To all the crazy ideological teenagers who still think that clear, free, rational thinking can save the world: thank you. Please keep it up. Seriously. It's important.

Me, I'm no longer a teenager, and I'm afraid my wide-eyed idealism has been clouded by more and more realism and cynicism, but I'm still plenty crazy, and I still hope that clear, free, rational thinking can save the world, too.

The cynics and the old farts and the curmudgeons may not talk as loudly or as long about their once-fond ideological passions, but they still think, and some part of them still cares, and they still listen, and they salute (or at least, I do) the less-jaded, more-energetic souls who are still shouting about the things that desperately need shouting about.

The people who matter are listening. You may not be able to tell, because they'll probably never visibly react, let alone actually respond, but they're listening. The people who aren't listening, don't matter: they're already dead, but haven't realized it yet.

We must believe that clear, free, rational thinking can save the world, because clear, free, rational thinking is all we have. The alternatives to clear, free, rational thinking are muddled, constrained, irrational thinking, and raw emotion, and blind, inchoate instinct, and abject, chaotic randomness, and I'm sorry, but if those are what we're left with, we might as well quit the game and go home. Any animal can run its life by instinct and emotion (and generally do a much better job with those tools than we do, thank you very much), so if we want to believe that this whole "higher intelligence" shtick is actually good for something, we'd better use it to its fullest potential, to "make the world a better place", not just to wallow around inventing new ways to advertise hygiene products or new ways to kill each other.

Keep the faith. Hold your head high. May the Force be with you...

P.S. Nothing personal about the animals, by the way. "Man is the only animal who can blush -- or needs to".

Sometimes what you think is the way isn't really the way. This is the point of the tragedy of Oedipus. His "free, clear, rational thinking" transformed a mere plague into an personal apocalypse.

Freedom, clarity and rationality are fine things, but those words may not convey to you all possible modes of thought. Some of the excluded modes of thought such as muddling though volumes of confusing, partly understood, incomplete information in order to develop a tentative hypothesis might turn out to be more important for human survival than the kinds of "rationality" than can mechanically and with great clarity be applied to well organized data by a computer program.

Idealism is overrated. Understanding our thought processes and learning new ways of learning and thinking can be the work of decades. By all means, "Don't ever lose that light in your eyes," as LeAnne Rimes sings, but, on the other hand, beware of those who would reduce all your epistemological needs into a few snappy, sentimental slogans.

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