How can you tell people who suffer from OCD that there’s nothing to worry about when there really is something to worry about. You say, “No rational person would act in this way.” Well the truth is, rational people probably would. In many cases, they’re acutely more aware of their surroundings, such as the millions of bacteria that we come into contact with every day.
Put directly, people with a stronger grip on reality are more likely to be scared shitless. In Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the concept of “psychic entropy*,”* Interesting question: does entropy ever achieve anything we would define as “good?” that which frays our consciousness and makes living generally unbearable. Delusion shields us from this psychic entropy. It’s like self-prescribed shots of ignorance, injected straight into the neocortex.
Evolution-wise, I’m not sure why this would crop up. It seems like a very firm grip on reality would be boon in such a confusing and potentially dangerous environment. However, the ‘pedia says that an inherent interest in human affairs and a tendency to “‘over detect’ the presence of other humans or predators” in the environment may have produced an early irrationality** Yes, I’m using religion as an example of an irrational belief. Rationally, it doesn’t make sense to believe in something that you can never observe in any way. Irrationality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you..
So the universe is pretty chaotic and harsh, and we’re pretty irrational, but we’ve got power: the power to create, organize, assign meaning, and destroy. So we use that power to defend against this massive, wild universe. We create and organize the world, adding what we think of as structure**** I’d argue that nature’s done a better job of structuring chaos than we ever could, but unfortunately we’ve defined nature as chaos. Wacky. to nature’s “chaos.” We are pattern matching machines so we create patterns for us to match.
We’ve created massive physical and social organizations, advanced technology, and even changed our physical landscape. A significant chunk of these advancements hasn’t been for mere physical survival, but for mental survival.
It’s important to remember, too, that even some humans are a part of the chaos. Sociopaths specifically disregard certain norms which others pick up in the early stages of life. This disregard is often perceived as dangerous to the structure we’ve created.
However, some people think that sociopaths have an advantage, evolutionarily speaking. Peter Watts has expanded on this, saying that “altruism does not promote fitness. The future belongs to the sociopaths.” A science fiction writer and marine mammal biologist, Watts wrote a neat series of books with a sociopath as its main character. He says they live to their own ends, more so than most people, and thus have no social constraints on their behavior** This explains why I meet so many huge assholes.. In fact, Watts says that “corporations themselves, as legal entities, meet all the criteria for clinical sociopathy.” Scary thought.
Anyway, to think that there are uncaring forces that hurt us for no reason, that don’t give a damn about morality and human dignity, is frightening. I propose that we invent happy lies or politely ignore anything which contributes to our psychic entropy. Or, well, we use these forces to further our own agenda.
If it is our self-delusion that keeps our consciousness from fraying, then that explains a lot about the current state of human affairs.