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11:13 

on learning and cynicism

кофейный олень
But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It's so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.' ©
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As we grow up and learn to be cynical, Bernstein argues, we gradually stifle this inherent love of learning, turn off our curiosity, and become calcified. Out of that cynicism springs the impulse for instant gratification — the very opposite of the pleasurably protracted challenge of learning. A generation before the incessant input feed of the Internet gave us continuous quick fixes of on-demand approval and outrage, Bernstein considers the cultural and civilizational conditions that have contributed to this epidemic of instant gratification:

"Everyone who was born after 1945 when that bomb went off is a completely different kind of person from those who were born before then. Because they grew up in a world where the possibility of global destruction was an everyday possibility, to the point where they didn’t even think about it that much. But it conditions the way they live… Anybody who grows up — as those of my generation did not — taking the possibility of the immediate destruction of the planet for granted is going to gravitate all the more toward instant gratification — you push the TV button, you drop the acid, you snort the coke, you do the needle… and then you pass out in the bed … and you wake up so cynical… And guilt breeds fear and anxiety, and anxiety breeds fear, and it goes around — it’s that old vicious circle where one thing reinforces the other, which drives you day and night to instant gratification. Anything of a serious nature isn’t “instant” — you can’t “do” the Sistine Chapel in one hour. And who has time to listen to a Mahler symphony, for God’s sake?

[…]

You can’t “do” the Sistine Chapel instantly — you have to lie on your back and look up at that ceiling and contemplate. And we’ve already lost a whole generation of kids who are blind to anything constructive or beautiful, who are blind to love, love, LOVE — that battered, old, dirty four-letter word that few people understand anymore."


But rather than despairing over this nascent orientation of spirit, which would itself be an act of cynicism, Bernstein turns to the reasons for hope — hope he devoted his life to seeding and seeing bloom. (Active hope, lest we forget, is the antidote to cynicism.) He tells Cott:

"We must get back to faith and hope and belief — things we’re all born with. But unfortunately we’re also born thinking we’re the center of the universe. And of all traumas, that one is the biggest and most difficult to get rid of. And the hardest principle to absorb is the Copernican one: that you’re just another speck on this planet, which is a speck in the solar system, which is a speck in the galaxy, which is a speck in the universe … which is a speck in something even bigger that we don’t have the minds to contemplate."
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