The Skeptic’s Manifesto

[As promised, here is the manifesto I wrote for one of my classes. I hope people will comment, as I have two days to tweak it before I have to hand it in. Enjoy!]

“Be happy upon the face of the Earth for so long as you live.”
-Richard Bach

Be happy. This is the simplest thing in the world to understand and the hardest to accept. Even though our every feeling tells us that being happy is good for us, we often force ourselves to do something different. People feel guilty when they are happy because they are not working enough, or accomplishing enough, or they are letting down someone else. How can these things matter if you are miserable? Be happy, and let the rest fall into place.

There is nothing more fundamental or more difficult than being happy. Everyone wants to be, and yet we are terrible at achieving it. Even when we don’t throw up roadblocks in front of ourselves, we constantly misestimate what will make us happy. People study for years to find they no longer care about the career they now feel obligated to follow. People spend a year’s salary on a car only to find they are no happier for owning it. It’s near impossible to know what will make you happy tomorrow, because you will be a different person.

There seem to be good things in this world: spirituality, cooperation, love, beauty, etc. These things tend to cause happiness. However, there is also authority. Governments can have authority, as can people in positions of power, but ideas can also have authority. Assumptions, prejudices, goals, and philosophies all have authority. Authority tends to corrupt. It dominates, homogenizes, and excludes.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

Question all authority. Question your life and the way you live it. Question government, question religion, question your relationships, your perceptions, and your beliefs. Especially question anything you are told not to question.

The best way to answer a question is with personal experience. Anything else requires relying on someone else, so choose who to rely on and when carefully. You can probably trust a chemist who says hydrogen has one proton and one electron, because it’s impact on you is minor and the process of confirming it difficult. However, something like photography is easy to experience for yourself, and the possible implications of enjoying it are immense, so it should be experienced personally.

So try everything. Be a generalist. Experience. Learn. If something works, if it makes you happy, do it again. Repeat for as long as it continues to make you happy. Most of the time, though, new experience won’t make you happier, and you must learn to leave them. Some experiences will be difficult and will call into question things you have believed for a long time. Experience these things anyway. You will be wiser for the experience.

Nothing done was not worth doing, but it likely is not worth doing again.

Most importantly, question this manifesto. If you use it as a basis for approaching life, then it must face the harshest skepticism. For so long as it will serve, use it. If you ever find it lacking, don’t hesitate to throw it out and start again.


One Response to “The Skeptic’s Manifesto”

  1. doug Says:

    excellent and thought provoking

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