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Why I am Not a Good Example..
Rational Religion gets me through the Rough Spots, evidently about as well as conventional metaphysics gets most of its adherents through the vicissitudes of their lives.
By this I mean that I see other people suffering illness, loss, personal calamities. Those which do not simply destroy them, they survive; as do I. Our intellectual paths to survival are probably wildly different - in the specifics - but probably electrochemically very similar if we were all hooked up to the same bio-monitors.
The organism is built to endure; until it runs out of regenerative steam.
Anything which threatens to interfere with that cycle will be overcome, if possible, and "life will go on."
I do not by any means suggest that I have discovered the best formula for accomplishing this; just that it is eminently the most logical, emotionally and intellectually satisfying; for me.
In historical human terms, the metaphysicists would seem to have the numbers on their side. Far more of the species have died believing that they were Going Somewhere Else, than not.
If they were, by their own definitions, Good People, they almost certainly were able to find some terminal comfort in the conviction that they were bound for a Good Place...at least until the organism shut down to point where any concept of "comfort" became moot.
But, if they were even marginally good; or if they had been abysmally bad but were able - as indeed most of us are - to rationalize most of it over into the plus column, chances are they would have been able to die in almost as much "peace" as their more saintly fellow-travelers.
I don't think many people actually go out in terror of Eternal Hell Fire, even if they believe in it to the core of their consciousness. They will convince themselves that, in spite of their sins, God Will Be Merciful.
Of course, even for the really good ones, there will probably always be some nagging doubts as the Final Hour approaches. Death should probably be at least a little scary, in order to keep us from embracing it too early and upon spurious pretext.
Well into my eighth decade, my readings as a science buff nag me with an ever-increasing conviction that my generally good mental health is an artifact of my biochemistry.
That I have not succumbed to a major depression, addiction, schizophrenia, or a host of other more or less related rips in the fabric of my central nervous system seems attributable not to anything I have done to keep myself knitted together.
I have always imagined that I am not an obsessive worrier; a slave to the intrusive emotions and aspirations of more driven people around me; because I possess the philosophy simply to not give a damn about a lot of stuff that seems to drive those other people nuts.
My much more practical wife is very concerned about "being taken advantage of." She frets that people routinely take advantage of me because I am -- if not actively negative about money and time-as-money -- at least unconcerned. I figure that -- in purely economic terms -- my ability to avoid the stress of feeling victimized balances out in medical and head-shrinking bills.
Now, it seems that my superior philosophical framework is probably not so much the result of my laid-back interpretation of the Universe -- and my realistic concept of my relative importance within it -- as an artifact of my organic chemistry.
It's probably something I inherited at the moment of my conception. Although various illness and environmental stresses could have altered my internal soup, I evidently encountered no child abuse or personal hardship in my formative years sufficient to upset my native balanced formula.
It could have been otherwise, probably, given the vagaries of genetics. One of my aunts, my mother's older sister, was a certifiably, institutionalized nut case near the end of her life, and -- judging by choices she made; in her life partner; her serial religions; the haphazard raising of her children --not all that stable in her better, younger years.
One of my nieces - the crazy lady's grand-niece - although of Phi Beta Kappa intelligence and motivated enough to successfully "cope" and even live an admirable life of "service to others" is clinically "bi-polar." I don't know if she still takes lithium as maintenance, but I know she has in the past.
How I missed out on these goodies is probably nothing more profound than the luck of the draw.
It's difficult to come to terms with the facts, having lived a near-lifetime ignorant of them.
I have known, for example, almost since I realized that I was “brighter” than most people, that that was a genetic accident. It has not kept me from occasionally feeling a little bit superior to the average slogger, but it has never permitted me to feel that I deserved any more from life. In point of fact, it has tended to keep me humble in the face of the evidence that a good many people, lesser-endowed, have accomplished a great deal more with their equipment than I have with mine.
But I had grown accustomed to taking for granted that (in spite of a pervasive bone-laziness which has contributed to my decidedly modest personal accomplishments) my rational, consciously-constructed personal philosophy had at least helped keep me sane.
Ever-deeper research into the chemistry of the brain and nervous system has given me the lie. My organism, according to current theory, simply secretes a fortuitous combination of chemicals to produce a "default" mental state which a lot of other people can only achieve pharmacologically.
It's handier not to have to take Prozac; but not particularly less damaging to the self-esteem.
If, of course, I gave a damn about such scorekeeping games, in the first place.