Friday, February 22, 2008

Of Slight Possible Interest

I've gone ahead and added a link to my poetry site. I used to have 600plus posted at, but I got frustrated with the public idiocy, and abandoned the place. I'm slowly editing and re-posting the stuff on my own blog, occasionally adding new pieces as I go along. I had planned on keeping the two halves of myself rather isolated, but since the spillover has already begun, I figured I'd go ahead and expose the artistic side of my heterodoxy. Enjoy, scratch your head, or..whatever.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Thinking about the concept of universal oneness- first, I have to admit that I'm far from averse to the idea. In my opinion, there are plenty of solid, logical arguments which point that way, including scientific ones. Even Carl Sagan, at the beginning of his 'Cosmos' series, says something to the fact that 'we are the universe looking at itself'....admittedly, not sure to what degree he was trying to sound poetic. Plus, I cut my Eastern philosophical teeth on Alan Watts, so I have a certain...bias.

I suppose this puts the antinatalist argument in a different context; but after just a little consideration, it's pretty obvious that things don't really change that much. Indeed, boundaries between material entities and personalities may lose their integrity upon minute examination. We are more whirlpools in the stream than rocks, and even rocks eventually re-join the flow. But does this philosophy negate the reality of suffering, like some suggest?
Here's the Buddhist take on it...

"Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found.
The deeds are, but no doer of the deeds is there.
Nibbana [Nirvana] is, but not the man that enters it.
The path is, but no traveller on it is seen,"

From the text, Visuddhimagga IVI, verse 90

So, instead of an actual, autonomous entity bearing the suffering, the suffering is simply a detail bound up in the universe, and manifested in the illusory 'world of appearances'. One of the necessary consequences of flux, perhaps. There are lots of ways to frame it, actually...Eastern religious/philosophical thought is rich and varied.

Let's go with the idea...what are we left with? A world with suffering as one of its basic components. But surely, at least as far as we can see, the suffering isn't spread out evenly throughout the universal matrix. No one would equate the suffering of a horse with that of a piece of granite. It seems that complexity has a lot to do with the depth of suffering experienced in any particular...what? Clump in the existential fabric? Node in the universal thought complex? Knot in the gut of the Atman? Whatever. Nevertheless, suffering still exists, and seems to manifest itself more acutely in fish than rocks, in dogs than fish, and in humans most of all. There's some speculation in this view, admittedly, but I don't think it's overly unreasonable speculation.

According to this view, then, my suffering is actually the universe's suffering. When I hurt, it's creation itself that pays the price. In this vein, some have argued that life is still worthwhile, because if it wasn't, the universe would surely end it all...tie a superstring to a tree made of virtual particles, and hang itself. Suicide on a cosmic scale.

Well...consider the evidence: personal suicides on the increase. Rampant depression. War. Aids. Ebola. And how many times has the human race itself been cast in the role of a cancer on the skin of the world? What if the emergence of advanced intelligence was the beginning of the fashioning of a weapon designed for self destruction...if not universal, at least on a planetary scale?

Of course, all this is just a bit of mind-fucking. Who the hell knows what the ultimate state of things really is? We move within our limits. We think within the grooves evolution has carved out for us, and try to be consistent inside that framework. But, in the end, all the re-defining and paradigm shifting still doesn't change the fact that life sucks (at least for many, many people), and then you die (and that applies to ALL of us!). And while I feel very sorry for the terrible lives that some folks endure, I've never felt a tad of regret for anybody who never existed.

Atman Project

I saw a shadow, and I named it.
I challenged chaos, and I tamed it.
I built a kingdom, and I claimed it.
It fell to ruin, and I blamed it.

Just Another Palliative

I traded a few forum comments over at TGGP's site a while back with a fellow who seems convinced, even in the face of all my brilliant argumentation, that my rather negative attitude towards life stems from depression. It's all about outlook, in his opinion, and I might recognize this if I would only open my eyes to the real world of direct experience, instead of seeing everything through the distorted lens of conceptual thinking. And until I take these steps in order to gain this 'higher' mode of cerebration, I am simply 'wallowing'. He has suggested zen, or some similar mental discipline, as a possible cure for my 'dis-ease'.

Now, I don't want to start a pissing contest here over credentials, or experience. Suffice it to say that I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with zen, in its various flavors, for 25 years or so; old school and new, Eastern and Western, spontaneous versus gradational. I've practiced meditation of various sorts, though I'll confess I've never spent weeks sequestered away in a monastery, observing the rhythm of my breath. And I've read tons of stuff, enough to convince myself that I have the basic ideas down. However, I still possess enough humility to admit that maybe I just don't get it. That being said, I'd simply like to posit here a big, fat 'SO WHAT?!'

Ultimately, 'zen mind' is just another state 'of' mind, and generally transient to a fault. Go back and read what exists of these zen masters' bios, and what do you find? Some of them are assholes, others are depressed, still others show signs of extreme mental imbalance. There are the well-balanced ones, too, and I'd be willing to grant that perhaps that bunch is somewhat more represented amongst the group, than in the general population. But that only means that SOME zen works SOME of the time, on SOME of the people...furthermore, it's a matter of degrees. I don't see evidence of spiritual supermen here, despite the mythological overlays that always grow thicker through the smog of ancient time. Zen is psychological experimentation and manipulation, with mixed results, and it's my belief (arrived at in near to a quarter century of examining this stuff) that most of the changes in consciousness comes about from the extreme changes in lifestyle involved. But the same can be said for any cultic movement...again, so what?

And what does it mean, anyway, to say that zen (or any similar mental conditioning) 'works'? Does human suffering cease to exist? Or is its context merely shifted in the mind of the subject, so that somehow it becomes justified, or at least re-interpreted in a positive light? But just because the subject sees suffering differently, doesn't speak in any way to the suffering that anyone else is experiencing. In other words, how is my suffering lessened simply because you've found a way to psychologically manage it? To discount my anguish just because it's not affecting you, and then to chide me for not seeing it your way, is more than's utter hubris exponentially expanded by your inability to distinguish between your own internal state, and someone else's.

One last thing: part of the original conversations had to do with following the supposedly erroneous path of rational thinking, which supposedly leads to some sort of conceptual cul-de-sac, and that it's this process itself that's actually the cause of suffering. The suggestion is that I abandon reason, and follow a course of meditation, or hallucinogenic drug use (another path with which I am more than I'm also personally acquainted with some of the casualties who went down that road, seeking 'enlightenment'). And while I feel some sympathy for certain aspects of that philosophy (less these days than in times past), I'd just like to point out that even assertions supporting irrationality are, themselves, drawn along rational lines. Reason is THE touchstone for me, without which all conversations, arguments and assertions of any kind become ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS. In other words, don't besiege me with calls to abandon reason, unless you can make a good case for it on irrational grounds.

Can't do it? Of course you can't, because the whole idea is self refuting. Non-rational argumentation is a non-concept, like tall color, or leaning against the horizontal, or...or...the god of love, Jehovah. You COULD just put your thumbs in your ears, wiggle your fingers, and stick your tongue out at me, which is pretty much what all this comes down to, anyway. Of course, that might make YOU feel better, and maybe that was the whole point, after all.

I'd be a Bad Host...

...if I didn't point out that a lot of the really interesting conversation is going on in the 'comments' sections of the posts below. I also wanted to let any new readers know that the comment moderation is only to keep the trolls out, and to try and keep this blog on track, vis-a-vis the antinatalism thang. So far, every single comment I've received has been posted intact. Thanks to all who have chosen to participate...


Oh! If you get a chance, check out the FertCo and Jesus video links...they're a hoot!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Indulging My Right Brain (just a wee bit)

I've written three moderately long pieces in the last twenty-four hours, but still find myself with the urge to blog a little more. Since I have nothing more to say at the moment, I thought I might post a poem of mine. It isn't utterly irrelevant to the subject of antinatalism, and besides...well, it's my blog...

A Physicist/Theologian/Linguist/Philosopher/Poet Discusses Poetry in Terms of His Particular Naturalistic Metaphysic(s) …Back Pocket Scribblings

A gnat, trapped against the
Windshield of a moving
Car, vomits up its life,
Just moments before life
Returns the favor…it’s
Another fatal notch
Cut into entropy’s
Pistol grip, or bedpost,
Depending on how one
Looks at it.

Derrida dipped a dinosaur
Into a vat of sulfuric
Analysis, and discovered
Smoke-a double-edged conclusion
To be sure.
But, like Chomsky, he
Was right and wrong,
Or, left and wrong.
Or left and right
……………………………..Like a Pendulum do.

Conservation of energy
Begat substance,
Begat form,
Begat sensation,
Begat grunt,
Begat sign/analogy,
Begat metaphor,
Begat horizontal masturbation along the Planck/Plath timeline
(or, start anywhere you choose) ,
Begat slant logic-
That is, of course,
Until genesis was ripped out of the bible,
And we were left, stranded,
With cover to cover revelation
(Amen!) .

Kant can’t.
Sartre will,
But nature won’t budge;
At least, not on purpose.
She’s a blind, enigmatic lass,
Glued to the mirror,
And pretending to be a womb w/a view.
Essence precedes existence, indeed!
Did anybody else hear a giggle?
She turned herself inside out,
And the resulting surprise came with a bang.

Now, on to the meat of things…

There was this little girl,
Brutally murdered.
Only child of parents subsequently
Rendered sterile in a bunging jumping accident.
The perp got off hands free,
Thanks to the help of a conniving lawyer,
Who, himself, eats puppies before bedtime,
Though hunks of flesh and DNA were actually detectable,
And still exist under her fingernails.
Oh, and the little girl
Also had a puppy, which
Was also murdered right before she was,
While she was forced to watch.

At the funeral, the theologian performed a eulogy,
And some members of the cast
Breathed big, hesitant sighs of relief.
And the physicist promised release from pain,
And the parents wept.
And the linguist discussed the meaning of meaning,
And of death from sundry points of view,
And he was heckled from the podium.
The philosopher fared no better,
Though some in the crowd
Recognized his sincerity, and shrugged.
And they were poets, one and all,
Though they never acknowledged the fact.

Oh, and one other,
Who stood apart from the proceedings,
Writing in a dog-eared notebook
With the stub of a pencil.
He was also a poet,
And knew it,
And, after finishing his piece,
He quickly skimmed over the content,
Paying more than some attention to the style;
The flow, as it were.
It wasn’t particularly sonorous,
But it was tight,
And, more importantly,
It sounded contemporary…

Then, when he was through,
He promptly shoved the aforementioned
Stub of a pencil into his
Eye, and fell to the green, green
Grass, under the glistening orb
Of the unforgiving sun.

Another poet, happening by,
Dipped his index finger into
The bloody socket of the wounded
Poet’s eye, put it to his mouth,
Sucked on it for a moment, and was allegedly heard to remark,

"It just doesn’t work…perhaps
You could use the assistance
Of a mentor."

Wrapping up, he and the funeral
Procession soon disappeared over
The hill, the sound of music emanating from their I-Pods
Dwindling as they disappeared into
The unforgiving face of the setting sun.

Children of Men (warning...couple of spoilers included)

Long story short: Blockbuster's had a sale going on a lot of it's used dvds, and I've been shopping. From amongst my many purchases, I've already watched 'Aeon Flux', 'Resident Evil 3-Extinction', 'War of the Worlds' (Ok! I'm a bad sci-fi nut! Deal with it.), and the title-featured 'Children of Men', which I just watched this afternoon. Only in retrospect did I realize that all these films are of the 'end of the world' genre, though 'ALMOST the end of the world' would be more accurate. I've yet to see one that had the guts to follow the premise all the way through to its conclusion. There's always an out, isn't there? A messiah figure, or a miracle out of the clear blue, or...or...a plot twist cheat at the end that sort of deflates the whole premise.

This was my problem with the film 'Parenthood', by the way. It's basically the story of a dysfunctional extended family, and there's this great scene near the end where Steve Martin pukes up a lot of angst when he learns his wife is about to have yet another child. He gives quite a poignant performance there, outlining the sense of frustration that moved him to quit his job, his feelings of personal inadequacy, as well as the belief that all his personal freedom had vanished beneath the weight of 'duty' he felt to keep everything moving along. Something most 'adults' can relate to, I'm sure.

Anyway, his seemingly insurmountable problems, as well as everybody else's, go 'poof!' in the last five minutes of the film, and in celebration of this group miracle, every single fucking couple, married or not, decides to have a baby.

ABSOLUTELY...FUCKING...RIDICULOUS! Message of the movie? 'When in doubt, do more of the same, and eventually everything turns up roses!' The more I think about it, the angrier I get, and my wrath will NOT be diffused by reminding me that the film was a 'dramedy'. Still a fucking cop-out, in my view.

So, on to 'Children of Men. Firstly, I absolutely loved the thing. I'd heard mixed reviews, so perhaps I was expecting too much, but...I thought the movie was just great. In a nutshell, here's the story-

It's the near future (2027?), and there have been no births for 18 years. No explanation as to why, but the women have all turned up sterile. Civilization is breaking down, people are turning on one another, and only a brutal police state is left to keep some semblance of order. Refugees from other countries worst off than Britain are being deported en masse, and often killed in the process.

Then, lo and behold, a young woman turns up pregnant (who didn't see THAT coming?). The protagonist's goal is to deliver the woman and her unborn child out of the country, and into the hands of a group working to restore civilization. In the process, there's a lot of chasing around, some interesting characters, and a whole lot of stuff getting blown up (I don't mean to downplay these aspects of the film, btw. The camera work is quite unique, and the action riveting, for the most part). Somewhere along the way, the baby is actually born, safe and sound amidst all the destruction, and is eventually whisked off into sanctuary, along with its mother, by the good guys (this is a pretty straightforward assumption from what happens in the last minute of the film, actually).

Now, the whole time I'm watching this movie- all the violence, and blood, and accompanying tears (I'll admit I shed a few myself here and there), I'm thinking "Is the blatant irony here on purpose? Doesn't it occur to anybody that the whole world might be a tad better off without us?" And then, at the very end, there it was...actually, during the rolling of the credits. The sounds of children. Playing. Laughing. Good news, everybody! The merry-go-round is set for another spin!

Afterwards, I called somebody to discuss the film, and somewhere in the middle of one of my rants, it hit me. I suddenly understood the movies, the stories, all the religious apocalyptic literature. EVERYBODY knows life sucks! These bleak future worlds inhabited by zombies, cyberpunk refugees, beasts with 666 tatooed on their foreheads, and nuclear irradiated kangaroos, are us! Now! And we all want out, but none of us want to die. So we invent saviors, or just spin improbable scenarios where, somehow, things work out contrary to all the evidence. It seems to occur to almost no one that there's no reason to believe the next generation will be any different than this one. No, we'll have learned our lessons by then, and utopia will be our reward (in this life, or in the next, according to one's particular eschatological predilections).

There was something so tragically comical, watching all these miserable wretches up to their ankles in mud and gore worrying about the fact that, in the near future, there would be no more of the same. Not to mention the fact that society went into the toilet precisely because people tend to place their souls in the basket of the abstract future, rather than learn to abide happily in the present. And all because of the entirely fictitious need for vicarious immortality, which in itself is less of an idea, than a vague childlike desire to obscure the reality of death, and loss.

Some years back, I was about to have our old dog, Barney, put to sleep. As the day of the act approached, the truth of the matter finally sank into my daughter. Crying, she asked me, "But, if this is all life's about, what is the point?" I believe it is this fundamental question, emerging not from the intellect, but from the emotions, that begins this spin into fantasy land, through a heartfelt need to deny reality. Unfortunately, we are all too willing to build utopian bridges with the bones of the subsequent generations we continue to breed, never realizing that all these bridges are, in fact, vicious circles leading back to where we started. Trite, but true.

Let it end, people. Stop breeding.

Oh! The name of the ship captained by humanity's rescuers was aptly, albeit ironically, named the 'Tomorrow'. Didn't your mama ever tell you that tomorrow never comes, silly rabbit?

Richard Dawkins' Blindspot

Checking out the Amazon listing for David Benatar's book, 'Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence', I stumbled onto a couple of comments which I found disturbingly revealing as to the uphill battle the antinatalist argument faces.

Most people know who Richard Dawkins is: evolutionary biologist, well-known and extremely popular science writer; and, as of late, outspoken critic of religion. His book, 'The God Delusion', is a staple of the 'new atheist' movement, such as it is, and he's been stumping all over the place for what seems to have become his pet project; stomping out God (not a criticism, by the way). His debates and lectures are all over the net, and he loves to point out the logical inconsistencies of his opponents. I admire the man's dedication to his cause, despite the sometimes overwrought tone of his rhetoric, obviously born of his disdain for fallacious thinking and its ofttimes pernicious results.

However, in the following case, I find Mr. Dawkins' assessments to be rather un-objective; in fact, they border on pollyannish (oh, what the hell! They're emotive, not to mention inaccurate when applied to life as a whole, to the nth degree!). Here's the quotation offered by the Amazon poster- you be the judge...

An excerpt from Mr. Dawkins book, "Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder." (1998)...

*Let me quote Richard Dawkins: "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here...After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?"* (I'm accepting this quotation verbatim...please inform me if there's any inaccuracy.)

Now, let's break it down a bit:

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born..."

Right from the start, we are confronted with the 'intuitive' prejudice, that life is a great thing, and that, somehow, those who remain unborn are the 'unlucky' ones. Please explain to me how absolute nothingness can be unlucky. Are all the imaginary creatures I might think up in my head also unlucky? Is every unfertilized egg unlucky? In what sense is this true, other than a purely made-up sort of way? And is all life, then, by definition...lucky; just for having existed, and ignoring any and all of the factors which constitute a particular life?

"The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia..."

Let's not forget here that the 'potential people' Mr. Dawkins is talking about are non-entities; there is nothing to mourn here, for nothing yet exists.

"Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton.."

Again, Mr. Dawkins uses the rather poetic term 'unborn ghosts', as if labeling a pure abstraction with a noun confers some sort of 'more than nothing' value. The true synonym for 'unborn ghost' is 'nothing'...follow the bouncing ball, Richard! Concerning the rest? Hitler. Stalin. Pol Pot. Mao know the drill.

"We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here..."

This 'what are the odds?' approach always leaves me feeling just a little bit queasy. Only possibilities which concretize into actualities ultimately matter. Oh, and might I add here, 'so what?'

"After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life..."

We weren't asleep...we DID NOT EXIST!!! Well, we DID exist, but only as the raw material, not as what is defined as life (though admittedly, we ARE made up of parts of other lifeforms). As for color...I suppose you could say that, in the tooth-and-claw struggle for superiority in the food-chain of this 'bountiful life', the prevailing color is blood-red (or, taking into account the insect world, perhaps it's green).

"Within decades we must close our eyes again. Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?"

Um, Mr. Dawkins, have you considered the million or so verified suicides that occur every year, or the twenty or thirty times that number of attempts? How about the fifteen percent or so of the population that suffers from chronic depression? And maybe you're passing over those who suffer debilitating injuries and diseases just a tad too adroitly, as well as those who have suffered mind shatteringly tragic losses of one kind or another. To affirm your own happiness, or peace of mind or whatever, is fine as far as it goes. Personally, I'm happy as all get-out for you. But to believe that your mindset is reflected in life as a whole is beyond's an assessment based on what has to be, at least to some degree, a purposeful ignoring of the evidence on your part. I am forced to suggest that you turn the light of your own, highly trained and dispassionate scrutiny upon the world as it really is, and not as you wish it to be. I've seen you dissect unreason with the sure hand of rational analysis many times...perhaps it's time to turn that scalpel inward, and learn to face a few unpleasant facts about existence. It's the scientific thing to do.

I'd like to wind this up by citing another Amazon remark about David Benatar's book, coming from a different perspective...

"I don't understand why people are hating this book without even reading it- so you're glass half full people- people that never question their lives or existence- you are actually his target audience- he needs to make you see that what you believe is b.s. and that you should really try to look at life more objectively to determine how "worth it" it is...I think people really need to look at both sides of the story- everyone says that we're all so blessed to be alive... WHY?! the only reason why people say that is because they had no choice in the matter of coming into existence and the only way to gain some control is by pretending that you wanted to be here... so stop lying to yourselves.... you had no choice in being here... so yeah... now that we're here we make the best of it... but dont lie to yourself (and others) and say that life isn't hard and harmful...if you hate the book so much just by the title- why dont you pick up and actually read it and see what his arguments are- and read it with an open mind!!life sucks- there's no meaning- there's no purpose and you didn't even have a choice for whether to be in it or not... what's not horrible about that???"

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Lie of Vicarious Immortality

So peculiar, this world of abstract thought we live in. Consider: physically, we are as tied to this present moment as any animal, tree, or stone. We occupy that infinitely small, moving speck of time known as 'now'; but, our intuitions tell us differently. Our conceptual 'selves' seem to occupy rather a larger segment of the timeline, emanating from now into the past of our memories, as well as into the future of our capacities to predict. We are dual creatures; but these two modes of being abide in an uneasy truce, as our seemingly transcendent aspect proclaims a truth which our immanence is loath to hear. Basic survival tools, such as the 'fight or flight' instinct, are ultimately inadequate to cope with messages born of abstract apprehensions of hypothesized dangers, such that we often find ourselves vainly tightening our jaws and stomachs against a blow aimed from the future at our existential breadbaskets.

Most animals only die once, but it's been said that man dies a thousand deaths. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that we seem to reside in a perpetual state of 'falling into' our deaths, much like our bi-pedal method of locomotion is a continuous falling forward, with every next step coming just in time to save us from a serious face-plant. Other animals confront danger only when it enters the proximity of their various sensory apparatus- smell, hearing, line-of-sight. And they either deal with the problem by way of tooth and claw, or by beating a hasty retreat.

But how does one physically retreat from a concept? Our more primitive, biological reactions reflect the old tried and true methods- adrenaline flows, muscles contract and harden, blood pressure goes up, etc. Great strategies for escaping an attacking lion. Not much good when being chased down by a charging mortgage payment, or for trying to fight off the end to a love affair. And, of course, absolutely useless in staving off that ultimate and irrevocable threat to survival...impending death. Death is the dreaded Beast, lurking in the shadows just beyond the illumination of our torchlights. We know it's out there, and that it's hungry...the only question is, when will it choose to feed? In this regard, each of us is the proverbial worm on the hook; only, we're the sort of worms who understand deep down what it means to be bait.

Furthermore, in nature there's an after-the-fact payoff to the primal defensive response (if, in fact, the host survives to enjoy it). After the defensive mechanism has served it's purpose, achieving either victory or escape, the organism 'shunts off' the excess stress, and is able to enter into a more relaxed mode of being (oh my, those sweet, sweet endorphins!). In other words, the tension hangs around only so long as is appropriate to the situation, then more or less...departs.

But inside the abstracted, conceptual space, threats seldom just 'go away'; in fact,they tend to arise long before the actual 'danger' shows up, and often linger long after we are 'safe' again (that is, when and if we were ever IN actual danger. In the abstract world, imaginary fears are often at least on a par with real ones). The result is that our defensive 'switch', with all the accompanying chemical surges, and inappropriate knotting of musculature, is always more or less 'on'. Of course, all of this itself poses a real threat to the health of the organism, which the organism recognizes as yet another threat, against which the organism bears down that much the harder, and...well, it doesn't take a genius to recognize a vicious circle, does it? This, by the way, is the feedback loop we lovingly call 'anxiety'.

But human beings are nothing if not resourceful...when faced with an abstract threat, let's face it with an abstract solution. Don't have enough stuff? 'Eliminate desire.' Shit happens, and a lot of it hurts? 'Meditate, and see through the illusion of pain.' Or 'pray'. And the big one...I'm gonna die! 'No, you won't...not really.' You'll go to heaven (if you are lucky enough to choose the right religion). Or, you'll reincarnate (what, this shit again???). Or you'll live on in the memory of others (weak), or through your work (a bit more least you're leaving something that has an actual physical presence). Or...and you knew I'd finally get to can live on through your children.

*You'll notice that the last three answers to the problem are purely abstract solutions, as opposed to the two where you literally don't die. And generally speaking, one of the first two usually exists concomitantly with one or more of the last three (atheists excepted); I guess this is what's meant by 'covering all your bases'.*

In my opinion, this vague concept of living on through your children is exactly why any talk along antinatalist lines is by and large verboten; even more so than challenging a person's religion, it seems. Why is this? I suppose one answer is that the 'need to breed' is evolutionarily hardwired, and any challenge to the status quo goes right to the primitive, reactive parts of our psychology. To this way of thinking, I suppose this anti-antinatalist tendency is an emergent feature of the ingrained genetic instructions. But I prefer raising the level of discussion from genes to 'memes', because I think we understand the world of ideas to be of a more malleable sort, whereas this talk of genetic 'coding' comes across a bit rigidly, in my opinion (and yes, I realize that that ain't necessarily so). And as I think I've outlined pretty clearly, in memish terms the need to breed really boils down to a self-survival issue. This is rather ironic, seeing that the other side to this debate constantly tries to define the antinatalist stance as a selfish one.

Whatever the case, any calling into question of this 'investment in posterity' raises hackles that no amount of rational argument can smooth over. Indeed, irrationality is the watchword from the 'against' side of the conversation, where non sequitur and outright threat against the proponents of this 'species-deep heresy' (thanks, Chip) seem to be all the reactionaries can muster. (The quality of rejoinder generally boils down to 'why do you hate people?', to 'you must be depressed', to 'why do you hate must be depressed.' Oh! And then there's 'You must be stopped!') Ah, so many thoughtcrimes, so little time...

*Shakes head*. Ok, back to business. On the upside, the antinatalist meme has actually been around for quite a while, historically speaking. Even in St. Paul of the bible, and even in *gasp*; yes, even in Jesus Christ (this is a teaser for a future article, but mostly as a reminder to myself). In the meantime, and to sum up, I'd just like to posit a few reminders for the reader to ponder...

1) All of you are going to suffer, at least to some degree.

2) All of you are going to die.

3) None of you will live on through your children. This isn't even a delusion of the imagination; not really. It's more just a vague feeling given some substance by wishing. Nothing more.

4) Every child you choose to conceive will suffer, and die. And for you theists who are holding out for heaven, need I remind you that there's at LEAST an outside possibility of your child abandoning the faith, and being cast into an everlasting hell, to be tortured and/or otherwise oppressed forever and ever and ever and ever...amen.

5) Life is not a gift, since there was never anyone to receive such a 'gift'. Rather, life is bringing into being a receptacle for pain, and disappointment, and loss (and yes, there are the good things. But as Arthur Schopenhauer remarked, 'The difference in degree between pleasure and suffering can be seen in the example of one animal killing another' (this is totally paraphrasing from memory, but I think I've captured his meaning). In other words, there's an imbalance, one which need never be experienced by someone who is never born.

(I realize that there's a utilitarian motivation to having children, and I'll address this later on in a separate post.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Timebinders (a poem)

I'm working on a piece that's turning out to be rather long, I'm afraid. It's loosely based and expands on the subject matter this poem addresses, so I thought I'd post it as a preview (plus, I don't want to go too long without posting here, lest my many (sic) readers think I've abandoned the 'project', as Chip of The Hoover Hog has termed it).

Time Binders


Schemers lurking round each corner, poised to spring on a wounded soul.
Fugitives from time's cremation chamber; echos of the long dead.
Shadows that hide at noonday's sun wait for the ease that evening brings;
cast their blighted spectres 'cross a gay heart, sicken a mind with dread.


Inklings of a distant homeland, a time and place where loose ends join;
like an apparition in the desert, retreating from our need.
Vitality squandered in haste, rushed headlong into a pipedream.
Left parched and humbled on untilled hardpan, no grass on which to bleed.

Man is a creature spread out thin, smeared across either side of now.
Lost in warped reflection and prophecy- drunk on that heavy wine.
Where he's been, and where he's going, overrides the moment's rapture.
Crossing his eyes to see both sides clearly, he seldom toes the line.

Evolution's curse, it might seem; repercussions of complex thought:
the fight or flight response of primates, extended into time.
Half-trained apes, straddling the knife's edge; off balance and always falling
into the pit, struggling against the quicksand- gods rising from the slime.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Fundamentalist Christian Analogy...Pt. 3

You know, I've decided to brush off the rest of this essay; because, frankly, it's already gotten tiresome, and, besides, I think everyone knows where I was going with it. My point is simply that, to emotionally acquiesce to this doctrine of heaven and hell, one must cut at least some of the strings that tug at one's own conscience, and personal sense of morality. Of course, there are the pseudo-rationalizations. But in the end, I find these sometimes glib, more often clunky loopholes insincere, as in fact the proponents of such word games would never apply them to everyday, commonsensical situations. In fact, the cop-outs people use to justify their own deific ass kissing in the face of their regular moral standards usually boil down to cowardice, in my book...a matter of saving their own skins, no matter what.

Having said that, I wouldn't say the real-life situation is so cut-and-dried. After all, people really DO enjoy their lives, at least in some respects, and at least some of the time. But life is colored all too simplistically by the optimists, and the risks entailed in bringing new life into the world are real, and sometimes horrific. But we are taught to underplay the role of unhappiness in the world, and to play up the 'beauty', and 'wonder' of it all. Even supposedly rational, objective scientists like Richard Dawkins and the late Carl Sagan do (did) this, and they should know (have known) better.

The math is really easy from where I sit. On the life side, there is the possibility of all those good things which some might call the 'good life'; but there's also the downside. The pain, the terror, the tragedies large and small which touch almost every life at one time or another, and which, more often than some would like to admit, subsume a life. And there is death; most likely nothing at the actual culmination, but a helluva dark ride on the way, with all the inherent fears and ailments that come along for the ride.

Then there is non-existence. Yes, admittedly there IS the lack of the good life, but then...there's no one to care about that, is there? And on the plus side, there's absolutely, one hundred percent lack of suffering, ever, ever, ever...and that's a PLUS in my book! To mourn a life that never was, is to mourn a figment of the imagination. Should we then encourage unbridled childbearing for as long as the woman is able, so that no potential human ever gets left out? And if not, why not?

Let's look at this another it patently immoral for any fertile woman to forbear having children? If not, why some, and not others? Why not all? Antinatalists are often caricatured as human haters, who would love nothing more than to exterminate all life. I'd like to turn the tables on the procreationists a bit here. What if the antinatalist idea actually got through to the populace of fertile women, to the degree that all childbearing aged women put their collective foot down, and refused to breed? What attitude would this engender in the procreationist camp (I guess that would be the men, and infertile women)? Would they simply submit to the will of the refusers, and to the dying out of the species? Or would there be forceful measures applied for the 'good of all'? Maybe not a particularly relevant question to the subject at hand, but an interesting one, nonetheless. Speaks to motives and pre-suppositions, I think.

Anyhow, enough of the religious angle for now...though I DO have some thoughts vis-a-vis abortion and the possibility of hellfire. It's a subject that Chip over at The Hog has already touched on, but I might have a little something to add, if nothing more than re-iteration (an ofttimes necessary thing!).

And on a personal note:

This whole experience is proving to be very cathartic for me. The subject is quite deeply felt here, and it's something I've given a lot of thought to over the years. Believe it or not, I understand the quick dismissals, and have some sympathy for them. But, in the end, the antinatalism stance is the right one, and I'm bound to stay the course (at least, until I've seen some persuasive arguments from the other side, which have not yet been forthcoming). Of course, most people consider the subject marginal to the point of invisibility...I mean to change that in my own, small way. Ciao for now...

Oh! And, don't have children!

The Depressed Antinatalist

It's been suggested that antinatalists are depressed. Ok, let's run with that assumption, then consider this hypothetical scenario:

Your 15 yr. old daughter is a crack addict. She spends most of her evenings sucking strangers' cocks to support her habit. She gets beat up, oh, let's say...two, three times a week, and sleeps in an alley underneath some brush.

Your 19 yr. old son had both his legs blown off in Iraq. He also suffered a fairly substantial head injury, but on good days, he almost remembers who you are.

Your wife has a severely painful case of stomach cancer; her prognosis is 6 months.

Your brother, Herb, is a violent alcoholic; he's prone to knocking the family around a bit, but they wont leave him because...well, where would they go?

Your sister, Helen, was a Peace Corp volunteer; she disappeared down in Central America a few years ago.

Your other sister, Pat...twice divorced, works at jobs she hates because, frankly, it's the only sort of work she can get. She often talks about killing herself, but is afraid because your parents taught all of you that Hell awaits those who commit suicide. Instead, she smokes 3 packs of cigarettes a day, and watches a lot of T.V.

Given these circumstances, isn't it somewhat likely that you might find yourself...depressed? Would you really consider your depression to be unusual, or somehow not warranted?

Question: What's the difference between this hypothetical situation, and the actual one (allowing, of course, that there is a difference).

Answer: In the actual situation, all of these people exist, but they don't happen to share your last name.

I've touched here on a few of the uncomfortable aspects of human existence. There are many others, suffered individually and en masse. To say about your own life, "My life is good", is one thing; ultimately, you are the judge of that. But to make the blanket statement, "Life is good", is to simply ignore reality. To objectify an ideal in such a way is, in my opinion, a mere coping mechanism to make yourself feel better about your own life. It also speaks volumes about the degree to which artificial and conflated ideas about meaning and destiny inform our feelings concerning life's worth. In so many ways we are encouraged to buy into 'life affirmation' mythologies, specifically engineered to keep our eyes off the specifics tragedies which are so embedded in the very process of human existence; and, indeed, in all of life.

A personal story:

Several years back, I was having lunch at an outdoor food court, after a visit to Barnes and Noble. At some point, I made the mistake of feeding a sparrow; soon, my table was inundated with a drove of the little beggars. Finally, and with some bemused frustration, I turned my large order of fries upside down, and let them have at it. A few moments later, a couple approached me, and the man said, "Excuse me, but might I ask what book you are reading?" I showed him the cover; it was a biography of the physicist Stephen Hawking. "Ah!" and he nodded as if to revelation. "Seeing a man like you gives me hope that life MUST be worthwhile." Or, something to that effect, though I'm pretty sure that these were close to the exact words. Then they walked off, leaving me more than slightly amused at what I descried to be a blatant attempt at 'Rorschach affirmation' in the face of some doubts he was obviously having, revealed in the emphasis of his words to me.

Thus we pass through this world half asleep, as it were, playing these little games with ourselves; overlooking this, superficially re-interpreting that, being careful to keep the tentacles of our sympathy from reaching into too many dark places, lest they invite empathetic overload and fry the circuits of our precariously maintained axiological comfort zones. In short, 'ignorance is bliss'; emphasis on the 'ignor(e)' part.

One more thought experiment, and then I'm done:

Someone might attempt to mitigate here, saying, "Well, then; life might not be good, but neither does it suck. At worst, it's a mixture." From a technical standpoint, I'm in no position to argue this. However, let's distill this view down into a single, hypothetical personage (I refuse to use Hitler as my example, but if it works for you, go for it!). Imagine a grossly dichotomous personality; world-class philanthropist by day, infant sodomizer/murderer by night. In most eyes, would this person be a good person, or a bad person? Oh, and if you try to sidestep my rather obvious implication by arguing, "Neither! He's a sick person." Well, you've still made my point, haven't you?

And while some of us have been fortunate enough to come out on the relatively positive end of this equation, others most certainly have not, and I see no evidence that this game of chance is likely to fundamentally change soon, if ever. To my way of thinking, it just isn't worth the risk of harm, no matter how small (and the risk is more than small. And's a sure thing).

Don't have children.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Why must life go on? Why should it not? Certainly there's a rational argument to be had here, gnats strained at and heads chopped off. But even the most strictly utilitarian aims serve some purpose; in the end, pragmatism is nothing more than a servant to...what? To our feelings. It's that inscrutable matrix of psychological desires, with its roots all twisted and twined in amongst our several biological processes, who's the real master here.

Did I say inscrutable before? I don't mean to cop out to any enigma-of-the-gaps here; surely the biological sciences have a lot to say, and will have a lot more to say, about what informs our hopes, and dreams, and lusts, and fears. But, after all the pathways have been charted, all the patterns have been systematized, expressed, catalogued (and, perhaps untangled a bit), and unenlightened ambiguity has been put to bed...well, motivations will still be motivations. The trick is, in my opinion, to adequately inform those motivations through insightful observation of the world, so that these inner masters actually get what they want.

I don't want to suffer, or to die. But life itself demands that I both suffer AND die. Is life serving my interests here?

These feelings which I have about myself, also extend outward to other feeling creatures. Surely the extent of empathy varies from person to person, but a minimal range of empathy is pretty much a universal trait of humankind, isn't it? Perhaps discounting the true sociopath, that is. Does life ultimately serve any of these people I care about, or does it pull the rug out from underneath their feet many times throughout their lives, right up until the end?

At the very base of all my conversations about this subject, lies a core belief I have that most people already know this stuff. Who hasn't performed the internal head nod when seeing the words 'Life Sucks, and then You Die!' least sometimes? How many religious sermons have been predicated upon the idea that this life is merely a way station, from which one day soon, we will...nay, must...escape? Who hasn't been jarred, at least once, out of their forward fall long enough to get that taste of existential futility?

I've had this site less than a week, and already I've been asked (admittedly, in a nice way) why I haven't 'off'd' myself, if I feel this way about life. I could run down a list of reasons, some more ostensibly noble than others, but then...that isn't the point, as I'm not advocating suicide, or genocide, or anything like that. I simply ask the question: are the risks and realty of suffering worth inviting over and over again into the bodies and minds of the lives we choose to bring into this world? I say no, and I say no even if the final destination for a person is a paradisaical heaven (though I believe this is far more likely to be an imaginary justification than any sort of reality). The end simply does not justify the mean.

I leave you with a poem:


TO what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Links to Your Child's Possible Future

To those who've investigated my links under the heading 'links to your child's possible future'; no, I am not trying to instill paranoia. Life is risky, no doubt, and we all take our chances- hell, I commute to work on a bicycle most days, and have had my rear-view mirror clinked once or twice. The list is just my attempt to bring abstract wishful thinking at best, and utter denial at worst, down into the realm of the real world. Tragedy, suffering, abject misery; all these things are here to stay, ladies and gentlemen. It's one thing to risk yourself, quite another to risk future generations on what comes down to a procreative whim (at least, in a lot of cases. And the alternative motivations aren't any better, IMO). If you really need a dolly to play with, then by all means, adopt. The movement from orphan to beloved child is almost certainly always skyward. But when you conceive, it's as if you've dropped your baby out of a plane without a parachute...the only questions are:

1) When will he/she hit the ground?

2) How hard will she/he hit?

3) How rough will the turbulence get during the plummet?