Every age can’t be worse than the previous one — or at least, it can’t be worse than all the other ages before then. Well, it can — it’s just very unlikely. Neither is it likely to be much better, much worse, or much the same. By the Copernican Principle, according to which human beings aren’t as special as we like ourselves to be, any of these situations would be unlikely because they suppose our time is special. But our time is probably not special. We’re not special, and neither is our situation. I mean, it might be. It’s just very unlikely.
The three specialisms I wish to reject are optimism, pessimism, and bland moderation. Each of them suppose things are getting especially better, especially worse, or especially the same. I mean, everything is changing, and this can be seen as good or bad, depending on your perspective — which means everything in times of change, when objective metrics are shown to be wanting in the face of intersubjective discord.
But change is not special. Change is normal. We do not live at the end or beginning of history, nor in the middle. We exist somewhere in the stream of time. But we probably aren’t special. But is this a good thing? Perhaps the Copernican Principle is true. Is it good?
Indeed, the Copernican Principle is sometimes cast in its converse: that we, human beings, are alone among intelligent life in the Universe. So we will see our conditions as being special. But this is where the principle bites: just because we see ourselves as being special doesn’t mean we are. Indeed, the fact that we exist to make such judgements will dispose us to think of ourselves as special.
But thinking is just base-level evaluation. To truly make an informed judgement we must reflect on our thoughts and feelings and the world which conditions them to be the way they are. We need to gain perspective on perspective, and admit our insignificance in the span of the Universe.
Indeed, to do this is to free ourselves to make something significant of our insignificant time on an insignificant planet in an insignificant cosmos. We have no-one to serve but ourselves. We’re not special. We have no significance but in our own cognition of that significance. The fiction is all there is. The utopian optimists and dystopian pessimists share in common a love of fiction, but this makes these idealists an ironic kind of realist, seeing as reality is fundamentally mental. To believe is to be. To critique is to become more than blind faith can allow.
We must have faith in something special, but that is not ourselves. It is not our time that is special. It is not even what we are heading towards. It is perhaps not even time itself. What is special is our belief in that speciality. The human mind can accomplish such feats. But neither is that mind special, and nor is the idea of speciality. So, if the human species is so ordinary, and our point in history is somewhere in the random middle of the human story, then what’s the point?
There probably isn’t one. But the fact we can ask that question is itself, if not special, surprising. And that surprise should lead us to continue — not for the faith of a better world to come, but for the sheer brilliance of humanity as an organic evolution towards a mythic destiny which we have probably made up. There is nothing to do in the face of such contradictions but what we have always done: keep going. Think, judge, act, feel, live, scream, shout, sleep, believe, and reflect. Then start again. We’re not special, after all. So make every day count — we’ll all be forgotten soon anyway. Good day.