Previous: Is it Good or Bad that we Haven't Met Aliens?
Next: This is a Video!!



View count:3,580
Last sync:2023-03-14 16:45
In which John makes a somewhat intense video because he's in some discomfort. Topics discussed include how change happens, whether despair is useful, and whether despair is true.


Subscribe to our newsletter!">

And join the community at">

Help transcribe videos -">

Learn more about our project to help Partners in Health radically reduce maternal mortality in Sierra Leone:">

If you're able to donate $2,000 or more to this effort, please join our matching fund:">

If you're in Canada, you can donate here:">

John's twitter -">

Hank's twitter -">

Hank's tumblr -">
I mean the thing about pain is that it is just quite insistent.

It will not shut up. Anyway, my back hurts Hank.

Good Morning, it’s Tuesday. Can we talk for a little bit about the seductiveness of despair. (Groans) Oh, God. It’s easy for me to find despair compelling, first because it’s simple.

Like as a world view it has this reassuring, if horrifying consistency. Like you know, life sucks. Injustice is everywhere and worsening.

Not only are we all going to die. In time, the sun will boil the oceans  and every memory of what we ever said or did or loved will evaporate. There’s no need as Fitzgerald once put it to hold in balance the sense  of the futility of effort with the sense of the necessity to struggle because there is  only the futility of effort.

Alright, let’s go check on the weather. It’s cold. It’s been cold forever,  and it will never not be cold.

Back to you in the studio. Awesome, well that guy’s bringing good energy to the party. Then there’s the fact that if you look around seeking justification for despair, uh--  you will find it.

Like, how are we supposed except with despair to the fact that 1.6 million  people are going to die of Tuberculosis this year. Not because we lack understanding of the disease or treatments to cure it. But because of inequitable access  to healthcare and impoverishment and other forms of injustice.

Alright, I’m gonna try standing. And that’s not even to mention all of the,  like, personal horrors. Right?

The feeling that I’m failing those I love, or that I’m a burden on them. The fear, the grief, despair addresses all of this in a straightforward holistic way. I despair because despair is the correct response to all this awfulness.

But as I see it there are two big shortcomings to this dead-souled hopelessness. First it’s not helpful, and second,  it’s not true, or at least it's not the whole truth. Despair is simple,  whereas consciousness is multitudinous.

Mere despair will not suffice in response  to life because mere anything won’t suffice  including mere optimism or mere outrage. Right? Like the idea of the mere boiling of oceans negates the work that  we do together, implies that the lives of others are  meaningless just because they’re temporary and I just don’t agree with that.

The idea that I’m merely a burden,  implies that a person needing care makes them less valuable. Which, again, I just don’t believe. And the idea that the world is hopeless because millions of kids  are gonna die needlessly due to impoverishment this year ignores  the fact that 30 years ago, kids were twice as likely to die  before the age of 5 and that change did not happen naturally or inevitably,  it happened because many people collaborated across time and space,  they collaborated in anger and frustration and disgust, but not in hopelessness.

I’m hiding behind the plant. I don’t know why but this actually hurts  less than regular sitting. But the thing is, regressive change,  also involves lots of organization and collaboration, right?

Like, the organized attempts to overturn free and fair elections. Or to take away the rights of the marginalized. I’m not saying that when we work together we only change the world  for the better, I’m saying that despair is the  wrong response to consciousness because we are going to change the world  together and we should be thoughtful about how we do it.

Destruction is often fast, loud and dramatic,  whereas repairative work tends to be slow and quiet and unspectacular,  but that’s where the hope is for me. And I don’t just mean in big projects like building a maternal  hospital in Sierra Leone, or working to expand voting rights in the US. I also mean in the quiet human moments that we can give each other.

Last week my friend Chris called me because he knew I was in pain,  and he said Man, I’m so sorry your back hurts. That sucks. And then he listened to me talk about it.

And he believed me. And that didn’t really help with the pain,  but it did help. I just keep coming back  to that old Philip Larkin poem.

We must be careful of each other. We must be kind. While there is still time.

Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.