One of the things I dread, is that my knowledge will fall behind. From the moment a person gives up their free time to work, they are not as free to learn. The brain calcifies at the aristocracy of youth passes, and it becomes impossible to keep up with all the subjects, trends, and developments that bombard youth. Meanwhile the facts I’ve memorized will fade with disuse, and become obsolete as the world changes, and I’ll probably stop caring too.
One thing that I love about working with kids is when you look at them you’re seeing a glimmer of the future. Buried within their speech and flexible thinking are indications of a society that will be built when my generation is gone. Furthermore, whenever I talk to kids, or walk a dog, I usually have a sense of belonging in this universe. Buried in the simple biology, are uncloaked truths. The older and more sophisticated you get, the more obvious your hypocrisy becomes.
When I was at school I always felt the need to hide my subversively liberal ideas from professors and peers in case I ever rose in the business world. You quickly realize that it’s safer to lie about yourself, and preserve a false image if you want to be very successful, in a world where you need to curry favor from conservative adults. It’s a terrible realization.
Personally, I’d rather preserve my integrity, and not be worried about how I’m perceived. Perhaps that’s why I wanted to become a boss, so no one could tell me what to do. It’s also the reason I’ve often hoped to find a job where I don’t have to kiss up to anyone.
How does this relate to Atheism? Well, I also need to hide my feelings around Christians. The moment you tell someone you’re an Atheist, there will be boundaries you can’t cross. They will probably stop being so honest about their inner feelings, and prejudices. You could argue that someone like that isn’t worth befriending anyway, but come on, we make all sorts of friends to gain different things. From a Machiavellian standpoint, you have to be careful with the old people so they don’t ostracize you, and as long as I live here, I’ll have to hide my lack of religion from my boss, and generally preserve a sense of separation.
Even around people’s kids, I can’t tell strongly tell them all the cynical things I’ve observed, or expect them to understand the words that I use with adults. (If they were my own kids, they would know my vocabulary.) There’s also a chance their parents will tell their kids to avoid you if you said you’re an Atheist, and the kids would probably do it.
On the other hand, being honest about yourself always feels good. In fact, by taking those risks, you feel a lot more fulfilled and less of an empty shell. There’s always a tug of war between one’s honne and tatemae (inner feelings and facade).
It’s quite frustrating that we live in a world of such intolerance. If people would accept opposing views before meeting someone (instead of accepting them because you’d been friends for a while), we would be free to build a more diverse society. Diversity is the heart of creativity, and it allows for rapid paradigm shifts.
I wish the world I inhabit were more like the world I long for. Fundamentally, judgmental people can’t keep many friends, and I feel that religion makes people more judgmental. I won’t see a world nearly as tolerant as I’d like within my lifetime. I suppose, people are attracted to marriage because it’s difficult to find more than one partner to confide your deepest self to. The adult world doesn’t allow people to sleep over on weekends, because there are kids, family and responsibilities. You see your old friends less, even as you treasure them more with age.