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

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