In the fourth and fifth lectures of “The Varieties of Religious Experience”,
William James gives a respectful treatment to the “happy consciousness”
while noting that it only deals with the problem of evil in the world
by refusing to acknowledge it.
Those to whom this state comes naturally
should consider themselves lucky,
but for those familiar with suffering and misery,
casting self-deception as a solution is simply insufficient.
James also noted how ‘liberalism’ and ‘science’
seemed to represent a switch from the ‘morbidness’
of earlier religious interpretation.
Some 100 years later,
one could hardly deny that this positivism
has increased to the point of being almost mandatory.
It should be fair to say that social norms today
show little tolerance for expressions of discontent.
Advertising and psychology have cast unhappiness
as signs of stupidity and sickness.
It is all too common to hear oblivious tots
comment that ‘happiness is the most important thing in life’,
and one would surely be hard pressed to dare
suggest anything more insightful or original.
I’ve tried to suggest “learning” is more important,
but would I own up to the suggestion of mutual exclusivity?
In any case, with my own characteristic negativity,
I must admit to being completely terrified by this rampant optimism.
I fear a blithely superficial, selfishly unmindful future
with shoddy construction and absurdly overdone posturing:
Exactly the kind of world advertisers want us to live in.
I do fear this optimism will spell the death of mankind!