

        I just can’t stop thinking of this girl from Louisiana, I think, who, when asked how many stars there are on the American flag, said, looking up at it – I can’t tell. The wind is moving too fast to count them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. > Humanity, as a whole, is a whole lot better than it ever was before

    If you believe Pinker and others, then I’ll agree that civilization based humanity is getting less abusive, oppressive and evil, or “better”.

    But the jury is out on pre-civilization humanity. I suspect that although, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was one of hard work and struggle, comparatively, due to their life style their quotient of happiness might be substantially higher than the average person’s today or any day in the last 6000 years.

    Survival was its own reward, self-actualized and fulfilling. Today, survival is easy. Yet who among us leads a fulfilling life, self-determined and free of the thousands of constraints this modern society imposes?

    Progress? Bah! Give me the Matrix any day. I’d rather believe I was an intrepid hunter-gatherer living in 20,000 BCE Europe than suffer this pathetic hamster-cage life I live today.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. An astute observation! I read a book some years back on the premise that we need a modern version of ancient tribal life to return ourselves to that state of personal satisfaction. I say we need to look forward, not back. With universal health care, a basic income, a 15-hour or so work week, etc, we can free ourselves from the rigmarole you describe and get back to a basic, inclusive kind of equality. We can focus on bettering our lives instead of just trying to make it through the day. It’s better, for sure, but it’s far from good; at least far from the kind of good that it could be.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I look forward to a time when my wheel squeaks to a halt, I step off and into a life I can self-direct — without the need to slave at a job I despise, but perform nonetheless to support my family.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I doubt the totality of what I express with come in our working lifetimes, Anony (if you’re anywhere near my age) but we can and will lay the foundation for the better world to come.

        I think. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Though it might seem that our outlooks about the state of humanity cancel each other out, they really don’t. Bojana’s view cancels yours out, no question about that. But I’ve passed through the cloud of pessimism to arrive at a place of absolute neutrality. All of this “upsetting” polarization and hatred devouring the world is nothing new and all it really proves is that we are animals and we are driven by the same exact instincts as any other creature. And all of that self-importance keeping us from admitting this biological reality that I used to whine about all the time ultimately served as the thing that now makes me view all of it as one big, pointless joke. As my blog proves, I’m all about the big, pointless joke.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Reminiscent of the Comedian from Watchmen, Paul: “It’s a joke, it’s all a fuckin’ joke, god help us all.” 🙂

      I admire that perspective, that place you’ve found. I am there, some days, but other days the inhumanity gets to me. I can get dark or really light or sit neutral and appreciate the sublimity of it all. It is in those moments of acceptance, that things are the way they are and that’s okay, that I feel most enlightened. When I can accept a conservative for their conservative thoughts, the liberal for their liberal ways, the ignorant for their ignorance, and the sagacious for their wisdom – all at once – I am “there.”

      That’s usually about 4 or 5 beers in, and lasts roughly half an hour. 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I love your perspective Tom! It’s so nice to take in some of this happy golden sunshine! Your optimism is in high demand and I’m so happy your little Marvel is the reason for your blog-cation!
    Rutger Bregman is awesome! I saw a speech of his a few years ago and was immediately struck by his clarity and wisdom! How beautiful, simple and untried his solutions are to poverty! I hope they get implemented worldwide.
    As much as I fully empathise with pessimism, I’d rather support optimism any day even in the face of the greatest odds. Perspective has the power to change the world not just the individual.
    BTW, My book is taking me away from blogging most of this year, this is one of few blogs I make an effort to keep up with (kudos to you Tom!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am honored beyond measure for that last sentiment! Thank you, MP!!

      Like you, I “prefer” optimism to pessimism, but understand the totality and reality of both. It’s hard to stay positive with all the negative in the world. As I said above, it’s especially hard to fathom the uplifting progress of humanity while living through being human. There is so much misery and poverty, so much to be shameful about, and so many aches and pains in our own bodies (especially at 5.0!). But the deeper reality is that we are improving, and the arc of history shows us moving quite liberally in the correct direction. We could sure use a jump-start to the next level of humanity, though, such as the type that Bregman proffers.

      But the flip side of progress is always there, as well. Just as we can take that evolutionary leap towards greater equality and egalitarianism so too can we stride down the road towards totalitarianism and ignorance. And we also possess the power now to destroy ourselves completely. When I talk about the arc of history and the improvement of humanity I in no way mean “don’t worry, be happy, it will all take care of itself.” I mean we must fight harder than ever for the progress we demand and deserve, and we must ever be wary of the destructive power of corrupt, authoritarian leaders like Kim in Korea, Vlad in Russia, and Donald in America. These types of folks are a setback to progress, and they must be resisted with all we’ve got.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I would have agreed with you up until a while ago, because it seems that everything is backsliding into the Dark Ages, and very advance we’ve made has been tossed out the window. I’m not a pessimist by nature, and I know for every stupid person there’s a visionary somewhere out there. But why do all the stupid people congregate in the same places and make it seem like they outnumber us?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right now ignorance rings louder than truth and progress, but that’s just right now. This is a scary time for everyone (the shrinking globe, automation, etc) but the unenlightened have a harder time processing these changes (they always do). They could not see the value to society or humanity of a world without slaves when slavery was legal, of an eight-hour work day when sixteen was the norm, of child labor laws when children were exploited in factories, or of suffrage when women could not vote. Yet those changes came. And during the fight for each there were great moments of progress and heartbreaking trends of backsliding, but humanity still progressed. It will again. Keep fighting, keep calling out the bullshit, and keep that head up high!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Up above Anony Mole brought up an interesting point about pre-civilization humanity which reminded me of the “paradox of choice”–the fact that more choices often make us less happy because even once we’ve made a choice we’re left wondering what we’re missing out on. Or maybe it describes me in the grocery store looking for a simple can of grawlixes tomato sauce–not low-sodium, high-sodium, with Italian herbs, fat free, gluten free, with added sugar, or crushed artisanal tomatoes that happy hippies in a coop danced on in their bare feet.
    Even as our choices proliferate the available options seem to get worse.
    Still, like you, I’m going to keep an optimistic outlook. Even if this is the Matrix I hope we’re really not in the worst of all possible simulations.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interestingly, the book I’m reading is spelling out the history of the ideas, and even historical legislation proposals, of stuff like “15-hour work weeks” and “universal basic income.” Studies show that the more free time folks have the more likely they are to make “good” decisions. Part of our supposed “paradox of choice” is caused by our limited time consumed by our want of money.

      In other words, if you weren’t rushing through the grocery store because you had to work overtime and you need to get dinner ready before your favorite show starts at 8 and know you need to get in the shower no later than 9 and get to sleep so you’re not late for the early morning meeting before your next 9-hour work shift (if you’re lucky) then you might enjoy the moments you spend looking for the healthiest, most environmentally-friendly tomato sauce you can find.

      I don’t know how true that all is, but I’d love to spend an extra 30 hours each week trying to find out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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