To become pessimistic or to let a hundred flowers bloom

It’s one of those mornings when I read scores of sour stories about a world headed downhill. In an effort to make playgrounds safer, parents, legislators, and lawyers have made our children more risk-averse and less thick-skinned. Meanwhile, the debt crisis in Greece rages on in the eurozone: no quick fixes, no easy solutions. On a small island in the South Pacific, an island once featured on This American Life if memory serves me correct, environmental degradation and climate change have made this 8-mile stretch of land virtually uninhabitable.

My morning mood, of a groping necessity, seems to find its way to philosophical pessimism, the view that human life cannot be justified. So the philosopher David Benatar: “no life is good.”

It is here that my mind doubles back in a dialectical reversal: the decline of public intellectuals is a blessing, not a curse, the time now ripe for new experiments in living, the movement led by thinkers-makers on the horizon. Criticism, as a modus operandi, has been ineffectual (my essay on the bankruptcy of the critical orientation can be read here), and the social critic as a subverter of the status quo has become bitter and resentful. And so what, Jacobi–so what, thou sour grapes?

So what when local markets have returned?

So what when a movement is just now under way?

So what when friends are thinking beyond sustainability, beyond apocalypse, beyond saving the world?

So what when, as Matthew Abrams put it in an email to me,

Our focus [at The Mycelium School] is not on less bad, but new models to make current issues moot.

So what, provided we bracket the terror that ensued, we remember the call to “let a hundred flowers bloom”?